With Earth Day on the horizon (April 22), many businesses will soon take a pause to reflect on ways they can reduce waste and recycle materials. Sara Swisher-Anderson, founder of jewelry company Lennon Harper Designs, is already on top of her game when it comes to reuse. She creates upcycled pieces from repurposed heirlooms and treasures, such as vintage buttons and antique cameos. Swisher-Anderson has managed to create a promising business using materials that are almost completely reused, from flea market finds to family keepsakes.
Each of Lennon Harper’s one-of-a-kind statement necklaces has a story that is specific and unique. Swisher-Anderson has poured herself into her company after her corporate role was eliminated. She said, “The world gives you a push when you might least expect it to say, ‘Why don’t you try something else?’ I have two little girls who are watching their mom. I’m putting my heart into Lennon Harper Designs. I’m showing them that if they have grit and determination, they can do anything.”
Why did you start your business?
When I had my second baby, I was home for four months with her. I was kind of bored. I started looking through my old jewelry. I found these amazing buttons and went to Michael’s to get some jewelry wire to make them into cute rings. I thought, “This is so fun!” I showed them to some friends who thought they were so neat. It skyrocketed from there. I did set it aside for four years because I went back to work and moved into a new house. Life happened.
I spent my entire career bringing process to chaos. My most recent job was as a COO at a nonprofit. I realized that my career was going well, but something was missing. I decided it was that creative, soul-feeding outlet. I started to pick the jewelry back up. I was so motivated and excited about it. I got such positive momentum from my community, I decided to do this.
How did you fund the business at the start?
I used my personal savings. I’ve stretched us by putting some of my investments towards things like working with a PR firm and building a website. I know you have to spend money to make money.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
I do very simple tracking of what’s coming in to and what’s going out of my bank account. I think it will get more complicated as the business grows and as I deal with payment for specific sales.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
Understanding how a small business gains traction is so different than it has ever been. The need to be a presence on social media is such a departure for me.
Also, patience. I’m a very fast-moving, hardworking person. Having a slow return on my work is hard. I want to manifest success, but it doesn’t work like that.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
Creating custom pieces. I just made two pieces this weekend for a woman in my town. I took them over to her house on Sunday and she lost her mind over them. I happened to see her on the train on Monday wearing one of them. She lit up and we had this great big hug moment.
I just made my mom a necklace with my great grandma’s watch face. It’s more than 100 years old. It’s so beautiful and dainty. She’s going to cry and lose her mind when she remembers sitting on her grandmother’s lap winding her watch. Now, she’ll have it on a necklace that she’ll wear all the time.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the biggest mistake you made at the start?
About 7 years ago, I attempted to have a website and get everything online. I was in way over my head. I had two little kids. The business had another name that was too kitschy. It had a logo that was made by me. The business just flopped because I didn’t know what to do. I just wasn’t at a time in my life when I couldn’t devote what was needed to have a business.
What’s the smartest thing you did at the start?
I’m not a PR expert or a marketing expert. I’m an expert at making really creative necklaces. I’m so glad I hired the right people to work with me. I don’t know what marketing materials and a logo should look like for this type of brand. I needed experts to tell me that. I had someone who knows what they’re doing create my new logo and materials. I found someone young in their career who was working freelance, so they didn’t charge me a fortune. I then searched out a small PR firm that exclusively supports female entrepreneurs. They’ve been amazing. I’m learning how to promote, how to talk about the brand, and how to take the right kind of pictures.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Do your homework. Be patient. I think people often give up too quickly. It’s a culmination of hard work and luck and timing. If you continue to put yourself and your brand out there, it will work. But, you have to be patient and understand what you are walking into before you put a lot of cash behind it.
What’s next for Lennon Harper Designs?
It’s going to be wedding season, so I’m really pushing the wedding line. My necklaces are perfect as a bride’s necklace or as gifts for your bridesmaids. A lot of brides are going for a “unique, but similar” look, which is perfect for my unique pieces.
I’m also hoping to have someone working with me part-time to help me assemble the pieces. And I’m hoping to connect into the network of mom entrepreneurs who are hustling on Instagram. I really want to collaborate and work together for mutual benefit.