I am so grateful and so humbled that y'all voted Bang-Up Betty jewelry best Arkansas artisan crafter in the Arkansas Times's Best of Arkansas 2018. It's so thrilling and so rewarding to hear from you that this little handmade jewelry business I started five years ago is meaningful to someone other than just me and my mama (who still doesn't approve of my nope middle finger necklace, that's for sure).
I feel that making jewelry has been a part of my life forever. My sister Amy would take me to the original Argenta Bead Company in North Little Rock (where The House of Art is now), and let me pick out beads and make shiny things, and I felt so loved and encouraged by everyone in that shop, especially Ellie Roy, the owner. I made some TERRIBLE jewelry when I was 12 years old, but they let me try to sell it (no one really bought it), and therefore planted the seeds to Bang-Up Betty a long time ago.
I ended up working at Argenta Bead as one of my first jobs (I've always simultaneously had at least 2 jobs, always, because I'm a workaholic) and learned a lot more about making jewelry. I left for college with an arsenal of beaded necklaces I made myself, and I fit right in at the art studio in school.
I put jewelry away in college and focused on getting a degree in communications (and minoring in binge drinking). I graduated with a good knowledge of marketing, writing, media, design, Español (my actual minor) and my entrepreneurial spirit intact. I interned at marketing firms, film sets and worked at stationery and invitation companies (hey, Mint Julep Paperie!) out of college, which sparked my first small business, Betty Pearl, hand-drawn greeting cards I printed myself. Like my jewelry, the cards were cute, offensive and salty. That's just what I do.
I sold my stuff on street corners (at craft fairs! got you!!) while simultaneously working as a writer and editor in the Little Rock publishing scene until selling $4 cards ran me ragged and I retired Betty Pearl. Pretty soon after that, I found myself back into beads. Creativity and entrepreneurship needs an outlet.
I made funny, four-letter-word bracelets for my friends as holiday gifts in 2012, after teaching myself how to stamp and drill copper and brass. When the bracelets were a success, I launched an Etsy site to make some money off my handmade jewelry on the side. It got kind of big kind of fast.
In the next couple of years, my handmade jewelry was featured in Bust Magazine, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Bustle, Cosmo UK and more. I created my own website. I expanded the business into wholesale, and now stores across the United States carry Bang-Up Betty jewelry, enamel pins, koozies, shirts and more. Oh yeah, I expanded the products as well. There are now about 100 designs in my repertoire, where I started with about four designs. I did all this while maintaining a thriving career as a nonprofit marketing director.
And when I say "all this," I mean all this. I do 98% of this business by myself. Designing and making the jewelry, marketing retail and wholesale jewelry, maintaining the website, fulfilling orders, photographing products, attending markets and craft shows, planning events, professional development, bookkeeping... that's all me. Shout out to Collin Buchanan and Katie Childs Photo for photography help and Lee Lee Arts + Design for graphic design help.
Anyway, I've derailed from thanking you for voting Bang-Up Betty jewelry best artisan (for the fourth time!!). I guess I just wanted to share a little bit behind why this makes me feel so special. It's a lot of work (see above paragraph) to start, manage and expand your own business, especially if you yourself MAKE nearly every single thing that you sell. And it can be really scary to put your art out there, especially if it tends to lean one way politically and you live in a state that trends the opposite way. Sometimes my hands hurt, but my heart is always full. Thank you.