After working in the Boston real estate market for many years, this self-taught jewelry designer decided it was time to bring her dreams to reality by becoming an entrepreneur and launching Dune Jewelry in 2010. Originally from Cape Cod, the beach always held special meaning for Holly. In 2007, she began making beach sand jewelry for friends and family. The response was so great it became apparent that nearly everyone had a special memory or exciting adventure that took place on a coast somewhere in the world and the concept took off. Sourcing sand from all seven continents, and thousands of beaches all over the world, Dune Jewelry features stylish rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, charms and men’s accessories set in sterling silver and all handmade in the USA. Additionally, Dune Jewelry customers can also provide their own sand if Dune Jewelry’s huge, 3000+ Sandbank™ does not offer exactly what the customer wants. Holly has led Dune Jewelry to grow quickly and become the innovative maker of experiential fine jewelry, where every piece is handmade to order and captures special travel memories while sparking wanderlust in all who wear it.
Tell me a little about you and Dune Jewelry?
Dune Jewelry, the Original Beach Sand Jewelry Company® creates unique, experiential jewelry with sand, earth and elements from thousands of locations around the world. Each piece of jewelry is handcrafted in our Boston studio using sand or elements from your favorite beach, ball park, golf course, mountain top, hiking trail and more! We love to spark wanderlust with our jewelry by awakening your inner wanderer and by capturing our customer’s favorite travel memories and special travel adventures. In 2010 I started Dune at my kitchen table and now we have a team of 24 full time employees that ship orders every day to over 800 retailers throughout the world.
What inspires you? Who influences you the most?
Nature is my number one influence when it comes to aesthetic, but our customers are the most inspiring influence at Dune! The stories that they share about their favorite travels, childhood beach homes, weddings, honeymoons and special moments in their life are incredibly inspiring. Each story is filled with so much emotion, fun, love and adventure. It’s an unexplainable privilege for people to share these intimate times in their life with me and then to be able to capture those life moments and provide something in return is extremely rewarding.
What are your favorite travel destinations?
My absolute favorite place to travel at this point is Positano, Italy where I went on my honeymoon (and can’t wait to go back). The sand there is black, gray and white with beautiful chunky texture. I also love spending time in New York City, Bermuda and St. John. Next up, we’re heading to Nashville which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to check out. Our mantra is “live for the moment, then take it with you” — I’m so curious about what I can find in Nashville to take with me and turn it into a piece of jewelry!
What are your favorite designs? Which are most popular with your customers?
I’m currently obsessed with our Rope and Seafan designs and I’ve always loved our Sandbar Collection which has been a Dune staple since 2010. I wear something from each of these designs every day. Most recently our customers have been really into any and all arm candy. Bracelets are hot right now!
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned while growing your business?
Surround yourself with the best people you can find who have skills you don’t have. Loyalty is key. Take every opportunity seriously and say YES whenever possible. Work as hard as you can because work ethic and integrity is 75% of success.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I did not have a privileged upbringing and have been living independently since I was 15 years old. My Dad passed away when I was 8 years old due to complications with Type 1 diabetes and my Mother never recovered from his passing so I had to become an adult at a young age. I grew up on Cape Cod and every summer since I was 11 years old I worked at a small zoo feeding and cleaning up after the animals; giving pony rides and hayrides; you name it – I did it! I started at $5 per day and worked my way up to $5 per hour by the time I was 18. This really showed me the value of hard work. Throughout my life, I’ve had all kinds of jobs including zookeeper, pharmacy technician, promotional model, bartender, cell phone sales, cruise sales and then finally a real estate agent. It took me a long time to figure out what I loved to do, and not to just base my work purely on survival. There were times that I would be working 3 jobs every day to pay my bills and throughout all of it I soaked up every bit of information. I learned from each and every manager that I came into contact with, all the while knowing that I needed to do something that I was passionate about. I knew that I wanted to be my own boss; I knew I wanted to use my creative side and I knew that I loved everything to do with entrepreneurship and growing a business. It sounds bizarre, but “work” is something that has always been there for me. It became my stability over the years and something I could count on.
What type of people buy your items?
I’ve been surprised by how diverse our customers are. The range is substantial and men love us! I remember when I first started, I made 4 pieces for a real estate client and he came back saying that he could have bought his wife a diamond bracelet and it wouldn’t have had the sentimental value that Dune Jewelry had. His wife adored it (and him, after that gift)!