Starting a Jewelry Line While Still in School
posted by LIM College
I was excited to sit down with my friend, classmate, and fellow vintage fanatic and Pennsylvanian, Rachel Noel, to talk about her beautiful jewelry designs, J & R Jewels.
She has been designing pieces inspired by Native American art, nature, the military and you-name-it for more than a year. She uses her creative side and technical skill to design and fabricate each piece and business sense to market and sell her jewels in her Etsy shop and other boutiques.
This is the first piece in a regular column I am writing about LIM student entrepreneurs. If you want to suggest someone, or tell me about your own business enterprise, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How have your work experiences and education helped you start your own business?
Well, I have been working at Love Illuminati (an adorable boutique in Newtown, PA), for well over a year now. The owner, Katra Michener, my mentor, praised my creativity and eye for fashion. She gave me freedom to be creative and was the first person I told about starting my own business. Love Illuminati was also the first place I sold my jewelry, which became the fastest selling line in the store. Over the holiday, they sold out a bullet necklace, which felt awesome! From school, my marketing and retailing courses provided knowledge that I use in my business.
I have admired your jewelry from afar for a few semesters almost as if I were a potential customer.
Yes, I hear that a lot. I think maybe some people do not know how to approach me about it, but I am open to bringing jewelry with me to sell on the go! I have made custom pieces for friends and even strangers, so I am open to anything.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I get inspired everywhere and ideas just pop into my head. I go through phases where different specific things inspire me. I have always loved history, which may also be why I love vintage. For a while Native American jewelry inspired me, then rough metal pieces like the bullets and then Egyptian jewelry. My inspirations are currently changing and that keeps the jewelry exciting.
How does your sense of history fit the market?
It fits because what goes around comes back around. While I was selling Native American style pieces, turquoise and Native American-inspired apparel was really trendy. Pieces with some history also attract collectors, which helps me to branch out into another section of the market.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
My favorite store is where I work, Love Illuminati. I enjoy one-of-a-kind pieces and the young designers they feature. Also, shopbop.com, because they have great designers and sales. Everyone should check them out at least once.
Everyone tries to get celebrities to wear their jewels.. What has this been like for you?
I’m no exception. I was on the Rachel Ray show and made sure to wear an especially eye-catching piece on the air and gave out my cards to everyone I possibly could and collected as much contact information as possible. It was really a great experience early on in my business. I also went to a book signing for one of the participants in Housewives of New York City, Bethenny Frankel, and slipped her a necklace too.
As a vintage enthusiast myself, I’m curious where you score those pieces.
Oh everywhere! I have gotten vintage pieces from eBay, garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, hand-me-downs, anywhere I can find them. The search is really the best part.
What did you find in the jewelry business that may surprise students whose first focus is apparel?
I was always focused on apparel myself. I turned to jewelry because it is a creative outlet I can manage while in school. I never saw myself as an accessories person, but by having the business, I realized I can be as creative with jewelry design as apparel.
How are the economics of the jewelry business? Are they much different than apparel?
I believe they are, or at least they have been for me. I have made a profit and hopefully will continue to. I believe it is easier for people to spend money on accessories in this economy because they can liven up any old outfit for less. Another great aspect of accessories is they are one-size fits all and every woman or man has the right to feel beautiful. Jewelry makes that possible.
- Quin Acciani
Rachel Noel, wearing a lion necklace and two other pieces she also created.