Malia’s Crystals jewelry is a gem: How one student turned a passion into a successful small business
By Sophia Harris
Malia Shields, an FSU junior, said she fell in love with jewelry at a young age - "ever since I was a child.”
She said college gave her the tools to open her own small business creating and selling jewelry.
But, what she loves about running her own business is “it doesn't feel like a job,” she said.
Being able to make jewelry “wherever and whenever” she wants gives her the freedom to be her own boss, she said.
Shields said she often makes jewelry in places where if she had a typical job, she would not be able to work, such as in a park, on a bus, or in her dorm.
She said she launched Malia’s Crystals in July 2021 first on Snapchat to assess interest and demand. Then she created a web page and Instagram account that have been the vehicles for her sales since.
Her jewelry includes handmade crystal earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and pendants.
She said she plans to expand to full-body pieces as her business grows. These are pieces that hang around the neck and drop across the chest and waist.
She added she is also looking to incorporate leg chains as part of her full-body piece collection.
Shields said she sources her gems and stones from trusted Etsy sellers, gem shows, and crystal stores.
She also bought various gemstones for her collection in India on the recent J-term trip, coordinated by FSU’s study abroad office, she said.
Shields said she values the “uniqueness” of her jewelry which features authentic stones and crystals encompassed in non-tarnish hardware. The design and materials make the pieces not only practical, but beautiful, as the stones are the main focus, she said.
She said her jewelry “stands out against competitors,” which is important because the industry is vast.
She added she has always been creative. Whether it was drawing or painting as a child, she has always had a desire for creating and designing, she added.
Shields said she found inspiration from other creators on social media like Instagram and Pinterest.
Her entrepreneurial awareness was inspired by these creators, she said.
When she first got the idea to start her own jewelry-making business, she told her friends and family, who said they would purchase her products.
Shields said because of her family's support, she was motivated to expand her business to a broader consumer base.
One of the stronger aspects of her business is her social media presence, she said.
“A strong aspect is just knowing how to market through social media because that has helped boost my page a lot and helped me grow over the last two years - quicker than I expected,” Shields said.
While Shields said the stronger aspects of her business are her social media presence and the uniqueness of her jewelry, she has a lot of competition.
She added when she is applying for space at craft fairs, where she can advertise and sell her jewelry, it is difficult because there are so many applications for jewelry businesses at these fairs.
She said, “Even though, like mine, others may be unique compared to what is already there. They won't accept you just because you are a jewelry [business] regardless of whether it's different from what they have.”
She has participated in craft fairs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island since starting her business, she said. And she plans to expand to selling at gem shows.
An aspect that has helped Shields grow her business is taking Entrepreneurship 101 taught by Professor Todd Smith at Framingham State.
She said this class has also helped her determine and set goals and implement business plans.
Her advice for students who want to open their own small business is not only to take Entrepreneurship 101 but “make sure you actually think about it long and hard and just realize that it's going to be a lot of work.
“And it's not just necessarily for fun,” she said.
Shields added she does make a profit, but, “You might still have to work another job, which I do - but in the long run, it is really fun.”
She said, “It's a lot of work, but I think you'd be a lot happier if that's something that you like and aspire to do. I just think that people should really just go for it and follow their dreams.”
Shannon Guppy, an FSU junior, said she bought a nose ring and the “Forever Love” set for her sister, which is a pair of earrings and a bracelet.
Guppy said she “loved the items” she purchased.
She added, “They were beautiful and well crafted. I feel so beautiful and confident wearing any of her jewelry, and I get a lot of compliments and questions.”
Guppy said Shields’ products have a “very beautiful aesthetic.
“That’s the reason I was intrigued in the first place. I saw her wearing her nose ring and I wanted to know where it was from. She showed me her website, and I was so excited to see her jewelry,” she said.
Guppy said the first thing she noticed was Shields’ jewelry came in a variety of colors, shapes, and designs.
“Each piece was crafted by the spark of her imagination and that’s what makes me love them even more,” she said.
She added people are “amazed” when she says the jewelry is handmade because the pieces are of such high quality.
Guppy added she is “so excited to see how far she makes it with this business in life. I’m proud to respond to people and say that I got my jewelry from Malia’s Crystals because I know they won’t be disappointed when they go to her website.”
Leila Hamidi-Imani, an FSU sophomore, said she purchased a bracelet, necklace, and rings and added she “loves” what she purchased.
She said, “The quality hasn’t let me down,” even while wearing the items in the shower or while washing her hands.
Hamidi-Imani said what makes Malia’s Crystals unique is her products are handmade which “creates a special experience as a customer.”
She said, “The pieces are really beautiful and unique down to each detail, so it makes me feel so beautiful.”