Y’all, call it luck, call it divine intervention, call it whatever you want, but we stumbled upon the coolest earrings that we cannot get enough of, made by hand, right here in Texas. We met Nikki, owner of The Naturalist when she volunteered to be in one of our photoshoots. Nikki and her friend wore the most unique clay earrings in our shoot and the other girls couldn’t get enough of them. Someone finally asked where they got the earrings, then, to make it even better, Nikki told us she makes them. By hand. *Cue the flood of orders from all models and Esperos ladies present*
Instantly, we knew we had to get these earrings in our shop. So, we called up Nikki and made it happen. Her beautiful earrings are now in the Esperos store on 2nd street and complement our bags perfectly. We wanted to give you some insight into the company Nikki built, The Naturalist, and how she is using her business for good in the community.
Tell us more about how The Naturalist got its start?
About a year ago my college roommate and I were sitting in our sorority meeting. Our friend got up to talk about Mom's Weekend that was coming up. She mentioned that they wanted to bring in local vendors and if anyone had any connections or personal businesses to reach out and let her know. My roommate nudged me and said that we should do something. I looked at her confused because we had absolutely no business plans or even ideas in the works. Over the next week we discovered the beautiful art of polymer clay jewelry and realized that there was nothing in the Bryan/College Station area like it. On the Friday before the event, we spent 12 hours figuring out how to make the beads, string them, and create our first set of inventory. With absolutely no expectations in mind, we showed up to Mom's Weekend ready to debut our products. By the end of the event, we had sold out of the inventory, and had a running "pre-order" list. We quickly realized that this crazy business we started on a whim was well received and actually taking off. For the next few months, we got invited to various other sororities' Mom Weekends where they did a similar "vendor fair". Since then, we have established a presence on Etsy as well as in multiple storefronts, including Esperos! I never thought less than a year ago that The Naturalist would be where it is now.
I understand you employ children around the Bryan/College Station area. We think it's so cool that you are making an impact in your community! Can you elaborate on that? How did that come about?
Yes! This is definitely my favorite part of The Naturalist. Towards the end of last Spring, my former roommate and business partner was getting ready to graduate college and move to Dallas. We decided that she would not continue with The Naturalist, but I still didn't know whether I would keep it going. In college, I was involved with a mentoring organization for high school students through a local church.
When I was approached by our director about helping out with a 5-week Work Intensive program that they were developing for the high schoolers, I knew I had to be a part. Micah, the director, would be teaching the guys woodworking, and I, through The Naturalist, would be teaching the girls (and even a couple guys!) how to make jewelry and accessories. As a program, it was designed not only to employ the students, but to provide them with tangible job training as well as goal setting and exposure to other job opportunities as well.
We met for 5 weeks Tuesday-Thursday from 1-5 pm. Each week we focused on a different theme. From 1-2 on Tuesdays we had a personal development time that focused on the spiritual and emotional aspect of the students, and on Wednesdays from 1-2 we would focus more on the professional development. Then, from 2-5 we would work.
It was incredible to teach these girls, many of whom come from low income areas, have never been taught the skills of being an effective employee, but who genuinely want to be contributing members of their communities, the value of working excellently. Jewelry making takes attention to detail, creativity, and a strong work ethic, especially since we hand make all of our own beads. Watching the girls go from frustration because they couldn't quite get a bead right, to the dignity that I saw on their faces when I told them that what they had made was good and beautiful, was maybe the best part of this whole experience. Each of us as humans were designed to work and take pride in the work of our hands. This program was an incredible picture of this.
I am honored that our most recent stock of inventory was all made and designed by these high school girls, and that I will continue to employ one of them through this upcoming school year.
What you are doing is so impactful. Where do you foresee this company going?
Oh man. It's hard to say honestly, because I never saw it even getting this far. Although I love to be creative and make the items myself, the dream would be for full production to be accomplished through employing low income high school students who are seeking to better themselves. I believe that I have been given this company to bless other people in whatever way that is. Obviously it would be fun to have a presence in some more stores, but I'm definitely taking each day as it comes!
If you were an Esperos bag, which one would you be? Why?
Oh without a doubt the Peacock Bucket Bag! If there's one thing I've learned about myself it's that I can turn anything into the most fun event of my life. I think the Peacock color screams fun girl but also I'm leather and still classy, ya know? Also, the bag comes with organizational pockets, and I'm for sure the person that needs the organization system set up for me. I need it, but I'm too scattered to set it up myself haha.
What items do you always carry with you?
- I have a journal that is split up into sections with different areas of my life. It never leaves me. Never.
- My Glossier Balm Dot Com.. I was never a "chapstick" or even "lip balm" girl but it has changed me.
- My Naturalist keychain that's connected to my Esperos coin purse ;) shameless plug? Maybe.
It's been such a blast having The Naturalist pop-up at Esperos. Thanks to Nikki the women of Esperos are now sporting some beautiful clay earrings. Make sure you swing by our store to pick up a pair for yourself!