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Neontrepreneur: Jewelry Designer Rachel Mulherin
My connection with jewelry designer Rachel Mulherin is one of those creepy, cosmic ones where you know the universe has decided that you simply need to connect with a particular person. Our story starts about a year ago when Sam’s grandmother Harriett sent me a news article from The Baltimore Sun about a jewelry designer who crafts her wares at her kitchen table and receives pull requests by the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
“Maybe you’ll get in touch with her and come down to Balto to visit with her,” she wrote. “That will be fun. Think about it.”
Grandma Harriett–a #girlboss in her own right–always recognizes a good networking opportunity when she sees one. While I certainly agreed that this designer and I have a lot in common, I’m not one to waste anyone’s time and reach out without a purpose. So I simply followed the designer on Instagram and passed on the opportunity for the moment.
Flash forward to about a month ago when my college friend Christina (the photographer of my last post!) and I met up after many years. In the midst of our lengthy catch-up session, she mentioned she’d shot for this awesome jewelry designer in Baltimore named Rachel Mulherin. The name rang a bell and I immediately searched my email to see if she was the designer from the news article. Lo and behold, she was! Christina kindly offered to make the intro and this time, I knew I just had to go with meeting her. The universe decided for me.
Once Rachel and I got to chatting, I realized I could talk to this badass chick for hours. I learned that not only is Rachel an incredible designer, she is also establishing herself as an influencer (whattup!!), has dominated the networking game in Baltimore, has found much success in bridal jewelry, and is one of the most down-to-earth businesspeople I’ve ever encountered.
Rachel and I met in person last weekend when she was in town for fashion week. Curled up next to a fireplace at The Park in Chelsea, we exchanged ideas and advice about the jewelry industry, launching a business, and navigating the blogosphere. It struck me then that Rachel would be the perfect February Neon-trepreneur, and lucky for me, she agreed.
I’ll let Rachel take it away with her valuable insight into the powers of hustle, persistence, and networking up a storm. Thanks Rachel!
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? If so, can you share any early entrepreneurial endeavors?
Yes. My first entrepreneurial endeavor would be my lawn cutting business at 14. My dad bought the mower but I would cut quite a few lawns around my neighborhood each week. My little brother did the weed whacking. I have always been creative and I was always making things or drawing. I remember being very young and I’d always be directing the other neighborhood kids on their roles in whatever production we were putting on. In high school I cut up old dresses and reworked them and had my grandmother sew them. So I’m not shocked at all that this is what I’m doing.
What drove you to launch your line? How did you know it was “the right time” (if there is such a thing)?
I was making jewelry as a hobby for a good 5 or more years. I was in my senior year of college at Towson University and I took an internship at Seventh House PR/Showroom Seven, a fashion PR firm in New York. So I dropped everything and moved to NYC for a summer and just absolutely fell in love with the industry. I knew then that I wanted to be in the industry in some capacity but I just wasn’t sure how. At the time Erickson Beamon jewelry was made in the same location as my internship, and I saw that the ladies were really doing exactly what I did back in Baltimore. It was then that the wheels started spinning and I realized that I could turn my hobby into a business. When I came back to Baltimore to finish my last course of my business degree, I realized that I really had the tools to put this in motion.
I don’t know if there is ever a right time but I didn’t want to waste time. You can always find a million reasons that you’re not ready or that you need to wait and I have to force myself to just jump to get started. NYC showed me that I could be independent and gave me a lot of confidence. I made a list of what I needed to figure out to start and then started checking the boxes. I started with an Etsy shop and we just keep growing.
“I don’t know if there is ever a right time but I didn’t want to waste time.”
Where do you find inspiration?
I literally find inspiration everywhere and I think it’s always changing. Way back when, I’d spend hours looking at fashion magazines and tearing out pages and making collages or mood boards. I’m very visual so I’ll snap pictures of colors or nature or an outfit. I go to gem shows so I can be in a warehouse full of stones. It gets the creative juices flowing. Sometimes I just see an outfit and I start visualizing what accessories I’d imagine wearing with them and then it snowballs from there.
I will say that I put effort into being inspired. Motivation and inspiration don’t always just happen. You have to put yourself in situations to be motivated. I eat healthy, I work out, I make sure I attend events, meet new people, and keep my workspace and home aesthetically pleasing and inspiring.
Was there a moment when you felt like you’d made it? Or at least that you were truly onto something?
