SCAD alumna Mary Kathryn Martinson may have graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design, but she chose to follow her passion for jewelry design, and she created her own business, Mary Kathryn Design. Since then, she has expanded her network to over seven thousand people on social media, and she sells her jewelry in 16 different retail stores and operates her own online Etsy account.

Martinson is popular amongst SCAD Atlanta students. Maizy Arena, a fourth-year fashion marketing and management student, stated that she’s constantly looking at Martinson’s Etsy account and waiting for her to post new designs, because she can always find something from the selection.
Martinson currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee and is completely self-employed. The Connector met up with Martinson to find out what it takes to be an entrepreneur and own a business, and where her brand has taken her since she began this journey.
Photo by Cayleigh Ely.
The Connector: How hard was it to start your business? 
Martinson: I actually started my business during my sophomore year as a hobby and really got serious with it fall of my junior year. It would have been extremely hard to start after graduation because it took almost 3 solid years of me building my customer base.
The Connector: What was the initial step in starting out?
Martinson: I first started my business doing custom acrylic abstract paintings and then eventually moved into jewelry making. So it was more product in the beginning and then once I found a couple of loyal customers, they helped get the word out about my business.
The Connector: What hardships did you overcome when first starting out?
Martinson: It’s really hard to find your place when first starting out. You have so many competitors and the majority of them were much older than I was. When I really started getting serious about my business I was only 20, so it took a lot of hard work and persistence to show that I could be taken seriously as a business owner.
The Connector: What are some of the biggest events/turning points for your brand?
Martinson: I have a bunch of different turning points for my brand, but one of the first big turning points for my business was when I started wholesaling. This really helped my brand grow and it was incredible to see my jewelry being sold in a local boutique. I probably contacted hundreds of stores and was turned down by all of them. My first boutique was Shoefly, located in my hometown, Huntsville, and Madison, Alabama. The owner, Amy Word, was so sweet to give me a chance. She saw something in me, and for that I am forever grateful. Wholesaling changed everything, it was an instant way of advertising and it’s really hard to make that big step as a small business.
The Connector: What is the aesthetic of your brand and who is your customer base?
Martinson: My brand is very eclectic. I have a little bit of everything for everyone. I love skulls, evil eyes, lightning bolts, stars, hamsa pendants — but I also love vintage religious pieces and crosses as well. My jewelry also contains a lot of gemstones. I have always loved gemstones and I incorporate them into my jewelry whether it be a pendant or just a rosary chain. When I first started designing jewelry, I learned quickly that what my sister, my mom, my grandmothers and I wear is all completely different. I want people to come to my trunk shows and buy jewelry no matter if they are 12, 18, 25, 50 or 80. There really is something for everyone.
The Connector: Any advice for SCAD students on starting their own business?
Martinson: Do not wait to start until after graduation! Especially if you see yourself doing it full-time. It takes a very long time to build your brand and your customer base. Be persistent, you will have a lot of people trying to pull you down, but if you believe in yourself and know what you want to accomplish your dreams are extremely accessible. It is ok to have no idea what you are doing. I still have no idea what I’m doing. It is important to experiment with different parts of your business. There is no manual on how to be successful in being self-employed because every single business is so different. It is also ok to make mistakes, this is how you get better. As long as you are learning from your mistakes, then make as many as you possibly can when starting out.
Photo by Sydney Young.
The Connector: Anything else you want to share with us about your brand and journey of entrepreneurship?
Martinson: My jewelry and painting business has been a long time coming. My grandmother is a jewelry designer so I grew up going to gem shows, cracking geodes and soldering rings with her. I also had a jewelry company back when I was in 5th grade. My friend Bradley and I used to get our grandmothers to take us to get beads and jewelry making supplies. We would sit and make jewelry all day and then put it on a poster board and go door to door in her neighborhood selling it to anyone who would buy it. I guess I have always been peddling my jewelry. It’s funny how childhood experiences can shape your career. I love what I do and encourage anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship to stick to their goals and chase after their passions.

For more information on Mary Kathryn Martinson and her brand, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.