There is an ongoing debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made, and, as I continue to meet with the city’s top innovators and entrepreneurs, I constantly find myself reverting back to the age-old question. While I do agree that there is a certain entrepreneurial spirit and skill set that all entrepreneurs share, I believe that the spirit is developed from the passion to grow your niche expertise into a new business. And, sometimes, all you need is a small opportunity to take your passion or skill and turn that into a new business venture. After all, seizing those opportunities is what being an entrepreneur is all about.
One specific example of this metamorphosis is Lauren Eckstein Shonekas, founder and designer of Construct Jewelry.
A native of New Orleans, Lauren delved into jewelry making as a means of therapy when she evacuated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. Taking apart old jewelry and reconstructing it into unique pieces was an avenue of expression during the difficult months. After the success of her first sale, Lauren continued to evolve her collection even after returning to New Orleans to pursue her Masters of Social Work at Tulane, and was encouraged by her roommate, also a jewelry designer, to take her newfound hobby more seriously.
From the buying process to the creation of each piece, Lauren’s collection continued to evolve, even as a side venture, selling her pieces to friends and gaining new clients through word of mouth while she worked as a therapist providing counseling to children in New Orleans.
Over the years, the buying process for her original pieces became more sophisticated as she scouted garage sales and high-end antique stores for jewelry to deconstruct. Through the process, she learned how to identify pieces according to decade, and developed a system for choosing each vintage piece that was based on weight, texture, luster, and detail. All the criteria make up the elements of her one of a kind designs, while still keeping the quality and history of the original piece.
Lauren continued to use the creation process as a means of therapy, applying and projecting her methodologies and unique perspectives from building relationships with her clients into jewelry making. Taking apart unused vintage jewelry and recreating it into one of a kind creations, every part of the original is eventually put to use.
“I never throw any part of the original away,” explains Lauren. “I believe that each part has potential, and it’s just a matter of time for when and where it can be used again.”
Adopting the same thought process in both her passions of helping others and recreating jewelry, Lauren focuses on finding the value and beauty in aspects that might otherwise seem hopeless or useless, and inspires others to see that as well.
Through her gained popularity, Lauren added custom design to her repertoire, creating unique pieces for her clients by integrating family heirlooms and antiques into modern creations to fit the client’s personality, and eventually developed the bridal collection in the process.
This past March, the designer and now entrepreneur decided to focus on Construct Jewelry full time, accrediting New Orleans Entrepreneur Week sessions and opportunities for helping her formalize the steps she needed to take for her business. Having spent time working with the city’s education reform, she feels encouraged and excited to be involved in yet another growing aspect in New Orleans – something that I believe we are all lucky to be a part of today in our beloved city.
Construct Jewelry can currently be found at www.construct-jewelry.com, Vintage 329, and Wedding Belles.