Michelle Kim closed her psychology books at the end of fall quarter for the last time. Never to be opened again at UC Irvine, or maybe ever for that matter. She took a trip to Vegas with her friends, celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year as a college graduate. But what came next?
She began looking for corporate jobs in the fashion industry in hopes that she would learn the skills that would eventually help her run her own business one day.
When she came back from her travels, she purchased supplies from craft stores in and around Orange County and began to make her own wire jewelry. Michelle had made jewelry as a hobby when she was in school, but it was hard to find time to balance jewelry making with homework, tests, a job at LF in Laguna Beach, then a job at South Coast’s Tory Burch.
“I was focusing on school a lot, but I’ve always wanted to make jewelry, I even went to the jewelry fair. I made jewelry here and there but I never put all my time into it, which I can do now,” Michelle said. “I had that time to figure out what I wanted to do and I kept going back to making jewelry.”
The first ring she made was a thin gold wire, molded to say the word “love” in a delicate cursive scroll. She snapped a photo on her iPhone, posted the picture onto her Instagram and the rest is history.
The photo caught the attention of her friends and followers. Then, the inquiries began rolling in. Friends left comments that said, “I want one!” and “I want four!!!!!” A shop owner in Hawaii even left a comment that said, “My shop needs these!”
Who says lovers can’t be business partners? Stephen Davis, a psychology and social behavior major at UC Irvine, started a clothing line called The Hatters, where he sold screen-printed shirts with designs from various artists that he knows. Once Michelle’s handmade rings began garnering attention from friends, she joined up with Stephen to sell her one-of-a-kind designs through The Hatters.
The couple turned business partners are both using the business as a creative outlet and Michelle finds that one of her biggest motivators aside from her friends and her customers is Stephen.
“One of the reasons why I keep doing this is that he keeps telling me that he’s really proud of me,” mentioned Michelle.
Together, Stephen and Michelle work on trend casting designs for men’s and women’s t-shirts, while Michelle focuses on her handmade jewelry and Stephen focuses on the ins-and-outs of running The Hatters, as well as the clothing line he created with a group of artists.
“Everything is taking off so fast,” reflected Michelle. “It took off so fast that I can barely keep up.”
Since she started selling her rings two and a half weeks ago, she’s been getting orders for around twenty rings per day from all over the county.
After four years of studying at UC Irvine, Michelle thanks those four years for teaching her the skills and giving her the drive to pursue her uncommon career.
“UCI taught me to be timely, tenacious and hardworking. These qualities help me a lot with our business and it helps to know how to adhere to deadlines now that I have a bunch of orders coming in,” Michelle said.
For now, Michelle and Stephen plan on having a low-key Valentine’s Day celebration even though they’ve found respective success from their new venture and Michelle plans on continuing to make jewelry even if she gets a full-time job in the fashion industry one day.
“I never thought I could make rings like this,” Michelle said while looking at her scroll rings dabbled with pearls, stones and words like ‘love’ and ‘hope’ written in thin gold wire. “I never thought I could be this creative.”