Looks Bright: Handmade jewelry, accessories find niche

Published 12:12 am Saturday, July 25, 2015

DESTREHAN — Justice Waite, 18, is following her creative passions, hoping it will lead to a career.

Justice Waite

Justice Waite

Through the help of the River Region Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), the young business owner has grown her business, Silly Sweet Shop, into a thriving venture.

Yeah! helps eligible students in grades sixth through 12th launch a real business over the course of an academic year. By the end of the class, students own and operate fully-formed and functioning businesses, which may be carried on after graduation.

As founder of Silly Sweet Shop, Waite presented her business plan to an investor panel at the culmination of the program in May. She moved on to the regional competition and competed against 60 other YEA! participants from around the nation.

Silly Sweet Shop sells Waite’s handmade jewelry and accessories influenced by Japanese pop culture fashion. The business is known for the immaculate craftsmanship behind Waite’s designs, especially the necklaces and figure pieces.

The business stems from the young entrepreneur’s passion for art, especially sculpting.

“I taught myself how to sculpt, probably around the age of 13,” Waite said. “It was a lot of trial and error.”

Once she felt confident enough in her skills, the young teen started selling her jewelry at various conventions.

“My grandfather, who is also an artist, is Japanese and instilled the culture in me growing up,” Waite said. “As I got older, I became more interested in the country’s pop culture aspect.”

When a representative from YEA! spoke to her class at Destrehan High School at the beginning of her senior year, Waite knew the program was just what she and her business needed.

“When YEA! first started, I did not know what to expect,” Waite said. “I knew my market, but I needed more help with the business side of things and getting organized.”

Before YEA!, she was shy when talking to customers and giving presentations.

“Above anything else, YEA! gave me self confidence, especially when it came to speaking about my business,” Waite said.

Customers can purchase Waite’s items at etsy.com/shop/sillysweetshop.

The recent high school graduate is confident she understands her market and has the skills and processes down pat to make her items and distribute them in a seamless manner.

Her focus is on advertising and trying to get her jewelry in stores nationwide. She actually has one store in Los Angeles that is interested in her items.

“Before YEA!, I was just doing it all for fun, but once I learned more about the commerce of it all, I realized I could be successful while having fun,” Waite said.

Buddy Boe, chief administrative officer for St. Charles Parish, served as a program instructor, as well as her mentor.

“Justice came to class every week fully prepared with her work, ready to find the next part of her business that needed improvement, and she was even willing to help the other students when they hit a roadblock,” Boe said. “Justice’s personality made it very easy to help her because her optimistic desire to succeed was felt by everyone.”

According to Boe, students learn most big businesses started with a very small idea a long time ago and through proper planning grew into a success.

“The program gives the participating students confidence to expect more of themselves and the knowledge of how they can craft their future instead of just leaving it to chance,” Boe said.

Waite plans on attending The Art Institute of California in Los Angeles where she will continue to study art while maintaining and growing her business.

As for where she sees herself 10 years down the road, Waite said, “one day I would like to see the Silly Sweet Shop be a huge worldwide brand and an icon for Japanese fashion.”

— By Kristen Higdon