Jag träffade Franscesca D’Elia under mitt år på Saint Michael’s College i Colchester, Vermont, USA. Vi bodde i samma korridor och jag märkte snabbt att det var något speciellt med henne: i hennes rum etsade hon sina egna smycken. Franscesca är 19 år, hon driver sitt egna företag Homegrown Jewelry och detta är hennes historia:
First of all, tell me about your business, Homegrown Jewelry!
Homegrown Jewelry is a handmade jewelry company. This is our 4th year in business (!!). The jewelry is a combination of nature and street style inspired pieces that are designed to be worn anywhere, anytime. The designs are kept simple and are sterling silver, brass, or copper. Everything is handmade by me, Francesca, in Jeffersonville, VT. We make appearances at various art shows throughout the fall and can also be found on Etsy.com (Homegrown Jewelry VT), Facebook (Homegrown Jewelry), and Instagram (@homegrown_jewelry).
How did everything begin?
I started making jewelry about 8 years ago, small wire pieces that were gifts for family and friends. I would stay after school for “art club” and use picture tutorials to practice using the pliers and wire. I continued to be self-taught until my senior year in high school, using pictures and online tutorials to learn new techniques. 4 years ago I attended my first craft show where I sold my wire designs before the holidays. This show was the first time I had publicly shown my jewelry. I was so nervous that I was shaking and hid behind my displays for most of the show.
"My goal was to make back the money it cost to have a table at the show, $25. I made around $200 and could’ve cried from happiness"
During the show, my mom and I talked about looking into colleges that offered jewelry classes and suddenly the idea of being a jewelry maker was more concrete. I continued to explore this new idea of having a business. I started a Facebook and Instagram page, learned new techniques, and prepared to do a couple more shows the following Fall. This was also the time when I decided on my name, Homegrown Jewelry. Again, the shows went well and I was starting to gain a (small) following. The local art gallery I worked for during the summer allowed me to set-up a small display of my work in the gallery. Their confidence in me gave me an extra push to really be serious about what was previously thought of as a hobby. I bought my first business cards and suddenly I had a brand. During my senior year of high school,
I was able to take classes with a local jeweler who taught me advanced techniques such as soldering and saw-work. This elevated my work more than anything else had before. Suddenly I was working in sterling silver, brass, and a copper. I used torches to solder pieces together, hammers and saws to shape the metal, and large buffing machines to bring everything to a beautiful shine. This was like nothing else I had done before and I absolutely loved it. With the help of my teachers, I was able to become what felt like a true jeweler.
That Fall I went on to do five craft shows in the span of two months. Since then I have gone on to set-up my own Etsy shop online and countless more shows. Homegrown Jewelry has gained a larger following and it is now my full-time job. Besides building the brand I have also been able to plan events, attend conferences, and plan for the future of the company. It wasn’t planned, I didn’t know that this is where it would go, it just felt right and through the endless support of my family and friends, I am able to pursue what I love. 5 years ago I would’ve never guessed that I would still be doing this and have the following that I do, but every day I am so thankful for the opportunity and so proud of Homegrown’s progress.
Have you ever met any big obstacles during your journey or has everything gone as planned?
Luckily, not any huge obstacles. I have a very supportive family and town which has made what I do easier. I would say my biggest obstacles have been time and myself. There is so much to do and I constantly feel the need to be doing it all. Learning how to manage my time has been a huge factor in operating smoothly. It’s also hard to not get in your own way. It’s easy to push yourself too hard and get stressed out. You have to learn your own limits and not be too hard on yourself when you can’t do it all.
Have you ever felt a fear of failure? And if so, what made you continue?
I feel that fear of failure on a weekly basis. When you are building a basis you are the sole reason for its progression or failure, there is nobody else to blame. You’re in charge of ideas, money, and all the aspects of a business. For me, I have a lot of people who have done a lot to support me since I started making jewelry so there is also the fear of letting your supporters down. But no matter how many ways there are that you can fail, the idea of it working is what keeps me going. If I could do what I love and work for myself for the rest of my life I would be so happy. There’s also an immense sense of pride that comes with owning your own business. When something you worked hard on pays off or your idea goes smoothly it is an indescribable feeling. That feeling is worth working through the fear of failure.
What is the best thing with being an entrepreneur?
For me, the best part has been the feeling of pride you get when you realize what you’ve done. Starting my business hasn’t been easy and honestly, when I started I wasn’t expecting it to become my full-time job and call myself a business owner. It has been five years of hard work, a lot of doubt, and pushing myself even when I was uncomfortable. But now when I stop and look at what I’ve created, it’s all worth it. I used to be scared to tell people I made jewelry, I couldn’t go to a show without my hands shaking, but now everyone knows I make jewelry and I’m confident when I hand out my business card. Being an entrepreneur has taught me so much about myself and what I can do. It has also taught me that it’s okay to
congratulate yourself for all of your hard work.
You learn to take pride in your work and yourself.
Where do you see your business, Homegrown Jewelry, in five years?
In five years I would love to be running my business full-time and making a livable income. At some point, I would like to step away from the physical making of the jewelry and work more as the business administrative side, marketing, accounting, etc. There are a lot of different areas that Homegrown could expand into and I would really like to explore them. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of event planning and partnering with other businesses which I really enjoy. I hope that we are also able to give back to the community by partnering with local charities/causes or even setting up our own.
Last but not least, do you have any advice for young people out there who are thinking about taking the step and start a business?
It will be hard and you’ll doubt yourself but if you truly love what you’re doing it will show. Don’t be afraid to own it, be proud of what you’ve created. Utilize every resource you can and don’t be afraid to ask, people are usually always willing to support you. It’s going to be terrifying, uncomfortable, and A LOT of work, but even small achievements will feel like winning a gold medal and when you are able to look at your dream come to life, every second you put into it will be worth it.
Intervju och text: Moa Nachtweij