Whether you’re fresh out of college with a brand spanking new liberal arts degree or you’re still paying off those college loans, you may think that you need to toss aside your creative dreams for a cubicle job. But fear not, future #girlbosses: There are women just like you who started out with a wish and a dream and made their careers happen. It’s rarely an easy road to get where you want career-wise, but tips from successful women like Shonda Rhimes and Tavi Gevinson, plus our How to Quit Your Day Job series, will empower you to take the leap. Today, we’re chatting with Kendra Bryant, who finished college in 2009 and she knew she wanted to design and create jewelry. Straight out of school, she launched Kendra Renee Jewelry.
Meet the Jewelry Pro: Kendra Bryant
The summer after graduating from college, Kendra fulfilled a huge wholesale order for a pair of earrings. Over the course of 12 weeks, she spent more than 500 hours in a shed in her parents’ backyard hammering out the same pair of earrings. “Even after so many hours of repetitive work, I still loved heading out to my studio (aka the shed) each morning. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the path for me,” says Kendra. Since those humble beginnings, Kendra’s jewelry can now be found in shops in the Bay Area, New Jersey and Colorado, as well as Etsy and Artful Home.
1. Find your girl squad. Just like Taylor Swift, having a tribe of like-minded women on your side can make the hard road of owning your own biz easier. Kendra started her own girl squad called the Creative Business League, a group of female creative makers. “Meeting with these women and sharing all our ups and downs has been immeasurably helpful in taking the fear out of being a business owner. Your peers will talk through business problems, provide feedback and share in the struggle,” says Kendra. Plus, she loves that her team of ladies cheers her on when she needs it most. Need tips on getting your girl gang together? Kendra has a super helpful blog post about founding the Creative Business League.
2. Pat yourself on the back. Starting your own company requires lots of patience, hard work, sweat and determination. Kendra has found that “running a business can be very stressful and unrewarding if you never take the time to celebrate.” Make sure to enjoy the little and big moments of your success as a lady boss!
3. Don’t try to make something for everybody. When making handmade goods, it can be easy to conform to what’s on trend right in the moment, versus your personal aesthetic and style. Kendra learned that her first pieces were pretty, but uninspiring, because she was trying to please her client base. But she wasn’t excited about the jewelry she was making and she knew in her gut that she had to rethink her strategy. “I cut my line in half and created a set of design principles for my line based on things that inspire me. The restrictions and guidelines were really energizing, and I ended up with a memorable look that I love, but that isn’t for everyone,” says Kendra.
4. Find your rock. Everyone needs that supportive cheerleader who will see the good in your work when you’ve had a long day and doubt yourself. That person could be a spouse, best friend, mom or fellow maker. For Kendra, her husband is her one-stop shop for strategy talks, help at craft shows and inspiration during moments of discouragement. “I would never have made it this far without him,” says Kendra.
6. Connect with what makes you love your job. Over on Kendra’s blog, you’ll find a special section devoted to love stories, featuring customers’ engagement proposals. “My secret perk is that I get to hear a lot of romantic stories and be one of the first in the know about an upcoming engagement,” says Kendra. A recent client brought her late mother’s gold wedding ring to Kendra. “Her parents had had a beautiful relationship, and she wanted to bring that strength and tradition into her upcoming marriage.” Kendra designed wedding bands for her and her fiancé, then the couple was able to watch and assist as Kendra and her casting artist poured the gold from the heirloom ring into new bands. “It was a very special moment,” says Kendra.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Jewelry-Making Online Class ($19): This fun and interactive class teaches you how to make three different knots to create your own necklace and bracelet. It’s designed for beginners, and you can purchase the accompanying Knotted Cord Necklace Kit ($29) to get started right away.
2. Start a Handmade Business ($99): Over the course of 39 lessons, you’ll learn the best strategies for selling your handcrafted goods, launching your website and managing your social media.
3. One-Day Intensive on Ring Making ($179): If Kendra’s engagement ring stories inspired you to want to make and sell wedding jewelry someday, this in-person, four-hour class teaches you the basics of silver smithing and soldering techniques using a torch flame.
Are you a jewelry maker? Show us your project by tagging us on Instagram + using hashtag #iamcreative!
(Photos via Kendra Renee Jewelry)