As a retired soldier, Steve Berti realizes that the training he received in the military prepared him to manage anything, which includes the store he and his wife would eventually open and later transfer to his son.
As a veteran, Berti recognizes that the current military training received by today’s soldier is much more advanced than where it was when he left the service.
He wants soldiers to know that if they choose, they can put their military experience to use in the civilian world as business owners, just as he has done.
Steve Berti’s 28-year career included approximately ten years as an enlisted soldier, including two tours in Vietnam, time with the 82nd Airborne Division and time with Special Forces. He eventually retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
After retiring from the army, Berti went to work for his brother-in-law, who mentored the recent veteran in the jewelry business.
Berti was such a quick study that a year later, when Westwood Shopping Center began in 1974, Steve Berti opened his own store and called it Heritage Jewelers. After forty years it’s still open in the same location in Westwood Shopping Center.
When Heritage Jewelers first opened, fine jewelry was the staple of every conventional store of the day, and Heritage Jewelers would be no different.
The inventory grew and diversified when Berti happened to see what passed for a Special Forces ring back then. He immediately saw where he could make improvements to reflect a prouder representation of the branch of service with which he felt a kinship.
So he did what most entrepreneurs do and set out to develop a better product.
He found an artist to help him draw and tweak the idea until they had a rendition that could be sent to a company which would produce a metal mold.
One big obstacle that presented itself was the $5000 cost to produce the mold. That would currently be a sizeable amount, but decades ago it was almost a deal breaker.
Instead, Berti got his first big break when the company agreed to create the mold and accept payment later.
So he obtained the patent pending for the ring and one year later he was awarded a U.S. Design Patent on it.
He first produced the rings in sterling silver to keep costs low and began strategically moving them into the hands of selected Sergeant Majors.
Soon the young Special Forces personnel were talking about the ‘new Special Forces ring‘ that Berti had created.
Then came the requests for SF solid gold rings and smaller sizes. Specifically requested were smaller sizes for women. Having a master jewelry craftsman in the store making custom jewelry on-site, it was easy to expand the military department in Heritage Jewelers to include designs for all military branches.
That’s when Berti turned his focus to design and patent the 82nd Airborne Ring, because of his strong attachment developed through many years with that division.
Now the military was well-represented in the merchandise he carried. His wife Rose would take care of the books, keeping everything organized and maintaining very meticulous records. The fledgling business was moving along.
Enter the next generation. Even though he could operate the engraving machine at eight years of age, Steve and Rose’s son Ken, had no plans to go into the family business.
However, he stepped up to help and earned his way to president of the company, staying on when his mother and father retired.
However, before that came to pass, there was plenty of work to be done. Ken and his father would travel to Special Forces reunions and events, arranging their vendor booth to sell the rings, gold charms, cufflinks and earrings of Special Forces jewelry, building their reputation and rapport with soldiers stationed all over the world.
Steve Berti says, “In the beginning it was a struggle and it was slow going. We got some breaks and we made some breaks and we all worked really, really hard every day. Forty years later our business remains competitive in our industry.”
The Berti family is inclined to give back as well. Ken Berti says, “Every year we donate one of the rings to the NCO of the Year, the Trooper of the Year and the Jump Master of the Year during All American Week at Fort Bragg, NC. Those soldiers earned the “best of the best” titles that year and the ring my dad created is a great, enduring display for that achievement.”
In summary, Steve Berti’s advice is to work hard and never give up because using that formula, whatever one wants, in military or civilian life, success is possible.
The Berti Family has a track record of over 40 years that proves it.