Welcome to a new series called Interview with a Female Founder.
As a female entrepreneur and business owner myself, it feels like a "calling" to me to support other female owned businesses. It's a blessing actually.
This series will publish monthly. So be on the lookout to meet some pretty rad women!
I'm excited to start this series off with one of my favorite jewelry designers, Jennifer Rippey, owner and founder of Bohemian Soul Shine.
Jen lives and breathes bohemian. You can see it in her jewelry and you can hear it in her words.
I got the chance to ask her a few questions about herself and her business. She is super fun and quite the free spirit!
Please share a little bit about who you are and what your business is.
I'm a sun-loving-gypsy-hippie-cowgirl-free-spirit type! Normally you'll find me barefoot and in the sun with my husband and pit bull rescue, Smokey, hanging out by our pool under the drippy moss trees listening to classic rock n roll! I talking Bob Seger, Stevie Nicks, CCR, Rolling Stones... you get it! If I'm not doing that or working, I'm hitting up flea markets, junk stores, thrift stores, etc., or drinking White Claws with family and friends at our fire pit!
What first led you in the direction of making jewelry?
I found my creative calling rather late in life, having lived most of my adult years working in a corporate environment. So very unhappy with the strict structure and restrictions of the corporate world, I would find myself day dreaming out the high rise windows in my little cubical. Always thinking about joining a carnival and the romantic notion of traveling, seeing the world, the whimsical life that would provide. However, I continued to climb the corporate ladder and was very successful indeed. But the wondering gypsy life style was never far from my thoughts still longing to find my passion.
As fate would have it, the company went under and i lost my job. I made several half-hearted attempts at starting anew in the corporate insurance world, cleaning toilets, selling concert t-shirts at festivals, selling you-name-it merchandise at rodeos, and working in retail shops. Before I could find a carnival to join, I met a guy and got married. This was pretty grounding and I knew the carnival idea was out.
So I shifted my focus to planning the entire wedding myself. Not being able to find any bridal jewelry that really spoke to me, I gathered up some vintage rhinestone pieces I had (I also dabbled in buying and selling vintage jewelry for awhile) and I made my own jewelry, which ended up morphing into my making custom bridal jewelry for others.
I adored working with and designing for brides. Specifically reworking their family heirloom jewelry into their keepsake visions. But I felt the need to evolve and with my huge cache of vintage leather, gemstone beads, copper, brass, all of the vintage rhinestone jewelry, I started working all of that into updated jewelry for modern bohemians!
What has helped your business grow?
My love and continued passion to evolve and learn new things is what pushes my jewelry business forward. From bridal to now metalsmithing with gemstones has been a leap, but mostly self taught.
I was lucky enough to be featured on the cover of Belle Armoire magazine (features artisans and their work), which provided a huge amount of new friends, new customers, and new open doors. I have been invited to share my work with them again and possibly be included in the December issue. Fingers crossed!
Have you faced any challenges as a female entrepreneur?
Two big challenges I faced was one, money and two, connecting with and finding other women entrepreneurs. The bank wanted this crazy detailed 30 million page plan filled out for a small loan of 15k (I think they wanted a blood sample as well..LOL). So I got up the courage and asked my mom and step dad for a small loan of 5K and they gave it to me. I paid them back within the first year - nothing felt better than that!
Also starting this business really before Instagram, Etsy, or artisan markets was a thing, was a struggle to find others like me. Finding the best and least expensive method of advertising, connecting with other women entrepreneurs, figuring out the ways to get my jewelry to the masses, and finding my tribe.
What inspires your creativity when making a new piece of jewelry?
My creativity is never ending, sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. So many designs floating around in my head, it can be overwhelming. I see vintage leather and I think of 5 ways to reuse it and then pray I remember them all! I'm not good at jotting down ideas. I'm just a wing-it type of designer. Many times I can see a design in my head, but then I have to go forth and actually make it: the nuts and bolts thing is half the battle. But, just seeing beautiful vintage pieces is what stirs my creativity. I am so in love with creating, it literally makes my soul shine (hence Bohemian Soul Shine). There are many weeks I don't leave my house but once or twice. I'm probably insane! LOL
What’s been the single most important jewelry-making skill you’ve learned and why?
The most important jewelry-making skill for me has been learning to work with wire, the basic jewelry components, and believe it or not, power tools. Without the basics you really are held up. And thank you Jesus for YouTube! It's such a wonderful way to learn the basics.
What’s your favorite material to use?
Trying to choose my favorite material to use is like trying to choose which pastry is my favorite... they all are! Vintage leather, rhinestones, gemstones, turquoise, or metals - they all give me the feels - I just can't choose.
What’s your typical day like?
A day in the life of my jewelry biz...welp, I sleep until I wake up, meaning no alarm for me. Normally about 9ish because I am usually up until 1 or 2am. I'm a night owl and shutting the creative process off is tough.
But first, coffee! I have to drink at least 2 cups of the fog lifter before I really come to and I'm ready to get to it. Normally, I package up all my orders for the day and get them mailed off and then it's time to start new orders while designing new pieces.
Now this may sound organized but that is not how this normally goes. I always have good intentions but I have to liken my day to this: working away... oh, I see a sparkly thing... I love this piece, what can i do with it... oh wait, have to get back to the order at hand... oh the dog needs to go out... get back to work... oh a gorgeous scrap of leather... what can I do with that... NO, have to concentrate on the order at hand. You get the picture. I'm a hot mess, very little balance, but it all gets done at the end of the day - about 2am.
What advice would you give to aspiring jewelry makers?
Learn your basic jewelry skills first. Get all of your basic tools so you can hit the ground running. And from there, no limits! Basic skills and a passion will take you everywhere! Also, have a basic business plan and figure out how you will be selling: Etsy, Amazon Handmade, your own website, etc. Once you get that in place then get at it!