I grew up in the ’80s. It was a time of big hair, big shoulder pads, and for me, big earrings. My bestie and I would go to the mall on the weekends, where one of the first stops was Afterthoughts to see what new pieces arrived.
I would search for hours to find the most giant pair in the store. Apparently, the saying “the bigger the hair, the closer to god” applied to my ears instead of my hair.
Have you seen that recent Apple commercial with the kid who circles his neighborhood on a bike while the song “I look real good today” plays?
You have to see it (click here). The kid is full of himself, riding around like he owns the neighborhood. Is he dressed to the 9’s? No. Is he riding an expensive bike? Nope. Is his hair perfectly styled, and he’s sporting trendy sunglasses? Not at all. In fact, he’s wearing a helmet. Because safety first, right? But in his mind, he’s cool and confident, pedaling around with his Apple phone filming his every move.
This was me in the ’80s. No matter what hideous outfit I dressed in or how silly my hair was styled, earrings always accompanied. And they made me feel good when I wore them. They were conversation pieces that inspired the way I felt that day and, at that time, a part of my personal brand. (even though now I cringe seeing the old photos I’m sharing with you!)
As I grew older, my love for large earrings faded, and I traded them for something more modest. Maybe I didn’t want to draw as much attention to myself, or perhaps I decided my earlobes hung down far enough. (some of those suckers were heavy!) Whatever it was, my taste in jewelry shifted and became much tamer yet still expressive.
What is it about jewelry that people love so much? Is it the sparkle? Is it the shine? Is it the actual stone that you choose to wear?
Much like taste in clothing, jewelry is personal. Some people love to wear it, while others feel like it’s a burden. Some only wear certain brands and materials or invest in high-quality pieces. While others spend less so they can keep up with the latest trends. What makes it so fascinating is how you can change your look and attitude with how you decide to style yourself that day.
Take, for instance, the perfect black dress. Pair it with pearls; you feel classy. Layer yourself in gold; you feel like a boss in charge. Sport feathers, multi-colored beads, or turquoise; you feel boho and carefree. It’s the same dress, but the accessories can quickly change how you present yourself to the world.
Back in the 80s, I didn’t put much thought into how earrings made me feel. I just wanted them big and bold. However, today, I select pieces differently. Do I need a pick-me-up? Am I pitching a new client and need to feel confident? Or maybe I’m not feeling my best and want to take the attention off the clothes I’m wearing and instead focus on my ears, wrist, or neck.
This school of thought led me to befriend today’s Local Revivalist, Jessica Santander. I met Jessica, and her mom, at a market one weekend. Her stunning jewelry designs caught my attention immediately, but it was the story behind her brand that fueled my desire to learn more.
I’m a sucker for a good story, especially for brands, and Jessica’s company has just that. Her company is female-founded. Her jewelry is of high quality. And her designs aim to inspire all who purchase to be the change they desire to see within themselves. To Jessica, her creations are more than just jewelry. It’s a way to showcase your personal story and passion to the world!
Jewelry with meaning. Jewelry with purpose. And jewelry that empowers you to be the best version of yourself when wearing it. It’s this feeling that is woven into everything Jessica does. From her website to her social media feed and booth design, Jessica’s brand exudes confidence and empowerment to encourage her clients to live their best possible lives.
So please continue reading to find out more about Local Revivalist Jessica Santander, our dazzling designer. Spoiler alert, she’s savvy, sweet, and sensational!!
Scroll down for my interview…
Jessica, please tell me about yourself and your family. Are you a Tampa native?
I was actually born during an ice storm in Rochester, NY (which probably explains why I can’t tolerate the cold in an unusual and funny way). I then moved to Delaware and lived there for most of my life. Growing up, my parents enriched my childhood with our cultural roots: family gatherings where the bossa nova and salsa music played all day and night, along with trips to Brazil, Colombia, and New York. Traveling to Brazil, in particular, led to a deep admiration for the culture and warm energy of the people. Because of this, I have always felt it was a second home for me.
How did you make your way to Tampa?
