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OkJewelry - VCU spotlight - one of our favorite artist

Natalie Barr, Staff Writer

What began as a way to own jewelry beyond a high schooler’s budget turned into an Etsy business and merchandise in two local Richmond stores.

Lia Kendrick, a sophomore in VCU’s real estate program, started her business “OKNecklace” in 2017. Kendrick wore a lot of jewelry but could not afford items she wanted, so she took matters into her own hands and learned how to make jewelry for herself, she said.

The main concept for her business is for others to be able to afford her designs and acquire high-quality pieces, Kendrick said.

“The motto is my jewelry is more than OK, and it’s because it’s affordable and high-quality jewelry,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick hopes to expand OKNecklace into more local stores and attend markets in Washington, D.C., in the upcoming year, she said. Kendrick supports small businesses when buying beads and other materials for her jewelry, and she hopes others will also consider supporting small and local businesses before buying from big retail chains, Kendrick said.

“Always check on Etsy before going to places like Amazon, because when you go to small businesses, there’s a face behind the business rather than just some corporate entity selling it,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick started out with crochet jewelry, then later branched out to colorful beaded jewelry. The color blue is a customer favorite and rainbow beads are known to catch people’s eye, she said. Charms and pendants are also used in her designs — Kendrick said she uses charms that correlate with seasons, such as turtles for summer or flowers for spring, along with wire-wrapped rings.

Customers are able to completely customize their orders; Kendrick found creating a variety of jewelry pieces allows customers to see diversity which leads them to make a purchase, she said.

“I think people really like to have unique things,” Kendrick said. “The more options I have, the more likely someone is to buy something.”

OKNecklace has been featured at a variety of local markets, such as Carytown City Stadium’s holiday and spring markets, weekly farmers’ markets and the Ashland Strawberry Fair, where she shows and sells her jewelry, Kendrick said.

She brings about 200 pieces, jewelry making materials and tools, such as her crochet hooks for crochet necklaces, extra beads and charms and wire for necklaces, bracelets and rings, to remake items that sell out, she said. Affordability is important, so her jewelry ranges from $6 to $40 determined by materials used, Kendrick said.

“Variation really helps, because if someone sees something that’s too expensive, most of the time there’s going to be another piece that’s similar and that’s less expensive,” Kendrick said.

Kelly Adams, owner of Stuff RVA, a store in Scott’s Addition featuring exclusively local artists, has carried OKNecklace for two years, she said. Kendrick heard about Stuff RVA from another local artist and reached out to Adams’ to be featured in the store, Adams said.

“She [Kendrick] sent over pictures and her business hits a certain demographic of a younger adult that I did not have in my store,” Adams said.

Adams has enjoyed the ability to know every artist featured in her store and be a space in the community for artists to be featured, she said. She has seen the growth OKNecklace has had over its two years, Adams said.

“When you support the store, you’re supporting the artists,” Adams said.

Adams recognized important qualities from Kendrick, which all aspiring artists should have — determination and to not fear rejection, Adams said.

“If you do get turned down, you have to keep doing what you have a passion for,” Adams said.

Alina Skadra, a sophomore at James Madison University, knew Kendrick in high school when she started OKNecklace, Skadra said. Skadra said she loved the customization and quality of Kendrick’s jewelry.

“I bought my first piece, and I think it was a gold chain with a little pendant. I wore it in the shower all the time and it never tarnished,” Skadra said.

Skadra has attended farmers’ markets with Kendrick and noticed OKNecklace catered more to younger audiences, and was the only jewelry vendor able to make pieces at the market, which sets her apart, Skadra said.

“I feel she is elite in that category of customizing jewelry on the spot and able to do that efficiently,” Skadra said.

Skadra attributed OKNecklace’s success to its ability to customize pieces, and stay on top of trends, she said. Kendrick strives to connect with her customers — a benefit small businesses offer, Skadra said.

“She has the best customer service, and she’ll cater to you, however you need,” Skadra said.

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