Beginning your own business is a great deal to consider. From financing for more than just the first year to taxes, employees…well, you get the idea. Sometimes, you can start your own small business and keep most if not all of the work under your own roof. Just ask 18-year-old Madison Carroll from Greensboro who started her business when she was 8-years-old.
In Part One of my interview with Madison, she shared her love for jewelry design and how she has used it to make a positive impact for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) on behalf of her sister, Brittany. But as I share Part Two of my interview, the idea to design jewelry came from shopping with her mother.
Madison: As a child, I loved going shopping with my mother because she has wonderful and colorful taste. Even if I didn’t go with her, she would always sit down with me after she got home and we would go through her shopping bags together. One day she had gone to a store and brought home some bracelets that I thought looked easy to make, so I told her just that.
The next day she went to a craft store to purchase a few basic items and some beads she liked. I started making her jewelry all the time, and as I experimented more and increased my skill level she started wearing my pieces more often. If she hadn’t believed that I had the creative ability to achieve something like this at such a young age, I don’t know where I would be today.
Gillean: How many pieces of jewelry have you made to date?
Madison: I often wish I had started an official count, but if I had to make an educated guess I would say hundreds if not close to a thousand in the decade that I have been designing. For having done that while being an adolescent and a full time student, I’m very proud of myself for that accomplishment.
Gillean: What types of jewelry do you make? (earrings, necklaces, rings, pins?)
Madison: Whenever I find beads that intrigue me, the first thing that pops into my head are various necklace designs. That’s where all of my creative juices lie. Sometimes I will make earrings and bracelets to complement the necklaces, but because my business does custom designs as well I have the ability to ask the customer personally if they would like other items to match the necklace and then we design them together based on their specifications.
I enjoy doing it that way because then the customer is completely satisfied with the final result. Occasionally I will make a set that has a necklace, a bracelet and earrings, but I always price the set as a whole and then the pieces separately because almost every time the necklace and earrings will be sold separately and then the bracelet is either not wanted by the customer or it doesn’t fit because wrist size is so unpredictable. I have a few clients that always like matching sets, so I keep their wrist measurements filed so they can just call me up and ask for a bracelet to match the necklace they just bought and I can have it to them by the next day.
Gillean: What is the average cost of a piece of your jewelry that you design?
Madison: The costs do vary, but I try to keep my pieces as fairly priced as possible. I travel quite a bit with my family, so I am always on the lookout for interesting beads. Currently, I have handmade beads from Africa as well as Chinese pearls.
Those tend to be higher, in the $50-$100 range for a necklace depending on the design, because buying beads in wholesale in a different country is a bit difficult due to suitcase weight. The average price of one of my necklaces is probably about forty dollars. I try to buy good quality beads at low prices, and when I get a good deal I pass that on to my customers. They recognize that, and that is why I have such a strong client base.
Gillean: Where do you get your materials from and what types of materials do you use to design your jewelry?
Madison: I go to bead shows whenever possible, because that is when I can buy basic materials like clasps and wire as well as beads and pendants for lower prices than retail. My mom and I could spend an entire day walking up and down aisles filled with booths stocked to capacity with colorful and ornate beads. The key to this is rolling suitcases, and we fill them to the brim. As I mentioned, I also love getting beads from the different countries that I visit. I believe it’s something that makes my designs stand out from the rest.
Gillean: Do you have an office, a website?
Madison: My office and workshop is a garage. It might sound very sketchy, but I actually have made myself a nice set up. I have a small room that is an extension of the garage of my family’s home. On one side, I have floor to ceiling racks that I hang all of my jewelry on, and on the other I have a ten foot long table that is covered with cases and jars and tackle boxes full of beads. Clients come over to my house and walk into my workshop and their jaws literally drop.
Seeing grown women act like kids in a candy store is a very fun thing to watch. A website is something that I have been dreaming about for years, but being a rising junior in college, I’m just not ready to expand my business to the World Wide Web quite yet. I definitely plan to have one started up in the next few years, but for now I enjoy the low key business that I have and the client base that I have been able to develop through word of mouth alone.
Gillean: What's your favorite piece of jewelry you have designed thus far?
Madison: I really think of each piece that I make as a work of art, but my favorite thing that I have ever designed wasn’t a work of art at all, and it wasn’t even an original idea. After the devastation of September 11, I was just a child who didn’t understand what was going on in our country. One day, my mom saw someone at the grocery store wearing a pin that looked like an American flag.
It was made out of tiny little beads and standard safety pins. I started making them by the dozens, selling them for just a few dollars each and then giving the money to charities. It was such a small thing, but it was all I could do. All of the pricks that I got from the safety pins were worth making something so small that meant so much to the people who wore the pins.
Gillean: Do you see yourself ever stopping your jewelry designing business?
Madison: I certainly hope not! This is my form of expression, the way I show others how I see things. Whenever I have the time, I could spend days in my workshop. As long as people keep making the beads, I will still have inspiration. A single bead or even a color can inspire me to make a necklace or even several necklaces, because I am able to visualize patterns and cohesive designs that make sense.
I’ll see a design in my head, and while I’m making it, some revisions might come about, but when it’s finished sit back and think “that’s exactly what I knew it was going to look like.” I see potential where others might not, and I love taking something so raw and unnoticed and creating a beautiful symphony of color on a string.
Creative design that brings long lasting joy to the designer and to the person who owns a piece of Madison’s jewelry isn’t a bad way to enjoy owning your own business. And to think an 8-year-old shopping with her mother brought all of this to life and has provided needed funds to non-profit organizations as a way to give back. Here’s looking at much more entrepreneurial design and success in Madison’s future.