By Becky Bracken
It started as a sweet gift from a mother’s heart to her young daughter. Now it’s grown into a full-fledged enterprise with several artisans creating dozens of handmade orders each day and prolific online presence. And it’s all running out of the Airpark.
Michelle Hebert was a first grade teacher when she started making bracelets for her young daughter. Soon her friends and family wanted one of their own and word spread, along with demand for her designs. Her hobby became a sincere side hustle.
Hebert explains she was one of the first jewelry makers to use the now-ubiquitous hand-stamping method to personalize metal pieces.
“I started hand-stamping in 2007,” Hebert says. “The only kit you could buy was the kit plumbers use to stamp pipe.”
Ten years later, her business, Silver Wren, processes an average of about 40 orders a day, Hebert says. She’s left her teaching career behind and now employs up to seven women in her Airpark studio, depending on the time of year, selling her one-of-a-kind necklaces across platforms like Handmade at Amazon, Etsy and her own site, thesilverwren.com.
Her Southwest sensibility and delicate designs are tailor-made for today’s trendy bohemian, layered looks.
“I grew up in New Mexico and have a fierce love for the Southwest desert,” Hebert says. “I’ve taken some leaps with design, but my designs definitely have a Southwest look.”
In addition to hand-stamped bar necklaces, Silver Wren also offers gem necklaces with turquoise, crystal and other stones, earrings and custom bracelets. Each piece is lovingly made by hand, by women in her Airpark studio, according to Hebert.
“My great-grandfather was a rug weaver,” she says. “I suppose it is genetic that I love to create. I spent my summers growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico walking through the Spanish Markets. I was always enamored of the beautiful jewels spread across the rugs. I knew at a young age that handcrafted jewelry made me smile. Contemporary designs, beautiful turquoise and lavish layers make my work unique.”
Each and every piece she and her team create, she says has a special meaning.
“There are so many occasions we know a necklace is going to be a special gift,” she says. “Our customers inspire us every day with their stories.”
When it comes to advice she’d offer other aspiring businesswomen, hers is pretty simple: Stick with it. And there are many small business owners trying to find success through selling their creations online. In Arizona alone, according to Handmade at Amazon, there are more than 40,000 authors, sellers, and developers building businesses on the company’s platform.
Competitor handmade marketplace Etsy recently released the results of a 2016 seller survey, which found they’re overwhelmingly women (87 percent) and nearly a third (32 percent) rely on their creative business, both on and off Etsy, as their sole occupation.
“You just have to keep trying,” she says. “My mother and the rest of my family have drawers and drawers of stuff that didn’t sell. Just keep working, don’t give up… I know it sounds cliché.” n
Find Silver Wren on Amazon, Etsy and at silverwren.com.