For ASU alumna Leah Williams, making jewelry is an emotional business. Williams’s business, Ruby Mae Jewelry, is a family-run, local producer of handmade ASU charms, bracelets with vintage buttons and custom jewelry.
Williams said that while she was a student, she wanted an ASU charm, which is a sentimental product she has added to her business.
Williams said she had been making sentimental jewelry with names or dates on them for celebrations, and she decided to make ASU-related charms, because it is something she would have wanted in her days at ASU.
“I really believed we had a product that the ASU community would want, and the feedback that I was getting from people when I approached them about ASU was that they were pretty excited,” said Williams.
Although Williams graduated from ASU in 1991 with a degree in broadcasting and an emphasis in production, she has found a way to balance her television career with her entrepreneurial pursuits as a small business owner.
Williams, who has three children, works part time as a freelance stage manager for televised sporting events.
“I’m a creative person, so when I work in television, it’s a creative environment, and making jewelry is a different part of my creativity,” said Williams.
Williams had been making jewelry for more than 20 years before she got the idea for Ruby Mae Jewelry from vintage buttons she spotted at a street fair.
While Williams has ultimately been successful, she faced many difficulties when starting out as a business person, she said.
The year after Williams’s mother passed away of ovarian cancer, Williams severed a tendon in her hand while opening a can of artichokes. The injury rendered Williams unable to make jewelry for four months.
To keep the business running, her father moved in with her family to help Williams with her business.
“My dad said to me, ‘I can help you with your business,’ and I said, ‘Well what can you do? You’re more of an engineer type,’” she said. “And he said, ‘I can be your hands.’ And so we sat side by side for seven months … and we built jewelry together in our pajamas.”
The company was able to flourish, and the family was able to come closer together, Williams’s father Jake Jacobson said.
“After your kids are grown up, and they’ve left home, and they’ve got their own families, you don’t get to see them too often,” said Jacobson. “In helping my daughter with her business, I get to see her a lot; I speak with her on the phone; we email, we text. It’s great.”
The aspect of personal connection, which is valued by Ruby Mae Jewelry, extends to the relationship that Williams has with boutiques that carry her products. Tina Saglimbeni, owner of Campus Flowers, was a high school friend of Williams.
“I can honestly say that I never thought we would have a business relationship in our adult lives, but, thanks to Facebook, we’ve all stayed in touch and on top of how our small businesses here in the Valley can all network and help each other out,” said Saglimbeni.
“It’s important to make friends with fellow artists, as an artist, because they will give you feedback and advice on things you never would’ve thought of yourself,” Williams said.
Ruby Mae Jewelry is currently sold at Campus Flowers, Here On The Corner, and Campus Corner. Williams plans to continue creating new jewelry products and expanding her business to all ASU campuses.
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