Meet the Syracuse alumna with her own successful jewelERRY business

Don’t we all wish we could be a girl boss like Erica Bernstein??

Erica Berstein, an alumna of the  Syracuse University Class of 2014, is living the ultimate dream. With nobody’s rules to follow but her own, Erica Bernstein took her creativity to the ultimate level by turning one small hobby into a career after graduation.

Now a couple years later, 5000+ Instagram followers, and thousands of customers nationwide, Erica’s business is flourishing and trust me, you’ll want to buy almost everything off her website.

The Tab reached out to Erica to get all the information possible on her design process, what inspires her, and some of her stories and experiences as she started her business from scratch. Erica is certainly proving that anyone can do it and succeed beyond anything they could have predicted!

What did you study when you came to Syracuse? Did you change your mind a couple of times before sticking with something?

I was in VPA and Whitman. I majored in Art Photography and minored in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE). I knew art and photography were my passion but I also wanted to learn how to make money with it, and that is where EEE came in. I also took jewelry/metal smithing classes as electives, as well as iSchool coding classes and Adobe classes.

What made you want to create your own jewelry brand? What inspired you?

I was 20 years old, and during the summer prior to my senior year of college, I had my very first paid internship and loved it. I loved it mainly because I was earning money for my work (who wouldn’t love that?)

When I returned to school that fall, I wanted to find a way to make money while being a full-time student. I think because my mom is an entrepreneur, I instinctively thought that the best way to make money would be to start my own company, rather than finding an on-campus job. I started buying and selling wholesale jewelry to my sorority and created the name “JewelErry” since I was selling jewelry and my nickname is “Erry.” Then, more and more sororities at Syracuse liked what I was doing so I decided to create a feature when 20% of the proceeds I earned went to a specific sorority’s philanthropy of choice.

Rather than creating a website, I created an Instagram which generated thousands of followers. Quickly, what started as my part time hobby to make some money on the side expanded before my eyes. Suddenly, my campus network expanded nationwide to the extent where other colleges were asking me to come and do trunk shows. From then on, I have been on the road doing trunk shows each semester meeting so many new people.

How would you describe your personal style and how does that play into the pieces you sell?
You can find me on the road in a JewelErry Tour t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. That is my go-to uniform. If I’m not repping a JewelErry shirt, I’m probably in a black or gray top. Since my outfit is pretty basic, I tend to wear a lot of my own pieces to perfect the whole look. I’ll throw on 3-4 necklaces which definitely makes a huge difference.
Describe the process of making each piece of jewelry.
Since most of the jewelry is manufactured and sourced overseas, the design process is very important. I need to be very specific with my suppliers and tell them exactly what I want, whether it’s its color, length, thickness, or closure. I usually make a mock-up and send a picture with all the specifics. Since we are on different time schedules, I am always working at night when they are in the office.
Where do you find the inspiration to create new pieces? What are your outside influences? (including fashion designers, celebrities, stores, etc.)
I’m always on the lookout for new items. I get inspiration from bloggers and high-end designers. Some of the sorority girls I work with on the road give me ideas from time to time. It’s really all about what’s trendy.
What advice for your have for college students who want to break out and create their own business but are scared they won’t make it or others don’t believe in them?
 If you have an idea or something that you are passionate about, you should go for it! You never know how things will turn out, so it’s better to be open to everything that comes your way. If you don’t do it, someone else will.
What is your most memorable experience from traveling around the country selling your work? Any funny moments? 
 Since I am constantly traveling by myself, I often meet up with friends in different cities which makes the traveling less lonely. I love exploring different cities around the US. There is so much out there to see! When I go to schools and set up student unions, many times people ask if I’m a student which always cracks me up considering I’m 24 years old!
To get your hands on any of these pieces (which you’ll definitely want to do because every piece is so so cute) follow Erica’s Instagram and visit her website to get shopping!
NOW WATCH:
More
The Tab Syracuse