Moment 3: After Betsy established herself as a well-respected name in the jewelry biz in the Pacific Northwest, it was time to hit the road with the goal of putting betsy & iya jewelry on women all across the country. Before the retail shop opened in 2011, Betsy & Will – who joined Betsy full-time in 2010 – took two big road trips across the country. On the first, they drove their trusty Subaru packed with jewelry to Virginia, stopping at shops along the way. Once they reached their home state, they left their car and flew back to Portland, with several new orders to fill. On the second trip a few weeks later, they flew to Virginia, picked up their car, and drove a different route to visit shops across the south and southwest, and eventually make their way back to Portland.
While both journeys were great successes in the goal of securing new wholesale business, Betsy & Will also learned that road trips aren’t all gas station snacks and driving playlists. They knew their Subaru was on its last legs, but it was still a surprise when it shut down shortly after they left Virginia. The photo above left shows Betsy & Gingham, waiting at a gas station while they sold their car to a man who was intent on fixing it and giving it to his son. Her head thrown back pose speaks so much to the frustration in this moment; they had a strict timeline for the trip, appointments to make, and first impressions to nail. What they didn’t have was a lot of extra time or money to find a new car. Luckily, it all worked out and the photo on the right shows the triumphant trio reunited in their new Hyundai Elantra, ready to do the darn thing and finish the trip.
Sure, these trips were taken primarily to grow the business, but I’m sure neither Betsy, Will, nor Gingham knew that these travels would also serve as a sort of road map for (<– see what I did there) their future employees. I can say that knowing my bosses pounded the pavement in search of shops that made them feel a certain way and small business owners who showed off their respective cities – and sometimes even welcomed them into their homes – taught me a lot about the mission of betsy & iya. It has framed the way I interact with both wholesale and retail customers online, and in our shop. It’s reminded me that it’s always about more than the money; it’s about creating relationships and sharing stories.
Moment 2: The betsy & iya of 2015 is a team of 16 people and 2 dogs, all thanks to 1 woman. That’s Betsy, of course, and even though she’s grown her jewelry making business to include Will as Director of Development/jack-of-literally-all-trades, a retail team, several full-time makers, and a marketing manager (oh hai!), at the core, our business very much depends on Betsy. She is after all, the only designer we have, and up until she was able to hire steady help (around 2010), she was also the sole maker of betsy & iya jewelry.
Betsy in her first studio in 2009 (L), and at her bench in our current studio in 2014 (R)
Representing the “solo maker” is essential to our story and couldn’t be left out of this 7th anniversary project. Without her self-taught prowess on the workbench, we wouldn’t have jewelry to make, sell, or promote. And while the photos above represent the solo maker in two very different circumstances, there’s one common denominator and that’s Betsy. The solo maker represents struggle, wading through processes and prototypes until finally reaching that moment of breakthrough. The “ah-ha” moment when you know you’ve nailed it. And then realizing you have to keep fanning the flame of creation, of sketching, of designing, of pushing boundaries and trying new techniques. Because no matter how many times you nail it, there’s always more to make.
Moment 1: Every story has a beginning, and to find ours, you’re going to have to take a trip to Roanoke, VA (unless you already live there, in which case, “Hiiiii!” and also, stay put.). Before there was betsy & iya the handcrafted jewelry line and retail shop, there was Betsy and Iya the sisters. Technically, it’s Betsy and Ashlyn, two girls 2.5 years apart, who according to legend – aka their mom – spent most of their formative years glued at the hip. When baby Betsy couldn’t quite pronounce her big sister’s name, she settled for “Iya” and it just stuck, as childhood nicknames tend to do.
Fast forward several years later to early 2008 when it was time for Betsy to name her new line of jewelry. She wanted a name that would represent herself, the maker, and also give a nod to her influences. “When I was naming the business,” Betsy wrote in 2009, “I wanted it to be personal while genuinely reflecting the style of the emerging collections. I have always been most fascinated with the harmony found in contrasts. We are precisely that: Betsy is classic, like a part of my designs. Iya is more exotic, like a part of my designs. Betsy is old; Iya is new. Together they are a perfect match. Together they make me feel bigger than I am. Together, I am stronger.”
“Seven years, no itch: the betsy & iya story.” Coming soon to a NW boutique near you!
Bad news: we aren’t releasing a movie. Great news: we are celebrating turning SEVEN years old with a huge party on April 2nd! Bring in the giant gold balloons, we’re going to whoop it up with the endless energy of an actual 7-year-old (the bubbly will help with this part). RSVP and invite your friends on our Facebook event!
To celebrate 7 years, we commissioned 7 original artworks by 7 female artists, and asked each lady to depict a pivital moment throughout our history in her own unique style. We’ll unveil these pieces at the party where they’ll be for sale, with 50% of the proceeds going to Friends of the Children.
That’s right, Friends of the Children, a Portland nonprofit who seeks to ”break the cycle of poverty through the power of relationships,” will benefit from you having a grand ol’ time at our party. As if you needed more reason to shop!
Support them in 1 of 3 different ways during our party:
Buy art: 50% of the sale of each original artwork will go to Friends
Shop: 10% of ALL sales from 6-9pm will go to Friends
Donate: we’ll have a donation jar for cash and loose change. No purchase necessary & every. dollar. counts.