Updated: Jun 2
No shoes, no shirt, no problem...My company's mission statement to take on Tiffany's. A company I bet never had to deal with angry seagulls or torrential downpours. All entrepreneurial landmines I successfully maneuvered around. All the while wondering, (like most people) how does sand get in everything?
My name is Maria Jaeckel and I am the founder, designer, and CEO of my business, Blue Bone Jewelry LLC. I am a rising senior at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland studying Business Management and Digital Media. I first launched Blue Bone in 2016 when I was just 16 years old. This June will be five years since I first began.
I grew up wearing a school uniform from ages four through eighteen and jewelry was always the one thing I could add onto my uniform that allowed me to express myself. I have always been interested in fashion and the idea of designing my own jewelry seemed like a fantasy to me. I decided to turn that fantasy into reality when I saw an opportunity and ran with it.
In October of 2020, Blue Bone was accepted into a prestigious entrepreneurship program, Baltipreneurs Accelerator. The program selected my small business and I out of a competitive applicant pool of other entrepreneurs in the Baltimore area. I spent twenty-four weeks working on further developing my company and learning from my two incredible mentors, Jennifer Glass, Director of Digital Marketing at Pandora Jewelry, and Kevin Conklin, Vice President of Operations at Pandora Jewelry. This program has given me great opportunities to expand my knowledge about the industry and implement these skills into my company.
The passion I have for jewelry design and entrepreneurship is unmatched in anything else I do. Blue Bone has given me a place where I can freely be myself—illustrating my ambitions and allowing me to uncover a sense of confidence within myself. That being said, I want to share with you the journey of Blue Bone Jewelry thus far.
In June of 2016, my parents told me it was time to get a summer job. Considering we live at the Jersey shore during the summer, the idea of working six hours a day was not appealing to me. Ever since I was young, I have always been an innovative and creative person. I began tinkering with different ideas on how I could earn money without taking away from my treasured beach time. I had always been interested in jewelry design, and after much thought and contemplation, I made the decision to challenge myself. I decided Saturday mornings at the beach, I would sell my handmade jewelry. What started out as something small to satisfy my parents turned into my own lucrative beach side business, Blue Bone Jewelry.
I wrote a two-page business proposal and presented it to my parents, requesting a two-hundred-dollar loan to get myself started. While they fully supported my ideas, we both had our reservations considering I had never made a piece of jewelry before in my life. However, my parents agreed to invest in my business idea and willingly put up the two-hundred-dollars. My parents have always been my biggest supporters. They have instilled a confidence within me and taught me to always believe in myself.
I put that two-hundred-dollar loan to immediate use and soon began learning the ropes of the trade, though it was no quick process. It was not right away that I had steady and successful techniques for creating my products. I faced many small battles at first, though all bearable and able to be fixed. I went through multiple brands of string, and countless trips to craft stores until I found supplies that somewhat worked. It took me approximately 45 minutes to create one bracelet, so my turn around time was not ideal either. Additionally, I photographed my products on an iPhone then posted them to Instagram and hoped one of my 75 followers might be interested…definitely not the best marketing strategy.
Only one short month later, I hosted my first pop up shop. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous. Standing outside Lava Java, a coffee shop one block from the beach in Lavallette, New Jersey, I set up my Nana’s old card table and displayed an array of jewelry pieces. I sat there patiently early Saturday morning and crossed my fingers hoping the residents of my small mile-long beach town might be interested in buying some handmade jewelry. To my surprise, I was sold out in just a couple of hours. That one pop-up served as a launching pad for what was to come. I was immediately determined and motivated to make my small business the best it can be. Over the past four summers, I have sat in that exact location on the sidewalk every Saturday morning. Hosting these weekly pop up shops has allowed me to garner a consistent customer audience and social media target. This exposure allowed my company to grow and develop a little bit more each weekend.
If you had asked me five years ago if Blue Bone would become what it is today, I would have thought you were crazy. My small business has become one of the most important things in my life. In addition to school, I am now working full time shipping my jewelry nationally online, wholesale to boutiques, (so far, I’m in 6 stores nationwide!) and I host regular pop-up shops along the East coast. You can find me along the Jersey shore, New York, Annapolis, Baltimore…the list continues to grow.
During the Baltipreneurs Accelerator program I did from October 2020 through April 2021, I increased my engagement rate and social media outreach by 2%, my margins by 8%, and my daily site traffic by 400%. Blue Bone is also now being sold in wholesale quantities in six boutiques nationwide. Additionally, through the development of my website over the past two years, I have been able to increase my sales by more than 60%, generating nearly thirty-thousand dollars with margins around 83%. I have launched over five-hundred designs and sold nearly ten-thousand pieces, and I’m only just getting started.
At the end of the Accelerator program, I participated in Demo Day in April of 2021. On Demo Day, I pitched my company before my fellow competing ventures, members of the Loyola Maryland community and Baltimore city, potential investors, and my friends and family. I am honored and grateful to say that I was the 1st place winner of the program, taking home $6k. If you would like to watch my pitch, click here and watch from 46:54. This program was eye-opening, knowledgeable, and inspiring for me. It undoubtedly changed my life, and I am incredibly grateful for everything I have learned.
I have many exciting projects currently in the works for Blue Bone. The world’s best goldsmiths are found in Thailand. In recent months, I have fostered relationships with manufacturers overseas creating the potential possibility for expansion in the future. I hope to begin sourcing materials ethically from Thailand and increase my core production by hiring craftsmen to work alongside me. I also want to increase my wholesale orders by expanding into new boutiques, and further my outreach through channels such as influencer marketing and digital campaigning. I hope to continue hosting regular photo shoots where I position, photograph, and edit all of the pictures myself (No more iPhone photo shoots, pretty decent progress, huh?) I launch new collections regularly on my website and constantly formulate new social media plans to ensure a continuous outreach with my customers.
Running my own business has taught me the value of discipline and time management. I have learned that it’s okay to take risks, and that I should continue to explore new ideas while remaining goal oriented. I spend countless hours working on my small business, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Designing jewelry is a limitless adventure that brings me an authentic sense of happiness. Anyone who knows me can tell you how much Blue Bone means to me (seriously, my friends can tell you about my nonstop excitement rambling when I think of a new design). I am eager for what the future holds for my small business. Only time will tell where Blue Bone Jewelry will end up. A small company formed on the ideals of creativity and social enjoyment, founded in a small town with my feet in the sand, may just end up on the streets of New York City or Paris. Someday, when walking into my shop on Rodeo Drive, I’ll never forget where it all started; no shoes, no shirt, no problem.