Dune Jewelry Inspiration
The inspiration for doing jewelry came from the notion that people love to travel and people have an emotional attachment to very specific locations throughout the entire world and jewelry can be a tangible reminder of those adventures, weddings, and other memories associated with those places. I associate sand with memories because I grew up on Cape Cod and we’re surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Those memories were sentimental and emotional and the thought of being able to have a piece of my childhood every single day appealed to me.
I was working with my childhood best friend who creates little ornaments out of beach sand and I started to realize how beautiful it is. So not only does it carry these memories, but also texture and color; it’s like a huge palette.
Evaluating the Market
When I first evaluated the marketplace and what was popular in the jewelry industry at that moment in 2007, I could not find anyone who was doing it and I thought, “Well that’s either because it’s a dumb idea or I’m brilliant.” And that’s the way it sometimes is with new business ideas. So I decided to just jump in with both feet and start learning. So I took some classes at a local jewelry studio and started to develop my own technique to make the sand jewelry.
It’s not as if there are 300 people out there making beach sand jewelry or sand jewelry that I could learn from, so I just had to forge ahead and create my own processes by learning the trade and the basics and applying it to what I was doing. So I went and collected maybe 25 different beach sands and tried to figure out if they behave differently from one another and what they looked like when they were encased in certain resins. As soon as I started making the jewelry though, showing it to people and seeing people’s reactions, then the sky was the limit.
Building the Business
I started building Dune by traveling around to coastal arts and crafts shows. And at those shows it’s hit or miss; some you can find tremendous items to purchase and some not so much. So you find the good craft shows and the more artisan-based craft shows and set up a table, start talking and telling your story. And I would see people keep walking by and coming back and they’d ask, what kind of stone is that? And then I would tell them it’s not a stone, it’s sand. And I would pick the beach that was as close as humanly possible to the show that we were at and you would see a little light go off in their heads, and that was it.
When I was working through the craft shows and working that circuit, I happened to be pregnant with my first daughter and I used to joke with my husband that people were just buying it because they felt bad for me. I mean, I was really pregnant and all the while folding tables and tents, making the jewelry, packaging the jewelry, building for the jewelry and reconciling the books. I mean everything you can imagine. It was difficult, but at the time I don’t remember it being difficult; I remember it being so exciting every single day. It was exciting. When people start reacting to what you’re doing, there’s nothing like that in the world.
Breaking into Unchartered Territory
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I think that for me it was really, really difficult in the beginning because I was self-taught. There is a large community of jewelry industry professionals that had been in the business for 50 years. They would seem very helpful, but then I realized three weeks later that they were literally charging me double what they would charge someone with experience.
Thinking Outside the Box
When I would go to people for advice, mentors or business people that I greatly respected in order to pick their brains, I received a lot of negatives: That’s not scalable. You can’t scale that. It is so custom. It doesn’t seem possible. Everyone was thinking inside the box.
I get it now; I understand many business schools teach you that this is where you grow your business and they might say, “Well you can think outside of the box, and really do something cool,” but they don’t ingrain it in their students maybe. Rather than hearing, “Good job. Let’s think of different ideas to scale it,” students may hear, “Well, you can’t do it like that, so I don’t know.”
A common suggestion I hear is “maybe you can do it with 10 beaches.” I tell them, “Well, there’s 20 million people with 20 million different memories and no, they’re not all from 10 beaches. It needs to scale. I want to have 10,000 beaches someday and have it be manageable and I believe there is a way to do that. I have no idea what it is today, but I hope I will think of it. I can promise you that.”
About Holly Christensen
Originally from Cape Cod, Holly Daniels Christensen began making beach sand jewelry in 2007. She gave up an established real estate career in Boston and launched Dune Jewelry in 2010.
Sourcing sand from all seven continents and thousands of beaches, Dune Jewelry features stylish rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, charms and men’s accessories set in sterling silver and all handmade in the USA.
Christensen made the move from fashioning the items on her kitchen table to working with a staff of 20+ in a 2,000 square-foot space in an old mill building in Hyde Park, Mass. She now fills orders for over 650 retailers throughout the world and is proud to give back to nature by donating to several coastal preservation programs.