I’ll start by saying I have a long way to go! I created a bridal collection of statement earrings in 2016 and it really took off. From a business perspective that was a really great moment where I was like, okay I think I found my niche. The Baltimore Sun, my hometown paper, wrote a two page article last summer and that was definitely a moment when I was proud. I spend so much time working and things happen so far in advance and so quickly that you don’t always get to really take everything in. The article documented all the things that have happened over the past year or two: ELLE, L’Officiel, NYLON, and even a quote from one of Beyonce’s stylists when they pulled pieces for Lemonade. When I read all of that in one place, I had a tearful moment where I was just like, shit I’ve come a long way from making jewelry on my bedroom floor.
What are the best and hardest parts about having your own business?
One of the best things, and also the hardest things is probably not having a set schedule. You’re constantly working and hustling. It’s wonderful, it’s exciting and fun but you also miss some things. It’s hard to turn your brain off.
The number one best thing for me is that this is my baby. I made this and I can make it whatever I want it to be. I have complete control over the vision and direction.
One of the hardest things is being a one man show. I do everything right now. Everything. Designing, jewelry making, sales, marketing, social media, web design, shipping, etc. There are only so many hours in the day. You have to surround yourself with people that hustle and can help you. I still have a full time day job. So working all day and then coming home to work and night and all weekend can get tough. It will pay off though.
To what do you attribute your success thus far?
Creativity, perseverance, networking, support, amazing customers, hard work. There’s a lot that goes into it. I’ve never given up though. There will be days, weeks even, when things don’t go as planned and you’re like “why am I doing this?” And then a day or two later something insanely amazing comes out of left field. I’ve done an awesome job of keeping my chin up and knowing that if I just keep going, things will happen. I also think I’m pretty scrappy. I’ve been able to figure things out on a budget and just make it happen.
“I’ve done an awesome job of keeping my chin up and knowing that if I just keep going, things will happen.”
What have been your most successful marketing outlets/endeavors/strategies?
The past few years have been trial and error. I’ve done trade shows in NYC, I’ve given jewelry to bloggers to post about. I did a sale with Fab.com back in the day. Most recently I worked with NYC-based Pervis Ross PR to focus on getting some press and pushing consumers to my retail website. That was a wonderful experience. The national press we received lead to increased sales and created a buzz back at home: the two page article in The Sun, the cover of Baltimore Style, and an article in Baltimore Bride magazine.
And then of course, Instagram! I put a lot of effort into building our social media. Social media is so wonderful because we’re able to connect on a personal level with our customers, and they can follow along closely with me and the brand and see what we’re doing. People love seeing what we’re up to, new designs, photo shoots, etc.
What is your dream project?
There are so many. Beyonce pulled for Lemonade but it didn’t make it in the video. I’d love to design something for her and get her wearing it. I’d love to do an exclusive bridal collection for a designer, collection, or bridal house like Hayley Paige or Kleinfeld. I’d love to do a presentation for fashion week or do something in connection with another designer’s presentation. I’d love to design for a performer for a music video or music tour and do more costume.
Where do you see your brand in 3-5 years?
In 3 to 5 years this will be my full-time gig and I hope to have a team of 3 to 5 working together to run this business. Right now I’m sort of toying with ideas and directions to take the business and I’d love to expand this brand to be a little bit more than just jewelry. I think we’ll have a heavier presence in the bridal market. I also think we’ll be in NYC.
“Network, network, network.”
Based on your experience, what advice would you offer other young, female entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up. Hustle. Network, network, network. People love helping people. Go to events, ask people for introductions, ask people for help. You’d be shocked at how willing people are to help you. I’ve had a ton of success with just asking people for meetings and I try to pay that forward as much as I can. For real, reach out to me! People love connecting people, and they love story telling.
Get started. I’m definitely a planner but I had to just jump and do it. I also think it’s really important to surround yourself with people that inspire you, are like minded, and supportive.
Read as much as you can about the brands you aspire to be like. Learn from their mistakes. Analyze what strategies are working well for them and see how that could translate to your brand. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in uncomfortable situations if it will help you grow.
Make sure you have a strong social media presence and make sure it’s beautiful. There are so many quick, free mini-classes for Instagram on the Internet. Take 30 minutes to watch one. And download VSCO to edit your photos.
In addition to offering up awesome advice, Rachel is also offering an exclusive 20% off her jewelry to TNTP readers with code love17. A humongous thank you to Rachel, once again, for her thoughtful responses and incredibly helpful advice! Be sure to check out her site here, blog here and Instagram here.
peace, love & neon,
< photos c/o rachel mulherin >