The nights are sparkling and colorful in Mary Bishop’s world, where she envisions her creations making a red carpet premiere. However, her daytime hours, spent as a number cruncher, are just as crucial to fulfilling her dream — to someday sell her own line of jewelry in department stores.
Bishop’s gemstone necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings have found a loyal customer base through both exhibit booths and the Internet in the past year since she’s been in business. However, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from University of Texas at Tyler has also helped her stay focused on the big picture.
“I really think my degree has helped me be able to manage my business,” says the 2011 graduate. “The marketing and money part has come in handy.” Bishop also recognized a golden opportunity when she stumbled on the indiExhibit site on Facebook. The international group of “independent artisans” provides items for SWAG bags at celebrity gatherings in hopes of having their products discovered and, in turn, promoted by those in the public spotlight.
As part of a group package, Bishop recently sent personalized jewelry sets to Katy Perry, Adele, Anne Rice, Kristen Stewart and Ashley Green. She is preparing 100 pieces for the Canadian Country Music Awards, where she hopes her jewelry catches the eye of scheduled performers Taylor Swift or Miranda Lambert at a backstage display sponsored by indiExhibit. (If the celebrity shows interest in a piece, she is automatically gifted with the promotional item.) Bishop has also received a thank-you for the jewelry set she sent British actress Charlotte Milchard. “She sent me an e-mail saying, ‘I love what you sent me. If I wear it on the red carpet, I’ll send you a picture.’ That was really exciting,” Bishop says.
The agate and jasper pieces Bishop creates have grown from the set of beads she bought from Hobby Lobby early last year. While she was working at a bank, she met Roxanna Cowan, a customer involved in jewelry design. “I had always wanted to learn to make jewelry, but I didn’t know how,” Bishop says. “I went to her boutique, and she taught me the basics and said I had a good eye for patterns.”
It started out as small gifts for close relations, but when Bishop sold her first necklace to one of her mom’s friends it really clicked that she could make and sell jewelry in her off-hours.
“When I started out it was kind of like therapy,” she says. “I was working and going to school full-time to be an accountant, and people would say, ‘That is so weird that you make jewelry.’ But I had so much going on that I needed a creative outlet, and this happened to be it. So when those people started asking me, ‘How much do you want for that necklace?’ I thought, ‘Well maybe I can do something with this.’”
She established herself as sole proprietor of Mary’s Jewelry Designs and started setting up shop at Longview Trade Days, Spring Festival in DeKalb and, most recently, Funky Finds in Longview. The experience has already helped her grow.
“I started out doing Trades Days with a little table and a plain tablecloth. Now we have these cute displays. My mom helps me, and we get a lot of ideas from Pinterest. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in just a year,” she says. And she hopes to keep moving. She recently launched a website, www.mkbjewelrydesigns.com, in preparation for what she sees as her future business name.
“One day I’d really like to be a national brand and to have my line of jewelry in Dillard’s,” she says. She believes this goal is attainable because of the affordability of her unique jewelry. “I offer high quality jewelry at a price that’s affordable for the everyday woman.”
She also puts individual care into each piece. Using 30-pound test fishing line and heavy-duty toggles, she guarantees her products against breakage. But if something does snap, she encourages you to catch the beads. “I’ll restring everything I do for free. I want my customers to be happy with their purchase, just like I would be.”
She also wants them to feel special in having one-of-a-kind designs. “I never duplicate my pieces. I want everybody to feel like they have something unique that no one else has,” she says. “There’s a real originality factor in all of my jewelry.”