Exactly fifty years ago today, twenty million Americans (roughly 10% of the U.S. population at the time) took to the streets, rallying for a change in environmental policy. Such protests mark what we now call Earth Day, which acted as a catalyst for fundamental environmental policy changes including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of a major historical moment of progress for not only the United States, but also the world at large, we find ourselves united, and more powerful together than ever before. As the stop and go; ebb and flow; rock and roll of our daily lives has curbed, we’ve witnessed countless beautiful changes, as nature has been granted a moment to breathe. It therefore seems fitting to conclude Earth Day by highlighting an entrepreneur’s incredible journey and powerful underlying mission to protect and restore our shared planet.
Christiana is a jewelry designer based in San Diego, CA. She is also a neuroscience graduate, award-winning philanthropist, model, vegan, surfer, and traveler. Her jewelry allows her to channel her passions into a piece of wearable art, using only the highest quality materials that are also sustainable and good for the earth.
Miss Independent: What inspired you to create your own jewelry company?
Christiana: I was inspired as a young girl because I loved crafting and making things, especially anything that I could be able to wear or actually use. At a young age my parents taught me financial responsibility and anything I wanted I had to buy with my own money. Doing so inspired me to learn how to make things I wanted instead of buying them. I also learned that I had to work hard in order to afford the things I wanted. As a student working multiple jobs waitressing and nannying, I dreamed about being able to make money doing something I was truly passionate about, so I started selling my jewelry at different art festivals and it started to take off from there!
Miss Independent: What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
Christiana: Oh boy, you name it! Starting a business is all about obstacles and challenges. In fact obstacles and challenges are practically the fabric of entrepreneurship. I believe that being a good entrepreneur means viewing each obstacle as an opportunity. For me, everything has been a learning curve. I have had to teach myself everything…from the actual jewelry making itself, making a website, branding myself, graphic design, digital marketing & email marketing techniques, photography techniques, SEO, budgeting, accounting, etc…pretty much anything and everything. I think the most time consuming part is just learning what resources are out there and figuring it out as you go along. This means doing and redoing until things start to seem right, then fine tune it again until you are happy with it. Even with all of these aspects to conquer which are time consuming on their own, you can’t start a business, especially a fine jewelry business without capital. So, you guessed it, most of the work that I put into building my business took place in the early hours of the morning or late hours of the night after working double shifts at restaurants, nannying children, and studying as a full time Honors Neuroscience student. I saved almost every dime for 6 years in the hope that one day I would be able to use that money in a responsible way – which became my own investment in my own business. On a day to day basis, my major challenge is staying focused and structuring my day. When you are your own boss, you don’t have someone telling you to stay on track. You have to stay motivated to set deadlines, goals, and quotas to keep yourself on track.
Miss Independent: What have been some of your favorite successes in business thus far?
Christiana: Some of my more notable successes have been getting my jewelry into some incredible high end boutiques across the country and having some celebrities buy my jewelry such as Katie Couric from the Today Show, Terry Darland who is the president of Christian Dior, along with Cher Kalvin who is a news anchor for KTLA. However, the most meaningful successes to me have been developing a loyal customer following and getting referral customers. This is because it speaks to the success of what I value most…creating not only a brand but a tribe or family. I want my customers to believe in the jewelry that I make and what that jewelry stands for which is integrity, sustainability, durability, and quality.
Miss Independent: What lesson would you give to other female entrepreneurs?
Christiana: Don’t. Be. Discouraged. Find your passion and don’t let anything stop you! With each challenge, look at it as an opportunity to grow. Most importantly, set mini goals. This is what has helped me the most. Starting your own business can be so overwhelming but when you set mini goals, you can accomplish so much more and stay motivated by progress!
Miss Independent: Why do you think it’s especially important for women to support other female entrepreneurs?
Christiana: I think it is important for everyone to support everyone – male or female. It is in our nature as humans to be competitive. This can be even more so among people of the same sex. I believe that this competitive nature is a gift because it forces us to say, “if she can follow her dreams and be successful, why can’t I?” This can be an incredibly powerful tool for self-improvement. With that being said, being an entrepreneur can be scary and intimidating. There is nothing more rewarding and humbling than having a backbone of supportive women who believe in you and what you stand for. I feel that if we can all serve as that backbone for other women, we could make a big difference in the world.
