University of Georgia sophomore Charlotte Marshall has been making jewelry for herself since middle school. What started as a hobby has now transformed into a business, a passion and Gypsy Gems—an affordable, hand-crafted jewelry store based in Athens, Ga.
“When I first came to college, one of the first things that I noticed was how different college students dress,” Marshall said. “At UGA, wire-wrapped necklaces are super popular for any occasion, school, date nights, going out, etc., and I didn’t own a single one.”
Since Marshall left her steady babysitting job from high school behind, she felt like she couldn’t afford to spend money on expensive jewelry. She decided to create some for herself and others with more reasonable prices.
This idea evolved into her online jewelry store, Gypsy Gems. As a Fashion Merchandising major with an entrepreneurship certificate, Marshall’s dream is to open her own boutique where she can sell her own clothes, shoes and jewelry.
“Running Gypsy Gems helps me in my classes a lot actually— especially in the classes where we discuss money in relation to business,” she said. “My business and business classes compliment each other and owning a business supplements the material I learn in class.”
Marshall independently manages all of the finances, like buying the jewelry components and selling the items. She says she would have never learned this type of hands-on experience in a classroom.
Although creating jewelry is primarily an exciting and rewarding experience, Marshall has faced some challenges.
“Getting into jewelry making is surprisingly capital-intensive,” she said. “I spent about two months just buying up supplies, tools, storage pieces, etc. before I even made a single piece of jewelry.”
She adds how the beginning stages of her jewelry business were filled with a lot of proud moments, but also a number of struggles.
“Due to the uneducated construction of [my] early pieces, I received a couple of messages from customers about their necklaces breaking,” Marshall said. “That was really, really hard for me. I was so embarrassed that I began to question if I really wanted to continue making things for other people if they were just going to break.”
Marshall says she has worked hard on perfecting her techniques and has not received any complaints since.
“I also had to work through it by getting myself in a less negative head space— it shook my confidence so I had to rebuild that, which took time.”
She also notes that learning how to time ordering different components can still cause trouble; it can be difficult to gauge when to reorder items because shipping can be unreliable.
Overall, Marshall aims for her jewelry line to be casual and affordable.
“Literally anyone can wear it and with virtually anything,” she said. “One of my favorite bands is the Grateful Dead, so my favorite piece has to be “Garcia” which features the dancing bear that represents the band!”
When it comes to creating your own business while being a student, Marshall has one piece of advice that she can’t seem to say enough— it takes time.
“When I first started, I naively expected to have everything, sales, attention, followers, etc. fall in my lap all at once,” she said. “While I do believe that I’ve been extremely successful for only starting this business in May, I have put in the time and effort to grow and I still am not even close to the point that I want to be at.”
She urges other students to not get frustrated if they feel their business is “not working.” It takes a while for any business to get up and running, and sales will come with time.
“I would encourage those entrepreneurs to keep at it like I did after almost giving up a couple of times,” Marshall said. “It’s so rewarding to feel like you’ve finally broken through!”
In regards to the future of Gypsy Gems, Marshall is very excited about her first of hopefully many trunk shows. She is also in the process of getting her jewelry sold at a local Athens boutique.
“That would be MONUMENTAL for my small little company and would mean huge growth because I have never sold in bulk before,” she said.
Stay tuned for Gypsy Gem’s biggest sale of the year—30 percent off for Black Friday!
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