When events-that-shall-not-be-named occurred here in the US in 2016, I finally started paying attention. I know, I know I should have been doing this long before, but better late than never. I started doing the normal things (staying on top of current events, writing my senators, donating to organization, and whatnot), but I also started paying more attention to the products I was buying. I'll be the first to admit that I'm still not perfect at this, but more than ever, I started looking for items that were made by women, had strong messages, and donated to good causes. One of those shops carrying those items, as you might have guessed, was Bang-Up Betty.
The more I've followed along with Stacey Bowers, the jewelry maker behind the brand, the more I've loved her. She's passionate about activism, many of the phrases she hand stamps onto her pieces are witty as hell, and like any sane person, she loves The Golden Girls. In addition to having quite a few activism-themed items, Stacey also donates some of the proceeds from a few of her items to worthy causes like the NRDC and Arkansas Women’s Outreach. Enjoy getting to know her and her shop!
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: Starting this business was a complete accident. My first job was at my local bead shop, so I already knew how to make jewelry. One holiday I decided I wanted to teach myself to hand stamp metal so I could make my friends funny, curse-wordy Christmas gifts, and when I posted them online later, I got such a good response that I decided to keep stamping. The jewelry came first, and the business followed.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: The gifts I made were called “four-letter word bracelets.” They were copper plates stamped with funny four-letter words and finished with vintage copper chain. I’ve since stopped making that specific style, but my custom mantra cuffs are frequently ordered with four-letter words.
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: Sharing your art is always scary. In this case, my jewelry was my art. Thankfully I am surrounded by supportive, honest people who are business savvy, and I got a lot of advice along the way.
Q: Did you work another job while you were starting? How long did it take you to turn this into a full-time venture?
A: I worked full-time while making jewelry at night for almost six years before I took the leap into making jewelry full-time. I can’t really call it a leap, though. I built a very strong platform before stepping away from my career as a marketing director at a nonprofit. I also saved a lot and paid off most of my debt in case of failure.
Q: It seems to be pretty common for entrepreneurs to start their shops because they have a specific talent and then have to learn the business side of things (marketing, finance, eCommerce, etc.) as they go. Was this case for you or did you go into it having that knowledge? What was the most challenging part for you?
A: I have always been a creative person and had an entrepreneurial spirit. At one point I was printing my own designs on stationery and greeting cards at home and selling them at local craft fairs. I have never taken a single business class, so the entire business side of this was a slow, sometimes painful learning process.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the decision to use your shop and many of your items as a tool for activism?
A: I have always spoken my mind with Bang-Up Betty. At this point, that’s just part of what my brand is. It was almost natural for me to step into activism with it. So many people told me how happy it made them when I started making more activist pieces, and it just felt right to give back.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: I will probably always love to make my Smash the Patriarchy necklace. The message is so strong and so dear to me, and it’s therapeutic to make it and exciting to know that there is a fellow patriarchy-smasher out there every time I sell one.
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: I am always making new products, so the goal for me is always what’s next on my internet shelves. Right now I’m just really enjoying things as they’re going. I’ve shot too high in the past and been lazy and shot too low. I think right now I’m in a happy place of steady, sustainable growth that doesn’t run me into the ground.
Q: What advice would you give to others who are starting out making and selling jewelry?
A: Be original. Don’t just make what someone else is making. The only way you’re going to be successful and love what you’re doing is to be yourself and carve your own path.
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
A: Yes! I absolutely love meeting new and genuine people selling their craft. Cass Collins at Ginger June Candle Co. is a friend of mine, and I worship everything she makes. Charlene Simon started an incredible soap company in a town one hour away from mine called Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium, and I have never used better soap than hers; she’s also a wonderful person. Kyle Durrie, who started Power and Light Press, is a hero of mine and also an activist with her work. My good friend Ashlee Nobel is an incredibly talented designer and branched out on her own with Lee Lee Arts and Design; she and I share stories (and beers by the pool) and learn from each other, and she sells her beautiful designs online.
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