Loyola’s Baltipreneurs Accelerator helps entrepreneurial student grow jewelry business

What started as a small beach pop-up shop has grown into a successful jewelry business
Maria Jaeckel portrait photo
Maria Jaeckel, '22, shares how her experience with the Baltipreneurs Accelerator program was essential to the success of the small business she's founded.

No shoes, no shirt, no problem.

This is my company’s mission statement to take on Tiffany’s, a company I doubt has ever had to deal with angry seagulls or torrential downpours (just a couple of entrepreneurial landmines I successfully maneuvered—all the while wondering, How does sand get in everything?).

My name is Maria Jaeckel and I am the founder, designer, and CEO of Blue Bone Jewelry LLC—and a student at Loyola University Maryland studying business management and digital media.

Starting a business

In June 2016, I was 16 years old and my parents told me it was time to get a summer job. My family spends summers at the Jersey Shore, and so I began tinkering with ideas for how I could earn money without taking away from my treasured beach time.

After much thought and contemplation, I decided that on Saturday mornings, I would sell handmade jewelry at the beach. I had always been interested in jewelry design. I grew up wearing a school uniform, and so jewelry was the one thing I could wear that allowed me to express myself.

What started out as a summer job turned into my own lucrative business.

I wrote a two-page business proposal and presented it to my parents, requesting a $200 loan to get started. While they fully supported my ideas, both parties had our reservations—especially considering I had never made a piece of jewelry before in my life. However, my parents agreed to invest in my business idea. My parents have always been my biggest supporters. They have instilled confidence and taught me to always believe in myself.

I put this loan to immediate use and began learning the tricks of the trade, though it was no quick process. I encountered challenges with supplies, endured countless trips to craft stores, and struggled with my turnaround time in making my jewelry. My marketing strategy was unsophisticated, to say the least: I was photographing my jewelry on an iPhone and posting pictures to my Instagram account, hoping one of my 75 followers might be interested.

Maria Jaeckel sits at a table displaying her jewelry in a pop-up shop

One month into my venture, I hosted my first pop-up shop. I was extremely nervous as I set up a table displaying my creations outside a coffee shop a block from the beach. I sat there patiently early Saturday morning and crossed my fingers, hoping the residents of my small mile-long beach town might be interested in buying handmade jewelry. To my surprise, I had sold out in just a couple of hours.

That pop-up shop served as the launchpad for what was to come. Every summer since, I have set up a table with my jewelry in that exact location on the sidewalk on Saturday mornings. Hosting these weekly pop-up shops has allowed me to garner a consistent customer audience and social media target. This exposure allowed my company to grow and develop incrementally each weekend.

Entrepreneurship support through mentorship

In October 2020, things changed dramatically for my business. I learned of the Baltipreneurs Accelerator program, a prestigious entrepreneurship program, when Wendy Bolger, founding director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Loyola, spoke about the program in my Managing Innovation and Entrepreneurship course, taught by Irem Demirkan, Ph.D., assistant professor of international business.

Students stand in pairs rehearsing for a pitch competition

Dr. Demirkan encouraged me to apply—and Blue Bone was selected by Baltipreneurs Accelerator from a competitive applicant pool of other entrepreneurs in the Baltimore area.

Blue Bone has since changed forever, thanks to Loyola. This program has given me great opportunities to expand my knowledge about the industry and implement these skills into my company. Had it not been for Loyola, I never would have had the opportunity to establish these connections; nor would I have had this exposure to the inner workings of the industry.

I have spent the last three months working on further developing my company and learning from my two incredible mentors, Jennifer Glass, Director of Digital Marketing at Pandora, and Kevin Conklin, Vice President of Operations at Pandora.

Growing a business

My small business has become one of the most important things in my life. In addition to school, I am now working full time selling my jewelry nationally online and wholesale to boutiques. I host regular pop-up shops. Through the Baltipreneurs Accelerator program, I have increased my engagement rate and social media outreach by 2%, my margins by 8%, and my daily site traffic by 360%.

Through the development of my website over the past two years, I have been able to increase my sales by more than 60%, generating nearly $30,000, with margins of around 83%. I have launched more than 500 designs and sold nearly 10,000 pieces. And I’m only just getting started.

Various pieces of jewelry displayed in a pink jewelry box Photo of an arm wearing three bracelets

I have many exciting projects currently in the works for Blue Bone. The world’s best goldsmiths are found in Thailand, and in recent months, I have fostered relationships with manufacturers overseas, creating the potential possibility for expansion in the future. I hope to begin sourcing materials ethically from Thailand and increase my core production by hiring craftsmen to work alongside me.

My goal is to increase my wholesale orders by expanding into new boutiques and further my outreach through channels such as influencer marketing and digital campaigning. I launch new collections regularly on my website and constantly formulate new social media plans to ensure a continuous outreach with my customers. I hope to continue hosting regular photoshoots where I position, photograph, and edit all images.

Lessons learned from starting a business

The passion I have for jewelry design and entrepreneurship is unmatched in anything else I do. Blue Bone has given me a place where I can freely be myself—illustrating my ambitions and allowing me to uncover a sense of confidence within myself. I am grateful and honored to be selected as a cohort for the 2020-21 Baltipreneurs Accelerator. I will forever be thankful for this incredible opportunity and the impact the program has had on my life.

Running my own business has taught me the value of discipline and time management. I have learned how to take risks—and that I should continue to explore new ideas while remaining goal-oriented. I spend countless hours growing my small business, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Designing jewelry is a limitless adventure that brings me an authentic sense of happiness. Anyone who knows me can tell you how much Blue Bone means to me. I am eager for what the future holds for my small business.

Only time will tell where Blue Bone Jewelry will end up. A small company formed on the ideals of creativity and social enjoyment, founded in a small town with my feet in the sand, may just end up on the streets of New York City or Paris. Someday, when walking into my shop on Rodeo Drive, I’ll never forget where it all started: No shoes, no shirt, no problem.