Have you ever had something you were so passionate about that you wished you could spend every day doing it? Well, Whitney Woodard did just that. After learning how to make jewelry at a young age, she picked it up again and started making jewelry for herself. Before long, her friends and family were asking for their own, and just like that, she started her own jewelry company, Beaded By W. At only 19 years old, Whitney has taken on her business full time, and now has a presence in 60 stores, an office in Austin, Texas, and a team of loyal beaders. Read on for some serious entrepreneurial motivation and style inspiration.
Name: Whitney Woodard
Location: Austin, Texas
Current job: Founder/Owner of Beaded by W
What is/are your current passion(s)?
I really love working on growing my business! It’s so exciting to watch it grow and learn new things every day.
How were you initially introduced to jewelry making?
My grandmother taught me how to bead when I was little–whenever my sisters and I would go to her house, she would teach us how to bead instead of watching TV. Her taking us to bead stores was something I always looked forward to.
You were making jewelry at a young age. What made you decide to get back into it in high school?
It was the second semester of my senior year, and things were slowing down after college applications were turned in and everything. I started noticing I was on my phone a lot and was looking for a fun, new hobby.
How did Beaded By W start?
I was at Michael’s one day getting a poster board for a school project when I walked by the bead aisle. I saw this really cool peace sign pendant, and decided to buy beads and string to make a necklace for myself with the pendant. I started making jewelry for myself, and then my friends and family started asking me to make some for them. After that, I created an Instagram where people could order in the comments and then I would send them an invoice. We come from very humble beginnings!
What inspired you to create a business from your hobby?
I loved seeing more and more girls wearing my jewelry, and how happy it made them. I wanted to make more people happy by doing something I was so passionate about. I think what really made it happen was when a store requested to start selling Beaded by W in their store. One of my first customers wore a necklace of mine into a store and the owner contacted me about selling to her. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about how to run a business and terms such as “wholesale” so I had to learn very quickly! It took lots and lots of googling, as well as asking my parents for help.
What kinds of products does Beaded By W sell?
I think our biggest seller is our original “tassel necklace.” I was obsessed with the new tassel trend when I first started making jewelry, and played around with different material until I figured out how to make the tassels. I love our tassel material and it comes in so many different colors, which gives girls all customization options available on our website. Other products include car tassels (a mini necklace that is meant to be hung on the rearview mirror of your car), double wrap necklaces, pearl leather chokers, tassel bracelets, anklets, wrap bracelets (a stack of five different beads in one bracelet) and much more! We use mostly wood beads, which is probably what we are most known for.
How did you come up with your original collection?
Our first big collection was Buzzin’, which came out the spring of 2015. Until that point, I had just been making random items and adding them to the website whenever I wanted. I like doing collections because we can add a bunch of new products at once and it’s more organized. Buzzin’ was inspired over the want for warm weather, actually. We had a very rainy weather pattern in Austin last spring (which is unusual), so to make us happy at the office we would listen to summery music, thus inspiring us to come up with our first collection.
You have a signature tassel necklace. What made you decide to build a brand off of that specific style?
I just loved the style and so did my audience! It’s so different from most jewelry, such as metal pendants, and I wanted my business to stand out.
What did the early days of Beaded By W look like?
I was all about sitting on the living room floor at my dad’s house. I would store my beads in a giant neon pink suitcase. I would get the suitcase, spread all my beads out all over the floor, turn on Netflix, order pizza, and bead all afternoon. I have watched probably every TV show possible on Netflix! My dad rocks for putting up with the clutter and stepping on big beads that were stuck in the carpet in the middle of the night (it HURTS to step on a bead).
You were in college at University of Oklahoma when the business started to really take off. How did that impact your freshmen year?
It made my freshman year really hard! My life was dedicated to my schoolwork and my business, so it was difficult to have a real college experience and figure out time management.
You eventually decided to leave University of Oklahoma to take on Beaded By W full time. What was that process like?
It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Most people did not think I was making the right decision at all, which I totally understood considering I was only in two stores at this point. But I had my mind made up–I wanted to grow my business. It was hard going from a place where my life was so planned out (friends, college degree, job) to coming back to a place where the future was so uncertain. Lots of prayers, family support, alone time, and hope kept my dream alive.
How did you transition Beaded By W into a thriving business that you could do full time?
I knew I needed help, so I started finding girls that wanted to help me make jewelry. So growing the team, being innovative with new designs, networking, going to events, and gaining people’s trust is how I think it grew to the point that it is at today.
You now have a team of people who help you with everything from beading to wholesale. What have you learned about leadership through that experience?
It is so important to show your people how much you appreciate them. I hire people because I decide I can’t run my business without their expertise, and I should treat them accordingly! You also need to pay attention to what everyone is good at–one person’s strength might be another’s weakness, so I think finding positions for them to do by seeing what they are good at is super important.
How have you gone about networking and building relationships with people who have played a big part in Beaded By W’s development?
A lot of it is about putting yourself out there and just being nice to people. If you aren’t genuine or passionate about what you are doing, people will know and not want to work with you–it’s also just not as fun for you! You never know when someone will know someone, so always being down to help others is so important. I love working with as many people as I can and I always try to give someone a chance.
You went from starting 2015 with Beaded By W in three stores and now you are up to 60! How did you make that happen?
It really just comes down to word of mouth! The more people buy, the more people wear, the more exposure we get, and the more people start to notice. SOCIAL MEDIA IS HUGE. I think that has been our biggest marketer. Also, hand out business cards like candy. Give them to everyone.
You had such an exciting year in 2015. What is next for Beaded By W in 2016?
We’re expanding a lot out of tassels, which is really exciting. We are trying to do more than just jewelry as well–our goal is to start doing home decor too. We have a lot of ideas, and we can’t wait to show everyone. We want to keep gaining more stores and are also officially launching our brand ambassador program!
What does a normal day look like for you?
What I love about my job is that every day is different. We always have a new project or new opportunity going on, which is always exciting. Some days we are designing, other days it is all about packing up orders, and sometimes we’re out going to events or doing product shots! It’s sometimes hard to keep organized, but we all try to keep each other in check.
Who is on your power playlist?
I actually have an amazing Woman Crush Wednesday playlist on Spotify. It’s all of my favorite female artists from Beyonce to Amy Winehouse and we listen to it on Wednesdays at the office. My top 10 most played right now on Spotify are Dan Auerbach, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Gary Clark Jr., Wolf Alice, Lana Del Rey, Drake, Shakey Graves, The Weeknd and Beachhouse. Being from Austin, I am super into music. Anything with an edgier beat is always playing at the office.
Who was your first girl crush? Who are you inspired by now?
Have to admit that it was Hilary Duff. She was so awesome in Lizzie McGuire and still is! Now, I would say Audrey Hepburn–she is such an inspiration. She did everything she could to give back to the world and I think that’s amazing.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to go to cycling classes, run around Town Lake, do yoga, try all the new restaurants in Austin with friends, take art classes, watch movies (I always have a movie playing in my apartment), do photography, go to concerts–there is always something going on in Austin. It’s hard to be bored here.
If you had to describe yourself with an emoji, what would it be?
I think the girl dancing in the red dress because I swear, I am always dancing at the office.
To find out more about Whitney and shop Beaded By W, head to BeadedByW.com.