Growing up in the North East, I always knew I wanted to live someplace with warmer temps, and Florida already had my heart. I decided to take a leap of faith and move to Tampa for my Master in Marketing at the University of Tampa. Since then, I’ve never looked back.
What was your career choice or job before you started Jessica Santander Designs?
Upon graduating from my undergrad and giving myself a year to decide what I wanted to do in my next chapter of life, I decided to take a hands-on retail job at Sephora as an OPS lead and makeup-up consultant. Playing with colors and creating different makeup looks, I desired to build a career within the beauty/fashion industry. But how do I do this? And where do I do this?
So, I decided to continue my studies in Marketing. After countless rejections trying to land a job as a marketing professional within the beauty/fashion industry, I decided to switch things up. I instead took a Digital Marketing position at a weight loss company. It didn’t take long before I knew in my heart that I was not paving the journey I wanted for myself. My love and passion for fashion and story-telling spoke to me once again at this point in my life and pushed me to start my own company that would be such an essential and intentional piece to my heart.
When did you start your business?
I launched my business in December 2018.
You’re interested in fashion and styling, but your business focus is on jewelry. Did you always know that you wanted to create a jewelry line? Or did the idea evolve?
I believe the idea of creating a jewelry brand evolved on its own to merge the two worlds of fashion and story-telling. I love how jewelry can be more than just a piece of jewelry but transformed into something more extraordinary and empowering.
Can you explain the story behind your brand? Your website talks about your designs are more than just jewelry and how they celebrates everyone’s unique story.
The story behind my brand stems from my personal journey of the moments when fear and rejection have dimmed the light of dreams and goals. I wanted my story to be a warm way to introduce our brand and connect on an emotional level with our customers. Reflecting on all the hardships that have challenged my mindset and self-worth, I feel that jewelry is a beautiful way to portray the resilience of us women and the story we can create for our happiness as we continue to evolve. I especially love encouraging our customers to place that self-love promise or bucket-list goal, whatever aspiration they have in their hearts while wearing their jewelry sparkle.
How has your brand evolved to where it is today?
Our brand has experienced many shifts in good ways in the past three years. 2020 was, well, 2020. But it was a time that called for me to take a step back and reflect on how I wanted to differentiate my brand from other jewelry companies. Working with a mindset coach helped lay the foundation for how our brand visually expresses who we are and why we do what we do. I’m so glad to have experienced the process of re-branding early on with my business and had help from other women-owned businesses too! Re-branding to using my name was no easy moment, but what I’ve learned from this experience is to move forward with what fills your soul with excitement and butterflies.
Your mom is lovely, and the times I’ve chatted with her, I can tell how proud of you she is! How does your mom play a role within your business? Either physically or inspirationally.
My mom is more than what words can express as an inspiration to me and my purpose.
My mom’s story is a significant factor in the mission behind my business and thus the foundation of our brand voice. Her journey is the inspiration for our brand, and it helps to translate our mission, which is to inspire and empower modern-day women and girls to be the change they aspire to see in their world.
In a way, my mom has helped me conceptualize how our jewelry is more than just another piece of jewelry, but really a touchpoint for our joy to unleash and begin again. I love bringing my mom along to markets as she also enjoys getting to meet our customers and help them pick out new pieces.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections?
I feel inspiration comes when I least expect it. There could be a moment that had challenged me in the past and lI feel inspiration comes when I least expect it. It could be a moment that challenged me in the past that defines a new collection, or a trip down memory lane (like a vacation), that inspires a collection’s colors. The beautiful thing about this process is that inspiration in design and art calls for the creator to be imaginative and out with life.
I read on your website that your materials are ethically sourced, and I know from talking to you many of the gems you pick have a specific meaning or healing property. Can you give us some insight on why this relates to your designs and/or your brand?
Being a brand that speaks to the conscious consumer, I feel it’s my brand’s responsibility to ethically source our gemstones and crystals. It completes the full picture of our purpose-driven mission, including empowering modern-day women, giving back to our community, and creating raw and unique jewelry.
Your social media account is highly inspirational! I love how you weave self-love and positivity into each of your posts. Instagram is more than just a sales tool for you; it’s a conversation and a part of your brand extension (which we love).
