Eight months ago, Mary-Brennan Reich started making jewelry in the middle of the night, on a whim. Now, the 24-year-old Southern Methodist University graduate has successfully launched her own online accessory shop, Bare & Golden.
“I was working a retail job to pay rent while doing improv and taking acting classes,” says Reich, who now lives in Los Angeles. “I was barely making any money and was left with no time or energy to do anything after my shift. I made a list of ideas that I could do to make money. Jewelry was one of them. It turned out to be the most doable.”
The young entrepreneur is going against fashion standards and selling single, mix-and-match hoop earrings with charms. Imagine everything from cowgirl boots, cacti, shark teeth, daggers and crosses.
“They were game changers for me because my customers could create their own look,” she says. “I was able to share the joy I find in wearing two different earrings and calling it a day.”
Other standout items in the handmade collection include giant fringe earrings and key chains, as well as lace, leather, pearl and crystal-covered silk chokers. You can see Reich modeling them all herself in the website’s product photos.
“I just use a tripod and a remote,” she says. “I am an introvert and work best alone. I can take a day and drive to the desert with my tripod and a box of jewelry and not have to worry about scheduling. I don’t really get tired when I’m in my creative zone, so being alone allows me to just go, go, go until I’m happy. I’m sure almost all creative people can relate to that.”
But don’t mistake introverted for shy. Reich is not afraid of, or unfamiliar with, the spotlight: She's a singer and graduated with a BFA in theater from SMU in 2014.
“I have always been creative in most facets. Making jewelry is really just problem solving and engineering ways to fit materials together," Reich says. "In the process of making every piece, I learn something new about the art. I hand make everything which gives me time flexibility and a creative outlet … and really short fingernails.”
Recently Reich decided she was ready to see different faces and personal styles with her jewelry. She's also hoping to get her company to a point where she can take some time back for acting and singing.
“I was well beyond tired of my own at this point so I started reaching out to some influencers on Instagram,” she says. “I actually had a few reach out to me first, offering to trade posts for pieces. After working with them, I took what I learned and reversed it to make deals with bloggers and models. It’s thrilling to see them mix it with their personal style, and it does instant wonders for my business."
Besides working with Instagram influencers like model Mahina Alexander – who has more than 187,000 followers – Reich is actively reaching out to college markets.
“My youngest sister goes to Texas Christian University, and she wears my jewelry all the time in Fort Worth, which is good exposure for me,” Reich says. “A lot of my customers are college kids, so they aren’t looking to spend hundreds on a piece they might lose in the dark depths of their crowded apartment. They also don’t want something to change colors after wearing it for a week.”
Bare & Golden products are “gold-filled” and contain more gold than “gold-plated” goods.
“I price my gold-filled pieces lower than some larger companies charge for just gold-plated jewelry,” Reich says. “This way shoppers can get good quality for a fair price.”
Sterling silver is used for the majority of her other products.
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“Green necks are the worst,” Reich says.
Not only is she making affordable jewelry with reliable materials, Reich has also found a way to give back and stand out among the cutthroat L.A. crowd: Fifteen percent of the Demigoddess earrings, which have a female symbol, go to the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund.
“I have always been into fashion and wearing whatever I want, but I’ve also been a missionary,” she says. “Los Angeles is so focused on appearance. I am undoubtedly in the middle of that world, but that world is not me."
Shop Reich's jewelry at bareandgolden.com.