I met Hannah while interviewing for my current position as Malabella’s Virtual Marketing Intern just 6 weeks ago—which doesn’t feel possible because she’s the kind of person who makes you feel like you’ve known each other forever. The amount of thought, love, and pure intention she puts into everything she touches—whether it be a piece of jewelry, an email, a social post, or even just a text—has been incredibly inspiring and empowering for me. Looking back, as I was coming into this internship, I expected to gain insight into how to start and run a dreamy small business like Malabella, but I am gaining SO much more—and you’re about to, too!
I sat down with Hannah and asked a few questions I’ve been dying to know:
What is your favorite part of the design process?
AH! Such a hard question because I truly love all of it. I love creating a mood board surrounding a collection, pinning different pictures, gems, and metals to create an overall aesthetic and storyline, and then gathering all of my ideas, sketches, and supplies to handcraft new jewels. The design process is probably my favorite part about running a jewelry company, and a part of the brand that I always want to direct the most.
What is your favorite part of having a team and being a manager?
I’m so incredibly grateful for my team—they raise me up, hold me to a high standard, and work their asses off to create the most intentional, beautiful, and meaningful jewelry and branding they can. I think my favorite part of having a team is working together to grow our brand. I love having a team behind me that is just as excited as I am for new jewels and when we kill it! There’s magic to be made when we collaborate and working in a team environment has inspired me to keep going, push forward, and work even harder.
If there was one thing you could tell yourself back when you first started the business, what would it be?
Hire as soon as you can. Even if you can only hire someone for 4 hours a week, hire them! I always thought that no one would want to join the team if they were offered less than 20 hours a week or something, but really there’s an array of hours people are interested in working. For many years I held onto my business thinking I was the only one who would care, see the vision, and do great work—but honestly—my team is better than me at most things. I think setting aside your fears (ego) and having people join your team is HUGE. We wouldn’t be here without them.
Where can you see yourself in ONE year? What are your biggest goals for 2020?
Ohhhh, in one year… Practically speaking, I’d love to see our team grow from a team of 5 to a team of 7, feature our jewels in more boutiques worldwide and online, and grow our new TikTok account to reach more people. I’d also love to start a personal YouTube showing the in’s and out’s of running Malabella. If I’m dreaming, I’d also love to grow into a proper studio space with room for my own office, meeting rooms, and a space to do photoshoot in studio. My biggest goal for 2020, though, is to streamline sourcing, production, packing, and shipping to decrease our turn around time from roughly 2 weeks to a few days. Is this boring stuff? I don’t know, but it lights me up! Also… Keep your eyes peeled for more luxe packaging… that’s a huge goal, as well.
What is your favorite collection that you have created? (The pieces in the collection, the campaign around it, the ideas behind the vision, etc.)
I think my favorite has to be Shakti. I was going through a hell of a time in my personal life and really learning how to process a lot of death in my family. It was also a horrible business year due to some bad decision making. I started to realize ways in which I was subconsciously holding back the business, and one day, I kind of said fuck it and decided that you can’t have fear—you have to be yourself. You have to allow yourself to be these contrasting things. Loud yet kind. Smart yet humble. I just allowed myself to finally really be… myself! Shakti was all about this fierce feminine energy, and for the first time in my life, I allowed myself to really be in it. Shakti also birthed some of my favorite Mala designs with hand-wrapped gems dripping from the Malas, and my first dainty gold jewelry. It was a new beginning for me, for sure.
What is one thing that you have learned about yourself, personally, through the design and business process?
Holy heck, so much. Running a business is sooo much more work than I had ever thought, and it’s the most rewarding thing in my life. I’ve learned, and still am learning, how to set down my ego because the ego will really try to hold you back and instill fear. Fear of this, fear of that and honestly sometimes you don’t even realize it’s happening. You over rationalize or under think things to either self sabotage or play small. Running a business has really shown and given me an opportunity to lay it all down and rebuild—to step out without fear, to public speak, to ask for help, to ask the hard questions in life, and so much more. It’s insane but really running a business, especially an intentional one, has really been a huge personal growth journey. I think what I’ve learned the most about myself is that I’m resilient, adaptive, and really good at seeing strategy and patterns.
What is your favorite memory within Malabella?
I have so many but one that sticks soooo firmly in my mind was when we were vending at Wanderlust 108 in Philadelphia. We were all set up and ready to go, and once the 5K race portion of the festival was done, our booth exploded with people. There were SO many people that there was a line just to even GET into our booth. Plus, a line beyond our booth just to pay for the items. Honestly, it was a shit show because you only have a 10 ft x 10 ft space so people were trying to get in, shop, and stand in line in such a small space, but no one cared. They really wanted to see and purchase Malabella, and that’s when I realized we could really grow this business into something big and impactful.
Who is someone you look up to (family, business owner, celeb, etc.) and remind yourself about when times get rough?
I know this is cheesy, but my grandmother. She was the most kind, loving, and compassionate person from the heart I’ve ever met. Honestly, I wish I had a business idol and it’s something I’m looking for. I’d love to find a successful woman entrepreneur who is both treating her team with love and respect, creating intentional and eco-conscious products, while making a living for her and her family—but I’ve yet to find one. I’d love to hire a business coach and have them take us to the next level. Recently, I’ve really been admiring the CEO and co-founder of Mejuri and the owners of Spell Designs in Australia.
What is your favorite gemstone to work with?
Rainbow Moonstone. I actually just ordered a bunch of drool-worthy, flashy Moonstone briolettes to restock our Moonstone Golden Links + Moonstone Eclipse Hoops, and I’m swooning y’all. Moonstone is such a magical stone both in its aesthetic and symbolism. It goes with everything as it’s a mostly neutral colored stone, but when you move her, she radiates rainbows of blues, purples, pinks, and yellows. Moonstone is also the stone of intuition, new beginnings, and connects us to the phases of the Moon—things I’m constantly aiming for in my daily life, so to wear such a beautiful and meaningful stone is really magical. My engagement ring is also Moonstone + Diamonds, so it’s even more special!
What are some aspects of daily personal life that you find design creativity in? When you’re out and about—do you look for hints in the world that will inspire you?
When I first started Malabella, I was mostly inspired by nature. While that is also still very much true to this day, I’m finding myself more and more inspired by people. I love watching those who are connected to their true essence and who are on a personal journey of growth. I love to imagine what jewelry she would wear, how she’d wear it, and what she’d say about it. My muses inspire me so much and I truly design 90% of the collection around them.
If you had to give someone just starting a business advice—what would you say?
Just start. I started with one Mala that turned into seven on Etsy with nothing but my camera, $120 investment in gems, and a computer. Then as soon as you can, really even before you think you can, hire help and realize that, girl, you aren’t the best at everything. Finding the right people is key, but use that intuition and really listen to it. You’ve got it. Learn, learn, learn! Listen to podcasts, read books, watch what works, watch what doesn’t, and always always be evolving. Oh, and don’t be scared to network and talk to everyone. My best resources have come from networking and asking questions.
Photography ~ Carrie Anne Kelly
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