Do you find that this approach allows you to open more doors for introductions, discussions, and eventually a better way for a soft sell? Or do you see it strictly as a way to increase brand awareness?
Absolutely! Social media can have its own downfalls. Yet, I try to do my best to promote healthy conversations that will leave that person feeling empowered and bring out that smile. I’ve learned to embrace more of who I am and translate that into visuals through content shared. This has gradually led to new open doors and conversations. It’s a balancing landscape where I aspire to speak to both end consumers and retailers but ultimately foster an ongoing connection that will benefit them too.
Do you have any tips for balancing social media with all other business responsibilities?
As wonderful as it is, social media can definitely be a time suck! I would suggest assigning a time block in your day for social media. Maybe 30 minutes in the morning and/or 30 minutes at night. That way, you don’t find yourself going into the scrolling hole of social media. At the end of the day, you need to remind yourself of the activities that move the cash needle forward.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself from when you started your business to where you are now?
The most important thing I’ve learned about myself since day 1 and leading to where and who I am today is recognizing how much I’ve strengthened my resilience muscle. Handling “no days” with no sales or difficult days has tested my resilience to keep getting back up and charging forward. It’s also brought out a newfound ambitious side of me to take actions that may seem scary but do it anyway.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
I feel that the single biggest hurdle in running my business is that we’ve bootstrapped everything to this day. When I make decisions, I have to consider what is needed now and what will propel our business forward. Or, what can wait. I’m very impatient, so this factor is definitely a challenge.
How has your heritage influenced your business?
II believe growing up infused with Brazilian and Colombian cultures has nurtured a special place in my heart where expressions of joy and confidence can be lived vividly. This influence has translated into both collection designs and how our brand carries out our mission with women and girls.
When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing?
I personally love to go to Universal Studios and re-connect with that childhood feeling of joy as well as traveling.
Can you please tell me how you give back to the community?
We are currently partnered with InHerShoes Movement and Majestic Hope, Inc, where 1% of total proceeds give back to our 2 non-profit partners.
InHerShoes Movement is committed to catalyzing courage for girls and women around the world to live and create courageously. The foundation of their non-profit begins and ends with one question: What would you do if you were 1% more courageous?
Majestic Hope, Inc. is a non-profit organization in Hillsborough County, where its mission is to consistently and continuously offer services and financial assistance to women and children during medical emergencies, especially for urgent dental and medical care.
I’m honored to share our commitment to promote greater access to educational and medical needs for our youth with these 2 organizations and our customers.
Are you still organizing the Female Founders Friday Chats? If so, can you let us know what this chat session is all about and how we can tune in?
I certainly am and would love to have ya’ll be a guest! Our Female Founders Friday Chats take place each month on a Friday through our Instagram Live. We host an unscripted chat with a fellow boss babe and talk about all things of running a business, including the not-so glam moments we experience and advice to share with others on choosing one’s own happiness.
Your jewelry and how you match items together are always on point (obviously)! Do you have any tips on how to pair pieces to look their best?
I am definitely learning by doing, haha. But, the rule I personally follow and share with others is to simply have fun and run with your imagination. I’m always discovering new bracelet stacks that pair so divinely together (like our Allow Your Hope to Shine with Envision and Create bracelets). I’m also inspired by seeing how our customers create their own unique statements. Don’t be afraid to mix metals, and bold colors together, and choose how you want to vividly express your higher self at the moment.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were to go back in time and start your business again? Or, what advice would you give to others who may want to start a business one day?
Focus on your why and let that lead your decisions and daily steps forward. I think the advice can apply to anyone who has a big dream or a passionate vision for their well-being. Whether you use it for a business or anything else. Your why, whatever it is that you’re fighting for, is your own unique magic that will shine in its own divine way in this universe and with others who connect with you.
Do you have anything you’d like to promote coming up?
How can we/and our audience support you best?
Jessica Santander, Jessica Santander Designs
Questions, comments or feedback on this article? Comment below or contact us! We would love to hear from you. Curious why we love our local revivalists and support small businesses so much? Read 6 Reasons We Love Supporting Small Business.