Ethnicity: African American & Lumbee Indian
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Websites: rachelstewartjewelry.com (jewelry line); stewartvintage.com (clothing line)
Facebook: Rachel Stewart Jewelry
Instagram: RachelStewartJewelry (jewelry line); RachelStewartVintage (clothing line)
If you take a scoop of bold, mixed with a dash beautiful, then topped off with a sprinkle of funky hand-crafted designs dipped in Black pride, you’re left with the essence of rising jewelry guru, Rachel Stewart. Her audacious neckwear, finger-bling, and everything in-between, are the perfect accessories for the sophisticated sista who finds dignity in her African roots, and revels in cultural embracement.
Now expanding her brand to vintage clothing and home décor, this southern gal is the epitome of a true hustler who’s going out and making sh*t happen. And it all started with a dream, a layoff, and a pair of $10 earrings.
Miss CM: When did you begin pursuing jewelry-making professionally?
Rachel Stewart: I started my jewelry business around 2009.
What inspired you to jumpstart your own business?
Actually, I was laid off from my job in 2008. After searching for work unsuccessfully for about a year, I decided to use my lifestyle blog to sell some earrings I learned to make—it just took off from there. I was determined after my first earring sale of $10 [that] I wasn’t going back to work for anyone else; I knew if I could make $10, I could make $10,000 If I kept it up.
Did you encounter any major obstacles or setbacks when you first started your jewelry line?
I really had no obstacles; I didn’t have anyone to answer to, I did everything on my own. There is always a way to do what you need to do. I didn’t see any obstacles, I just DID IT!
You’re jewelry has strong African influences. What swayed you to make African cultural elements a major part of your designs?
I don’t see how I couldn’t. There wasn’t anything out there made for women like me. I didn’t see the jewelry I wanted to wear at major stores; you had to look deep to find it. I think it’s important for African American women to incorporate culture into what we wear and how we choose to define ourselves. We have to set the beauty standard for ourselves. It’s time out for being copies of other races when we are the most copied of all.
Besides the Motherland, from where do you draw inspiration for the pieces that you craft?
My other love is obscure music. I’m influenced by the bold fashion of singers like Patti Labelle and Phyllis Hyman from the ’70s and ’80s.
What’s the best-selling piece that you currently have on your line?
My best-seller is my Nola Darling pin, based on the character from Spike Lee’s movie She’s Gotta Have It.
The Nola Darling pin worn by Rachel’s friend and model, Rebecca Knight
Do you handle all aspects of your business on your own, or do you have a team?
I have no team. I do everything from design, production, and shipping to product shots, my graphics, and web design. Everything thing you see came from my hands and my mind.
What major milestones have you accomplished with your brand thus far?
I was featured in Jet magazine a few years ago, and Nelly Furtado wore many of my pieces at the Billboard Awards recently.
Things can be challenging for an independent business owner. What keeps you motivated?
Money keeps me motivated. I need it and I want it, but on my own terms!
What are your short-term and long-term goals for your brand?
[My] short-term goal is to expand with a children’s line of jewelry; long-term [goal] is home decor like comforters and pillows. I’ve already created some items that are selling very well.
What’s next for your business?
I’m going to develop a line of 3D-printed jewelry. Actually, I’m printing some out right now!
And we’ll all be waiting to see what fresh master crafts she contrives. Flip the pages to check out more of Rachel’s jazzy designs.
If you or someone you know are a Black business owner who’d like to get some shine on MissCM.com as Hustler of the Month, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to be featured.