Miss Independent: How do the pieces you build reflect the ways in which you use jewelry to channel your passions?
Christiana: My jewelry and my brand are an outlet for my creative side. As an individual, I have always had a blended style. Growing up in New England, I have always appreciated the preppy conservative look…however, it never felt like “me.” My style tended more toward the bohemian, beachy, surfer look. I felt like I had to commit to either wearing pastels and polo shirts, or have dreadlocks and wear string bracelets. I loved the idea of being able to create jewelry for all styles and all people.
Miss Independent: Given all of the materials you use are eco-friendly, organic and natural, where does your love of nature come from?
Christiana: The earth is my playground! Almost all of my favorite moments have been either hiking, surfing, skiing, sailing or simply watching a sunrise or sunset. These are moments that bring me a type of happiness or fulfillment that put a smile on my face when I go to bed and get me excited to wake up in the morning. When you learn to appreciate little moments like these, I think you start developing a relationship with the earth based on a mutual sense of respect and gratitude.
Miss Independent: Why do you think sustainability is important for businesses?
Christiana: I think sustainability is not only but important, but imperative for businesses. Whether it is a product or service, every business is, in some way or another, taking from our earth. We each have an ecological footprint and it is our duty to be fair tenants of the planet by giving back in any way or every way possible. I implement this in my own business structure by using all recycled and sustainable materieals, using recycled, plantbased, and reusable packaging, and by donating to the Rainforest Trust. I hope that I can inspire other busiensses, big or small, to take the same measures for the health and longevidty of our planet.
Miss Independent: What inspired you to turn to plant-based nutrition?
Christiana: I became a vegetarian when I was about 14 years old after doing a presentation on animal agriculture and animals in the food industry. I was so affected by the photos and videos I saw and decided in that moment that I would become a vegetarian. During my time in the Amazon in 2016, I learned about more of the environmental effects of animal agriculture and committed myself to learning more about the environmental impacts of such industries. At this point, I made the choice to move toward veganism, learning how unstustainable and unethical the dairy & egg industries are.
Miss Independent: How did you choose to support Rainforest Trust with a portion of your profits?
Christiana: I was raised by a loving family that reminded me never to take my life for granted. My family and I started a non profit to donate old soccer uniforms to children in Haiti after the earthquake that took place in 2010. I have always felt a desire to give back and make a difference in anything that I do. In 2016 I went on a trip around the world and the part that I will never forget was my time camping deep in the Amazon Rainforest. I was able to see the devastating effects of deforestation on one of the most important ecosystems in the world. I felt a need to do something to make a difference. I researched major rainforest protection agencies and charities. Wanting to make sure my contributions were being utilized most efficaciously and honestly, I opted for the Rainforest Trust.
Miss Independent: What are your future plans for Christiana Layman designs?
Christiana: My hope for Christiana Layman Designs is to expand my brand to be in high end stores around the country and even around the world. I would love to also sell more online and do more custom pieces as well.
Miss Independent: What is your greatest ambition for 2020?
Christiana: Survive coronavirus! With a rocky start to the year, the past couple months have allowed me to re-evaluate my business model and to work more on my online presence.
Miss Independent: How do you relax?
Christiana: Believe it or not, designing jewelry is one of my favorite ways! Most of my work day is devoted to doing all of the other more managerial aspects of my business so I often reward myself with design time to relax. I also love surfing, hiking, skiing, traveling, and playing with my new great dane puppy, Clifford!
Miss Independent: What’s the best place you’ve traveled to?
Christiana: That is such a tough question but I would have to say I LOVED South America! I spent a few weeks traveling in Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador and loved every minute of it!
Miss Independent: Who is your inspiration / biggest role model?
Christiana: I would have to say my parents are my biggest role models. They are both entrepreneurs as well and I am constantly in awe of their work ethic and perseverance. Also, they both came from difficult backgrounds and am inspired by how successful they have become despite all odds.
Christiana, thank you for everything! I’ve loved reading more about your passion for art, design, and philanthropy. As a personal aside, I am absolutely loving my CLD earrings, and cannot wait to order more as soon as we have somewhere to go! Most importantly, I appreciate your resolve to stand behind our planet in everything that you do. Happy Earth Day!