Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up choosing your field.
I have been fascinated with animals, and the natural world in general, since I was a child. I followed my dream and became a marine biologist and a conservation advocate for whales, dolphins and other ocean species. I’ve always felt the need, though, to express my love for nature in other ways. My imagination found expression first in drawings, and later on, in writing and photography. My sketches, articles, photos and books have always been connected to natural themes.
A profound respect for the wilderness and a good dose of curiosity for all kind of “earthy” things brought me to the world of jewelry-making. First, I joined sustainable and distinctive textiles with elements such as reclaimed metals, vintage charms and stones found during my travels around the world. Later on, textile-based creations led me to a focus on one-off, metal jewelry that I handcrafted in silver, bronze, gold and brass, at times mixing these metals and adding precious or semi-precious stones.
No matter what material I use, every single piece of jewelry that I make is connected to nature and my life as a biologist.
What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
It was more of a natural step than a leap. I always felt the need to use the “non-scientific” part of my brain. Mother Earth is an infinite source of inspiration and I am also very productive, so I started making more and more nature-inspired jewelry pieces in my “free” time. Store owners began asking me about the pieces that I was wearing. That’s when I decided that my jewelry hobby could become a real business.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to launching your company and how did you overcome them?
I focus on one-off and limited-edition jewelry, all handmade in my Los Angeles studio and workshop. This type of jewelry requires a particular clientele able to tell the difference between a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind piece and a piece that is mass-produced.
I overcame this by not giving up and stay true to what I believed in. My current clients and shops know and appreciate the value of a piece that’s locally made by hand.
What are 3 tips you can share with our readers as it relates to your industry?
– Don’t try to be trendy and choose quality versus quantity. Trends pass but great pieces are timeless.
– Be different from others.
– Be environmentally friendly: sustainable products are here to stay.
How do you personally define success? What does it mean to you?
Be happy, live a full life, and treat others well.
What was the biggest business mistake you made and what did you do to learn from it?
At the beginning of my business, my biggest mistake was not marking my jewelry up enough considering the investment in time and material.
I learned to be paid the right amount for my work.
How did you deal with push back from family or friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
I never listened to anyone telling me that I couldn’t do something.
What advice would you give to someone asking for advice about becoming an entrepreneur?
Be original and stay true to yourself.
We are entering an era where everyone is interested in multiple income streams. How does one decide on a business to pursue?
I don’t believe that one is limited to follow just one path in life; life is too short and it’s worth exploring in every direction. I followed different paths and somehow managed more than one career (and income stream) at the same time. The choices that I made also helped to enrich my life.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
One of my favorite quotes is by author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
I believe this statement to be true. At times, it’s difficult for me to keep up with my own ideas and designs while sitting at the jewelry bench. The diversity and uniqueness of my pieces are probably the most influential factors in my business’ success.
Name 3 people in the business world who inspire you the most?
Many artists and makers inspire my work for a variety of reasons.
Among my favorites, there are Mexican modernists such as Antonio Pineda or William Spratling but I am attracted by artists from different periods and countries.
Who is your hero and why?
When I grew up, any great scientist working with large mammals at sea or on land. My dream was to study animal behavior in the wild.
Now, I don’t have a specific hero.
What 3 books would you recommend every entrepreneur read?
I don’t have any specific suggestions. I think that reading well-written and thought-provoking books – spanning different topics and fields – can better open our minds, grow our knowledge, enrich our lives, and perhaps also help our businesses.
What do you do to recharge when you are feeling drained?
I take a walk with my dog Genghis.
If you had to pick a charity to give to, who would it be and why?
I did pick up a charity to give to. Part of the revenue from my jewelry sales is given to support ocean conservation causes. As a marine biologist who has spent over 25 years studying whales, dolphins and other ocean inhabitants, I feel a responsibility to give back to the oceans which are under threat due to our endless hunger for destruction.
Lately, I also added a pandemic-inspired 4-in-1 textile jewelry piece to my collection. This versatile piece is a mask holder + a necklace + a wrapped bracelet + a choker. Twenty percent of the revenue from this jewelry is given to support Covid-19 Direct Relief.
How do you think technology will affect the way we do business 10 years from now?
I am not sure. I only know how fast things are changing right now and that this rate of change seems accelerating more every day with robotics, AI, etc. It’s hard to keep up with technology so it’s possible that 10 years from now we are going to reinvent most of our industries.
What is the one mantra that you live your life by?
Follow your dreams and live like you really mean it.
What is your business all about?
Being passionate… And having fun.
How can you be reached if someone is interested in your products or services?
Maddalena Bearzi Jewelry