Juanica Preston is redefining the world of beauty through her online earring business. She is on a mission to bring more inclusivity into the beauty industry, one pair of earrings at a time.
(HALTOM, Texas – Feb.10, 2022) A sense of satisfaction fills Haltom-based jewelry maker Juanica Preston, 24, as she attaches the final beads to her latest pair of hooped earrings. An assortment of bright-colored polymer clay, gems and wire are scattered all over her workstation. She places her pliers down and admires the creation in front of her.
What originally started as a hobby during the beginning of quarantine, Debonnaire Co. is now a growing business on Etsy.
“When my favorite spot that I got my earrings from went out of business, I thought, ‘let me just learn how to make them,’” Preston says. “That time that the world took to slow down definitely gave me a chance to develop my business and my brand.”
Preston’s love for jewelry-making stems from her passion for arts and crafts. Since she was a child, she has loved designing and weaving things together. It was only a matter of time before this passion would evolve into a business.
“I had some supplies, so I figured why not give this a go,” Preston says. “I love beads, and I also love crafting and designing, so this just felt natural to me.”
In the beginning stages, Preston struggled to find a fitting name for her small business. After weeks of thought, she found herself weaving together her Christian faith, her love for nature, and her French roots into what would become Debonnaire Co.
“First, I named it after my Youtube channel so it was JPure Creations,” Preston says. “But, when I started to make my Etsy shop, I started thinking about the meaning behind my brand. So because of my faith, I liked the idea of inner goodness. Then I noticed that my style consists more of natural stones and beads that have more earthy vibes to them. I started looking up different words to capture that. Finally, I found the word ‘debonnaire’, which is French for ‘good nature.’”
When she first developed Debonnaire Co., Preston was worried that it would only remain a hobby. So, she started taking entrepreneurship and business courses at her local community college to learn more about what it takes to sustain a business.
“Going through school made me develop the start of a business summary,” Preston says. “I started developing my branding and the story behind why I really want to make earrings. My education started to help me really shape what Debonnaire Co. is, not just me being an earring maker.”
At school, Preston found a strong supporter of her initiative to start a small business.
“One of my professors – Rachel Allmon – decided to mentor me,” Preston says. “She challenged me to take more finance classes and find ways to get my business out there. She even took some of my earrings on her book tour.”
In addition to the help of her professor, Preston’s family and friends have helped her shape Debonnaire Co. into what it is today.
“My family and friends have been with me since the beginning,” Preston says. “Support systems help you brainstorm, make decisions and help push you forward when you feel like quitting. You can’t expect to do everything on your own. That’s the biggest thing I’m learning.”
It is also through them that she has grown to be more self-assured in operating Debonnaire Co.
“I have seen a difference in confidence,” says childhood friend Patience Dotson, 24. “At first, she was always trying to please other people. Now it’s more so about what she likes, and hoping everyone else will see that. I think that growth is beautiful.”
In addition to having an online Etsy shop, Preston has taken to street markets to reach more customers.
“ I started looking up craft shows and events in the area,” Preston says. “You have to apply, and some places are a little more particular than others. Also, some are paid, some are not, so you have to calculate whether that’s the expense you want to pay or not.”
When displaying her jewelry at events, Preston pays close attention to every detail. Decorating her table is something that requires a lot of thought and planning.
“If I’m selling in the winter, I’m going to design my table to look more festive and make more products that look more in season,” Preston says.
As she becomes more confident in her small business, Preston plans to expand the range of her products to be more inclusive.
“Right now it’s just earrings,” Preston says. “ I’m trying to learn all I can about making studs, and hoops, and all the different beaded stuff. After that, I want to branch into bracelets and eventually jewelry for men.”
While developing Debonnaire Co. has been a rewarding experience for Preston, it did not come without its own set of struggles. The biggest challenge for Preston has been gaining financial confidence in her business.
Lee Kyoungmin, 24, Preston’s partner, has helped her overcome this obstacle.
“She doesn’t want to overprice her customers,” Kyoungmin says. “ But these are her designs and creations, so I feel like she should give herself some compensation for that. She’s starting to own her business by pricing her products according to her labor.”
While she has seen success in growing Debonnaire Co. for over one year now, to Preston, this is just the beginning. In the future, she hopes her small business can bring together all people.
“Long term, I want to see Debonnaire Co. be a place where I can unite society and showcase all kinds of beauty,” Preston says. “I really want to see it be a place that celebrates all walks of life, and then bridging the gap.”