While most students at Elon University spend their first semester getting involved on campus and socializing, freshman Kate Ulveling’s fall semester was strictly business.
In July, Ulveling started her own jewelry line called Carolina Candy. While she sells handmade bracelets and other accessories, her best-sellers are tassel necklaces.
Tassel jewelry is a trend that gained more popularity in the form of necklaces this past summer. According to Ulveling, the simplistic yet statement jewelry piece can add a pop of color and unique twist to an outfit.
But some of these necklaces can cost upward of $200 when shopping more pricey jewelry lines.
Ulveling saw a need for more affordable, budget-friendly tassel necklaces that college students would want to buy, which is why she decided to create her own.
“In Raleigh, the tassel necklace sells for $80, so I never felt the need to buy them,” she said.
Ulveling has always been into fashion. She used to make her own jewelry when she was younger and decided to start up the hobby again to make a cheaper tassel necklace.
With encouragement from friends who saw something special in her work, she set up an online shop on Etsy, which allows small businesses and crafters to sell their goods to a broad market. Ulveling took inspiration from the “arm candy” trend, as seen on Pinterest where bloggers snap photos of their wrist stacked with bangles, cuffs and statement watches.
Her initial products were sent out in hand-packaged, reused boxes from her Birchbox membership. Ulveling would attach her logo and add colorful tissue and ribbon to the box to make it her own. Each necklace or bracelet has a candy themed name to it, such as “Sweet Cherry,” “Sweet Blueberry” or “Lemon Pop.”
To add to the candy theme, she originally put taffy in the boxes. Because of such high demand, Ulveling now has to ship her jewelry in manila envelopes, but sometimes still throws in taffy as a reminder of where she started.
Since each jewelry item is handmade, she orders the pieces herself to create her products. Shipping from China can be frustrating, she said, as one time it took about a month for her to receive the materials. It is always more pricey, as shipping costs are sometimes double for international orders.
Each tassel necklace that Ulveling makes has three essentials pieces: embroidery floss, wooden beads and tassels.
“It used to take forty minutes to make the necklaces because it is so hard to make the tassels,” Ulveling said. “The beads are wooden, so the insides are not smooth, and the strings would always get caught.”
Eventually, she got it down to a 20-minute routine, which helped her in the long run after her business began to grow.
After Carolina Candy launched, Ulveling promoted it on Facebook and Instagram, encouraging girls from her hometown to like and share with their college friends.
Her jewelry line really took off when Ulveling began creating tassel necklaces for football season, each tassel representing the school colors of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University.
“Most of my sales, besides Christmas, were for football season, and I think that’s what stuck out about my jewelry,” Ulveling said.
Ulveling spent much of her fall semester making her necklaces for the the sports season, which she said was hard living in Hook, Brannock and Barney because she felt like she was missing out on her first semester at Elon. Balancing school work, a social life and her business was a challenge.
“My suitemates would be blasting music and hanging out, and I would be staying in my room working,” she said.
But from July to October, Ulveling sold 400 tassel necklaces, between $32-$40 each. After gaining popularity on her Etsy shop, Ulveling decided to expand her business.
She began contacting boutiques throughout North Carolina and eventually was able to get her jewelry into several stores, including Catalog Connection in Greenville, Shimmer Boutique in Winterville and Madison in Raleigh.
Catalog Connection is located a block away from East Carolina University. According to the manager Meredith Rowe, Ulveling’s jewelry is a perfect addition to the Southern boutique, as its main clientele is college students.
The boutique sells statement jewelry and trendy clothing, including game-day apparel that complements Carolina Candy’s football-themed tassel necklaces.
“We sell typical Southern boutique apparel and jewelry, but our most popular pieces are long necklaces like Carolina Candy’s tassel necklaces,” Rowe said.
Eventually, Ulveling wants to expand Carolina Candy to other products.
“My jewelry has a very bohemian and beachy style, so I would want to make a swimsuit line,” she said. “Since I’m not getting a textiles degree, I don’t know much about making clothes, so I just need to find the right person and the right manufacturer.”
In the next five years, she hopes to see Carolina Candy in stores across the nation. She plans to go to a jewelry trade show this summer in hopes of attracting attention to her line.
“I would love to one day see my jewelry in California and New York,” Ulveling said.
But for now, her sweet, Southern creations are appearing in a few more North Carolina boutiques.