C. Chris Meystrik – JTV
It’s a term the Grateful Dead used to explain their longevity: misfit power. C. Chris Meystrik nods approvingly when asked whether it’s in the secret sauce of his infotech division at Jewelry Television (JTV).
“I like it,” he answers. “At another company, a manager might roll his eyes and say, ‘that guy’s really out there’ or ‘look what they’re wearing.’ But if I see that someone is smart and capable, I’m interested in them even if they wouldn’t fit your typical corporate setting.”
With his shoulder-length hair, casual attire and informal way of conversing, Meystrik himself might be out of place in a stuffy C-suite, but he does enjoy that part of the job even though it’s not where he really earns his keep. Chief technology officer at the national jewelry retailer and broadcast network popularly known as JTV, he oversees around 130 creative and free spirits, most of whom have functioned remotely these past few years.
But how this gaggle of computer scientists, mathematicians and software engineers has come together, Meystrik says, when advancing the relatively nascent practice of selling jewelry online.
Extra, extra, JTVextra!
“Video’s in our DNA,” Meystrik tells Toggle in January from JTV headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. “We live and die by video daily and what you’re seeing now is another crank of our experience, teamwork and creativity.”
That crank has churned out one of the nation’s largest jewelry e-commerce website, enhanced by expanded livestreaming on the JTVextra channel. That’s where the vivacious Susan Thomas and Katy Smith host a popular show primarily targeted at college-educated, well-to-do middle-aged women. And where you can always find the live stream of JTV’s main channel.
The company having partnered with jewelry makers to sell exclusive and featured brands, new inventory is displayed daily and would-be buyers can tap the expertise of experts online. But successful as this show has been, Meystrik says it doesn’t reach all demographics including the all-important millennials and brides-to-be.
Hence the debut of JTV’s sister operation, Jedora.com, in October 2021. This direct-to-consumer marketplace for jewelry, watches and gemstones had been in the idea stage for around a decade, but the timing didn’t seem ideal. Finally with a pandemic boosting almost all online commerce and options for the streaming market expanded, Meystrik and CEO Tim Matthews rounded up the necessary software engineers and brought Jedora to fruition at the height of COVID-19.
It’s a one-stop shop whose $30 million investment will be vindicated, Meystrik assures, with Jedora offering through consignment or drop-shipments a line of products, many of which had never been sold online. Among the better-known names: Miseno, Honora, Bellarri, Zeghani by Simon G, and Versace and Philip Stein watches.
“Unfortunate as COVID was, it was great for our business,” he says. “It gave us a captured audience and our efficiencies went up. We attribute that to our engineers being able to focus on new tasks without any distractions at the office.”
And about that name? Well, Jedora doesn’t mean anything. But it sounds like “adore,” and with its line different from what JTV had initially been selling, Meystrik says it just made sense to add another moniker.
Shining example of efficiency
To give online shopping an in-person feel, little icons solicit feedback from viewers while in another location, lights flash at a call center also assembled by Meystrik’s team. Sellers upload their products and leverage JTV’s marketing savvy and automated processes that handle more than 30,000 transactions daily while keeping overhead low.
Through such creative technology, Meystrik says JTV accommodates a growing and diverse clientele. Families may want an heirloom for future generations. Celebrities may desire a unique pendant for the next star-studded gala. Colleges and universities may need to update their class rings.
And the technology department never sleeps for long. New apps are on the drawing board, some customized for such over-the-top devices as Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire, and SmartTV’s as well as the FAST streaming to deliver programmed content to your mobile devices.
For the most part, it’s a veteran staff under Meystrik, the engineers averaging eight to 10 years tenure at JTV. Only he’s been around twice as long, having joined JTV as vice president of technology in 2004 and being promoted to chief technology officer seven years later.
Quite the changes Meystrik says he’s overseen in the online and TV shopping marketplace, and he can claim credit for some. Though if not for a change of heart, he might be in academia.
His own style
Well-accomplished in technology while in his 30s, Meystrik had offers to teach university computer science. A Tarkio College graduate and all-America soccer goalkeeper with a master’s in computer science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, he had immersed in particle accelerators and other complex projects at Argon National Lab, in Chicago. Then friends beckoned him to Atlanta where the fledgling MedCast needed a software engineer.
The eighth employee hired, he helped advance the firm to where it was bought one year later and rebranded as WebMD.com, now one of the top healthcare websites. Meystrik remained in a vice president’s role at WebMD.com for a couple years, then left to be CTO at LastMinuteTravel.com from 2003 to 2005.
A university post was enticing, but so was getting on the ground floor of what Meystrik accurately gauged as the increasingly popular way of buying and selling. Furthermore, JTV had been around since 1993 as America’s Collectibles Network. The bosses and Meystrik each looking beyond the analog era, there was a vision shared.
So what’s ahead? Engagement rings and diamond earrings hadn’t been JTV’s forte, but Meystrik says JTV is catching up as Jedora’s potential is optimized. Active internationally, the company is making headway into the lucrative Chinese market, also. There’s always much more to do with video shopping and promoting build-your-own customized jewelry.
“We’re constantly looking to the future and investigating the viability of new ventures,” says Meystrik, now a youthful 54-year-old married father of four. “This speaks to our history of evolutionary practices and how we’re always looking to navigate new roads for continued growth.”
View this feature in the Spring I 2023 Edition here.
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