With the ongoing concern for business success across the U.S., one young entrepreneur in the Tarheel state has been finding sparkling success for the past ten years.
18-year-old Madison Carroll from Greensboro, North Carolina will be headed into her junior year of college at Wake Forest this spring. When I asked her a few questions about her interest in designing jewelry, Madison says her focus wasn't really on the success of selling her jewelry. She just enjoyed the creativity of designing one unique piece after another.
Gillean: How long have you been designing jewelry?
Madison: When I first started my business, I was just a little kid who needed a creative outlet. When my parents started seeing how much money I was making, they decided that an eight-year-old did not need to have all of that money around.
They have always encouraged my sisters and I to give to people who are less fortunate, so when deciding on a charity to give my money to, I chose a couple who are close family friends who are missionaries in India. After sending them the first check, they were able to buy desks and school supplies for an entire elementary school that they helped run. It was so rewarding to see my money go to a good cause.
When I was twelve, my older sister Brittany was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. Immediately, my family became involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, or JDRF, and after talking to my parents about it, I decided to start giving my money to help find a cure for my sister.
Gillean: Why did you start designing jewelry, even as a young child?
Madison: I originally started because I wanted to prove to my mother that I could. After she saw my talent, she loved the fact that she could describe a necklace that she saw someone wearing and then save money by buying me the supplies and having me create something similar and yet better. Although I think my mother is one of the most stylish women I have ever met, my taste is much more simple than hers. I loved how I was able to tap into the things that she liked and create something that she adored. After referring me to several of her friends, I had a client base that ranged from “anything big and outrageous” to “small, simple and subtle”. I enjoy the ability to tap into these women’s minds like they are inner personalities of myself.
Gillean: Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
Madison: I most definitely do. From a young age I have seen how my father, who is a developer, buys pieces of land and then transforms them into profitable apartment complexes, homes, shopping centers, and even sky scrapers. Because of that, I can look at a raw material and see multiple ways of making a profit. I take this mentality past jewelry making, and let it overflow into other activities that I love to do. I even have a name for a person like me, a “serial entrepreneur”. I currently have several branches of my M. Carroll Designs business model. Not only do I design, create and distribute my one of a kind jewelry, but I also cater and party plan for small to medium sized events for friends. I am also an event photographer. The way I see it, if I have a talent that I know I’m good at, and I can use this talent and make a profit, it would be downright crazy not to. I’m also an entrepreneurship major in college.
Gillean: You mentioned that you decided to support a non-profit organization to honor your sister, Brittany. Tell me more about this.
Madison: Brittany is truly my hero. Take the toughest guy you can find and ask him how he would feel about taking ten shots a day and pricking himself with a needle another fifteen times a day, and he will probably tell you that terrifies him. My sister does it every day, and she makes it look so easy.
Jewelry is what makes women really stand out from a crowd. Most women own a little black dress, a brightly colored blouse, and a closet full of work clothes (or in my case, shoes), but its human nature for women to want to blend in but also stand out at the same time. You can take three women and put them in the same dress, with one wearing a jumbo red coral chocker, one wearing two strands of pearls and one wearing a simple chain with a charm, and you can see each of their personalities through those pieces. A jewelry designer has to really understand the mentality of a woman when she is put in different situations. Whenever I make a piece, I think of the woman that is going to buy it, and then try to think of all of the outfits she might wear with it. A necklace needs to be constructed well for durability, designed well for intriguing appeal, and be a functional piece of self-expression in several different outfit situations.
For me, a piece of jewelry is much more than that. The person who is wearing it is taking us one step closer to finding a cure for Brittany and a million or so of her friends with juvenile diabetes.
Follow along in the second article as we talk about what's next for Madison's jewelry business, the important role shopping with her mother played in Madison's decision to consider designing jewelry in the first place, and what's next for her business and her future.