As many of you know, I started Beaded by W in 2014 when I was a senior in high school. I used to make jewelry with my grandma when I was younger and loved it, which is what made me decide to bring the hobby back into my life when I was older. I first started by making jewelry for myself, which then led to my friends wanting me to make them necklaces as well. One weekend, I was at my friend’s ranch and was encouraged to start a real business by the name of Beaded by W. I had no idea how to do this but decided to start with an Instagram account, posting pictures of jewelry there and asking customers to email me with what they wanted.
The more pictures I posted, the more followers I gained. About two weeks in, I received a text from someone who wore my necklace into Beehive Boutique here in Austin. The owner, Claire, noticed it and wanted me to know she was interested in purchasing some wholesale. At this point, I had no idea what the requirements were to fulfill the needs of a store. After talking to my parents and lots of googling, I went into Beehive and sold them 10 necklaces to see how they would sell—they were gone in less than five days!
A couple months later, I graduated from Westlake High School and decided to attend the University of Oklahoma. That summer before I left, I continued to make jewelry on my parents’ living room floor and watch every Netflix series in existence, handling wholesale accounts for three stores and the individual orders that came in regularly. When I left for school, I made the decision to take a break from jewelry in order to adjust to schoolwork, Greek life, and being away from my family and friends. About a month in, I figured it was time to start back up again and that’s when the business really blew up.
Between 15 hours of school and beading every piece myself (which can take between 20-45 minutes), I never had a chance to even sleep because I was constantly studying or beading. Even when I left OU for winter break, I didn’t have a chance to relax like most college students because it was now time to handle Christmas orders for Beaded by W. At that point, I knew something had to give.
I thought I made the right choice when I decided to stop doing Beaded by W but the pushback was strong: Some people were telling me to stay in Austin—that I could always go back to school later. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.
After a lot of prayer and thought, I realized this was the time to see what I could do with Beaded by W. When talking to my parents about what I wanted to do, they were supportive after seeing me struggle all semester. The hardest part was telling my friends at OU. I called all of them during my six hour drive to school to pack up all my stuff and it dawned on me that I was basically starting over. At OU, my life was planned out and comfortable. Now, I had an unpredictable journey ahead.
When I first moved back, I made it a priority to meet up with local business owners and bloggers, and learn about how to really do this full-time. That’s when one of my friend’s dads called me and offered a room in his office for me to use—a significant step up from my parent’s living room floor. It was the most generous thing anyone has ever done for me or Beaded by W, and I appreciate him and his family so much.
I set up my little desk in this borrowed office space and tackled the next issue: not being able to handle the business by myself. I needed help. This help came in the form of a friend of mine living in Austin and a girl doing an internship program through my old high school who was looking for a mentor. While her experience with Beaded by W would be unpredictable, I told her I would love to have her as an intern. For a while, it was the three of us, all under the age of 19, taking on the challenge of building a business. Together, we learned so much about social media, business, and a ton more. I consider it such a special time in the business--it was fun but also so hard and terrifying.
Other girls started asking if I needed help beading and I did, so they started coming in to make jewelry. Our team of three soon became a team of 10. We would make the jewelry, package it, print order slips, design, and brainstorm in this tiny room.
It’s been one year and one day since I decided to take Beaded by W full-time and moved into that room. So much has changed from January 13, 2015 and this is only the beginning. Take a look at our timeline below to get an idea of what’s happened since:
Our First Website: March 5, 2015
A big step in building the Beaded by W brand was shifting sales from Instagram and Facebook to an actual website. It was really hard keeping up with orders via email, so I locked myself in my room for three days and googled how to build a website. Luckily, I used a website builder so it wasn't as hard as it could have been. Building a website really expanded Beaded by W because it was so much easier to see all of our products and order directly.
Our Official Rebrand: March 27, 2015
For a while, we had a brand identity crisis. My friend Jenna, a freelance graphic designer, created the logo and business cards we still use today! Figuring out our logo and color scheme was hard but Jenna did a great job at reading our minds. It was exciting to finally visually nail down what Beaded by W is all about.
The Mack, Jack, and McConaughey Event: April 16, 2015
It was a true honor to have my jewelry in the VIP/celebrity bags for the MJM event. Mack, Jack, and McConaughey works to support programs that help empower kids. While we've had our designs in bags before, this one was special because the event was hosted by Austin idols—Mack Brown, Jack Ingram, and Matthew McConaughey.
Buzzin: May 11, 2015
Buzzin’ was the first time I’d designed an entire collection and had it all photographed. This collection had so many elements in it and I loved using my sister and her friends as models! It’s important to me to use real people in shoots.
Our New Office: August 1, 2015
The biggest moment of this year was definitely moving into our new, five-room office! After eight months of being back in Austin, Beaded by W had grown out of our original one-room office and we needed space to continue to grow. It was so much fun to design a space for everyone who works here and make it really fun, bright, and girly.
Our KXAN Appearance: September 1, 2015
Before September, I’d never been on television before. I was given the opportunity to represent Le Garage Sale, a local event that brings together boutiques at clearance sale prices, by sharing Beaded by W on KXAN, Austin’s local news channel. It was so much fun to see what goes on behind the scenes and share my passion with the local Austin community!
Our New Website: September 3, 2015
At the end of the summer, we decided that it was time to redo the website. I was initially intimidated by taking on this project again, but it happened! Between the new office AND the new website, it was the perfect end to a perfect summer. Our new website is much easier to navigate, which I think helped attract more customers.
The Tribeza Fashion Show: October 1, 2015
We are such a huge fans of Tribeza, Austin’s local arts and culture magazine, and it’s been a dream of mine to be in their yearly fashion show. It was so humbling to see my designs used in Beehive Boutique’s feature and mentioned in the program as a local Austin designer. It was a really big moment for Beaded by W.
Casanova: October 30, 2015
This collection was a game changer for Beaded by W because it introduced a design element we’ve never really played with before: monochrome. Our 70s-inspired shoot to promote the collection was so impromptu but turned out so fun. The collection has been a huge hit!
Our Holiday Gift Guide: November 30, 2015
The 2015 holiday gift guide was the perfect representation of how important teamwork is here at Beaded by W because it truly took all our team members to put together the shoot. Between the styling, photography, editing, and technical aspects, it was amazing to see it all come together and create such a beautiful booklet.
It has been such an exciting 365 days since Beaded by W decided to go full-time and none of it would be possible without all of you. We are excited to announce that we started the year off with only three stores and are now in over 60 stores across the country! Not only that, but I have decided to go back to school starting this January! I am very excited to be taking classes at a local Austin college that will help me learn how to grow my business more. We would not be where we are today without the support of our family, friends, teammates, and customers.
I have loved sharing my life and creativity with every friend, family member, Instagram follower, and customer—I hope you all know how much you mean to us! Thank you so much for the continuous love and good vibes. Here’s to another exciting year!