From Marketing Career to Career Maker
Written by Judy Tsuei
Photos by Leslie Hodge
How Amanda Eddy created a thriving jewelry line based on simplicity.
In 2009, founder of Amanda Deer Jewelry, Amanda Eddy, wasn't searching for an entrepreneurial career. Instead, she was Tifuply seeking her style of jewelry in shops around town and online-simple, dainty, a barely-there kind of look-all unfuccessfully.
Everything Amanda found ranged anywhere from $300 to $1,200 for the simplest of designs because the pieces were often made of solid gold, white gold, or platinum. Frustrated, Amanda would think to herself, "There's got to be simple everyday pieces that are affordable!" And so, she took matters into her own handsliterally.
Amanda began to craft her own pieces that reflected her preference for beautifully delicate jewelry. Having been raised in a home where painting, art, photography, and music were a part of her every day, jumping into the creative space was fairly easy, especially because it provided a break away from the technology that had become an ever-present part of her career in the software industry. "I was using my hands and doing something fun," she reflects.
Amanda started by deconstructing pieces that she bought from stores and discovered that they were made with chains and jump rings that she could open with a pair of pliers. Armed with that realization, she decided to try to make her own pieces.
"Honestly, one of the first places I went to was Michael's jewelry section," Amanda smiles. "I bought some really easy tools and just started piecing stuff together. For the first three years, I never had any formal training. I was literally just figuring things out as I went."
Every time Amanda wore one of her handmade pieces out, women would immediately ask, "Where did you get that?" It turns out, she wasn't the only woman who craved simple.
While Amanda was working in a marketing career, she also began to explore meeting the demand for jewelry requests from those around her. "For years, I made my jewelry out of a spare bedroom," Amanda shares.
The pivotal point at which she made the decision to leap into her jewelry business full-time came during one Christmas holiday.
"December is by far the busiest time for us. A few years ago, during one Christmas, it was still just me in my spare bedroom and I remember sitting there crying on the floor with charms and chain all around me because I couldn't fulfill my orders on time."
Luckily, Amanda's friends and husband rose to the occasion, tying bows on over 2,000 boxes so she could ship all of her products out on time. Afterward, her husband caringly sat down with her and said, "You can't keep doing both your marketing manager position and your jewelry business full-time." She agreed.
"Also," he confessed later, "I hate ribbon and we are not allowed to have it in the house anymore."
Amanda laughs at the memory. "He was really supportive and influential in helping me take that step to quit my job. I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. I loved traveling." She also felt secure in the steady paycheck, health insurance, and pursuing a career she enjoyed for over a decade.
"But, I physically couldn't do both anymore. Once I put all of my focus on Amanda Deer, it just went through the roof!"
Amanda has turned out to be a selfstarter as much as she was self-taught. In the early 2000s, e-commerce for makers was mostly centered around Etsy. Services like Squarespace and Shopify weren't yet developed, so Etsy was virtually one of the only markets for online sales.
"Etsy was a really great springboard," Amanda recalls. "I started putting a few things up that sold. Once I got reviews and really understood the way Etsy worked behind the scenes with beautiful images and strong keywords, I really began to sell much more volume."
She also understood how vital branding would be to differentiate her company in the online space. She chose a symbol that represented the ethos of her company: a deer. It was also very recognizable, easily pronounceable, and straightforward when typing into a URL.
"I feel like having a marketing background helped so much in defining my company and who we are today."
Even with her growing success, Amanda did not anticipate one day running a gorgeous storefront location in East Austin. "I've likely made every mistake most entrepreneurs could, but that's how you figure things out."
In the beginning, Amanda priced her products too low. "I wanted to have my line be under the $50 price point, but I think at the beginning I was doing things for half of what I am now. When you're making things out of your bedroom, you don't have a ton of bills, so I priced things at whatever seemed fair. Once you start adding in overhead and employees and real goals, everything has to go into that price. That was a big change."
She hired her first employees while she was still working out of her home, contract employees who would actually take an entire set of tools, charms, chains, puffy mailers, and simply work on the orders Amanda gave them every morning.
Then, two years ago, Amanda began hiring full-time team members once she moved into her studio space. "That's when we really started being real."
In a short amount of time, Amanda Deer Jewelry grew out of its initial studio space. Now, Amanda Deer sits in a dream location with a makers' studio in the back, a shop space in the front, and a place where all of their products can easily be shipped. She's also begun selling wholesale.
Austin is a vital part of her success, as she not only loves the vibrancy of the city, but also the collaborations amongst entrepreneurs and fellow jewelers.
Because of the relationships Amanda built with different manufacturers, some of which are the same ones she first started with, she has been able to keep the price point of her pieces under the $50 mark, which is precisely what she had hoped to find in the beginning. “A lot of our target market is from 20-35-ish, women who are in their first or second career. They’ve got a bit of extra income. They like to dress up and to have something every day to put on.”
With the continuing growth of social media, Amanda has taken advantage of the features platforms like Instagram and Facebook provide, as well as connecting with industry influencers. Knowing how visually driven these mediums are, photography and imagery has become a vital part of her marketing efforts. And, while building exposure has always been her forte, building a thriving business has been more of a learned practice.
She has not waited until things were perfect to launch, but that has proven to be one of her biggest pieces of business advice for fellow creatives. “I definitely think that if you work on something and it’s your passion, the money will come, but you have to be really smart about how you’re doing it — can you monetize your passion? Taking the first step is often the hardest one to take, but once you do, it’s absolutely worth it.”
And, when she remembers that hard Christmas night not so long ago, she also imparts how it was a time when she realized she truly could pursue her jewelry business for a living.
“Ultimately, it was a happy cry.”
Shop Amanda Deer Jewelry at amandadeer.com or visit Amanda's flagship store downtown at 501 N.IH35, Suite 115.