Starting your own small business is tough, but doing it as a full time student is straight up impressive. We visited with senior IMC major Kali Dennis, owner of the online jewelry store Glazed Jewelry, and learned how she has defied the odds as a young business owner. Here is her entrepreneurial story and some tips she lives by.
Beginnings to Now
Dennis started her online business, Glazed Jewelry, during the quarantine period of 2020. Like many during this time, she was looking for a sense of direction and a little bit of income. One day she was on TikTok and stumbled upon some influencers dabbling in drop shipping, which is when a business owner purchases inventory ad hoc from a third party vendor. She thought that was worth looking into and began working on a drop shipping business model for affordable jewelry.
Two years later, the Dennis is bejeweled with a large social media following and a thriving business. Considering that the average tenure of a 20-24 year old female entrepreneur is 1.2 years, Dennis is defying the odds as a young entrepreneur, and her work does not go unnoticed.
“I’ve seen it go from a small pop up shop at occasional Mabee business events to having a growing website, tons of customers, and a widespread customer base across the Harding campus,” customer Sierra White said.
In Person selling: A Breath of Fresh Air for the Virtual Entrepreneur.
Today, Dennis jumps at the opportunity to sell her product in person. While it doesn’t do as much for her overheads, being in the field works wonders for her headspace.
“Yes, the majority of my sales come through the online store, but I still do my best to participate in pop-up events once a month because it gives me the chance to meet new potential customers that have never heard of Glazed before,” Dennis said.
Pop-ups also give her the opportunity to connect with previous customers.
“People that bought jewelry from me like 2 years ago are still wearing the exact same pieces,” Dennis said.
Social Media Marketing.
Dennis sees herself as an online marketer, and heavily utilizes social media to reach new customers.
The jewelry entrepreneur makes a posting schedule for the coming week every Sunday, emphasizing intentionality as key.
“Lately I have been trying to focus on one product, trying to push that one product for the week, but I try to switch up the way I push it,” Dennis said.
She continued, “I have noticed that posting pictures with faces does a lot better than if it’s just earrings on a white background.”
Dennis posts one reel a week, user generated content once a week, and daily quotes on her story, a strategy that has proven to be effective with her more than 1500 followers.
Staying Ahead of the Competition.
In her summer internship with Makartt, a nail product business, Dennis learned about their use of an affiliate program, which is a paid partnership between a company and social media influencers.
“They had 200 affiliates and were getting about 4 times in return on their spending off that, so I knew I wanted to implement that in my own business,” Dennis said.
The young entrepreneur incorporates this method into her own business today to stay competitive. Her affiliate influencers, also known as Glazed Girls, promote her products and discount codes on their social media, and Dennis offers hefty discounts for items and a commission off of the sales they generate in return.
When you start a small business, you have to make a choice. It’s either Sole Proprietorship or LLC, and Dennis is team SP. As a sole proprietor, Dennis contracts out additional work, files her own taxes and takes responsibility for all assets.
“For me, it depends on the insurance side, like if someone sues you how are you going to be covered,” Dennis said. “Since I’m the Sole Proprietor, I’m only protecting and paying for myself.”
Dennis has learned about many things since she began her business, and much of the learning curve has had nothing to do with jewelry.
“As a small business owner you don’t pay monthly, you pay just like a huge lump sum at the end of the year and so that’s something I had to create a whole separate bank account for,” Dennis said.
“I couldn’t get to the end of the year and be like “I spent all my money on that new inventory when I should have been saving it for taxes,” so that’s something I’ve had to learn.”
Hard Work Mindset.
You don’t have to be a genius to be an entrepreneur. What’s more important to Dennis is having a hard work ethic.
“You are your own boss, so you have to be very disciplined, schedule out hours of your day to work on it and stay focused. Anything can happen that you want to happen if you put in the work and time for it,” Dennis said.
We couldn’t agree more. Hard work is the common thread that ties all entrepreneurs together. But what is hard work without a goal to focus that energy? For Dennis, the desire to someday have a family is one of her driving goals.
“Since the beginning it has been a goal of mine to be able to stay home with my kids but still contribute and own a business and make money,” Dennis said.
That’s her goal, but it’s not always easy to keep that in the forefront. Dennis said her biggest struggle is with accountability.
“That’s kind of the biggest struggle, you have no one to keep you accountable. It can be very hard sometimes you know if I’m like “Oh i want to go to Sonic instead of doing this;” it’s easy to do that,” she admitted.
As a Harding student, Dennis works diligently to punctually complete both her school work and her duties with Glazed Jewelry. Breaking down duties into devoted days of work has helped keep the scales of responsibility in balance.
“I have a day where I focus on shipping out orders all day, a day where I just do schoolwork, a day where I work on all marketing promotional stuff like graphics, and a day where I try to look for future events,” she said.
Dennis’s schedule, as it is with any entrepreneur, is a grind. From her perspective, it helps to have a community of experienced business people in your circle to help with motivation.
“The professors here have shown a lot of interest in my business and offered to help so that has been super great,” Dennis said.
The sky’s the limit for Kali Dennis and Glazed Jewelry.
Catch her in December at the Waldron Center’s Christmas Market, and follow her on Instagram to stay updated on discounts and product drops!
You can follow @glazedjewelry on Instagram, or subscribe to the website at glazedjewelry.com.
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