At FresYes, we love supporting local small business owners and learning more about what’s helped them to become successful in their field. I (along with many, many other women in Fresno!) recently fell in love with the gorgeous, lightweight and minimalistic earrings of Brooke Creative Co., a local, artisan jewelry business founded and operated by Brooke Matthews. I had the pleasure of learning more about how Brooke got started and what inspires her this past week, after meeting her at the Old Town Flea in Clovis.
FresYes: Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, what brought you to this point in your life and makes you who you are?
Brooke: Since I was a child, I’ve always enjoyed art, DIY projects and design. I took lots of art classes in school, and I was first introduced to graphic design my sophomore year when a teacher asked me to join the yearbook team. I was hooked and ended up graduating from Fresno State with BA in Graphic Design.
After college I moved to San Francisco to work as a Project Manager and Creative Director for wikiHow. I also worked for a Healthcare Marketing Agency and after grinding away for 6 years in the Bay, I felt creatively stifled.
My partner was able to work for his company remotely from anywhere and I was ready to quit my job. In the summer of 2018 we left San Francisco and moved back to my hometown of Fresno. My goal was to take some time off to be creative, work on side projects, and possibly start a business, although I had no idea what that business would be exactly at the time.
FY: What made you decide to make clay earrings?
Brooke: I was playing around with a lot of different mediums at the time – painting a lot with watercolor, designing patterns on the iPad, and doing some freelance graphic design. I’d been wanting to get reacquainted with ceramics when I was at the craft store and saw polymer clay. I’d never really used it but remembered seeing blog posts about DIY polymer clay projects, one of them being earrings.
I’d always been a necklace person, but not so much a statement earring wearer due to them often being so heavy on the ear. I began making the clay earrings as a cure for my frustration. I soon started really liking what I was making and loved how lightweight they were! I thought that if I loved them, maybe others would too! I took some photos, made a website, posted about it and it all took off from there.
FY: What inspired you to create the aesthetic that has become your signature style?
Brooke: I’ve always love mid-century modern architecture, vintage graphic design and abstract art. I think that, coupled with my love of the outdoors is what has helped inspire the earring designs. I’m continually drawn to simple shapes, clean lines, and natural elements. I didn’t think about in the early stages, but someone once pointed out that my earring designs remind them of the watercolor paintings I was working on a few months before – and now I can’t unsee it! 🙂
FY: Is there a single style that tends to be most popular amongst your shoppers? Do you have a favorite style to wear, personally?
Brooke: The Alara (a two-piece statement earring that features an upside-down U shape) has been a constant favorite since the beginning! It’s also been my personal favorite as well, in addition to a pair of simple grey circles that were one of the very first styles I ever made.
FY: What can shoppers look forward to from you in the future? Are there new styles and colorways on the horizon?
Brooke: Yes and yes! Coming down from the wave of busyness of all the spring events like ArtHop/Grizzly Fest/The Old Town Flea, I’ve had some time recently to think about what I want the next (and future) collections to look like. Spring was full of pastels: peaches, lilac, periwinkle, etc. which was super fun and I’m so happy everyone loved it.
I’ve started thinking about the designs and colorways that I have been continually gravitating towards in my personal collection and realized that they were often neutrals. I plan to focus on adding texture, integrating natural elements (sand/dried flowers/natural dyes/shells) and shapes that mimic nature. I’m hoping to refine this collection over the next few weeks and will also be showcasing it at my booth for Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco in July.
FY: What do you attribute to the rapid growth your business has experienced – how did you get yourself out there so well, and what advice would you have to other entrepreneurs in this area?
Brooke: I attribute a lot of it to my years working in the marketing/advertising industry and having a degree in design. These skills have been the backbone to my brand and my aesthetic. Branding, photography, and social media are more important than ever and I’m so thankful that I can do a lot of what’s needed for growing my business on my own.
I’m still learning A LOT of it as I’m going. That being said, you have to know when to enlist help of ‘the professionals’ 🙂
I realized early on that the aspect of photography was something I was going to need help with. I’ve been able to get by doing much of it on my own, but it’s also SO time consuming that supplementing with professional help was key. I’ve been lucky enough to have my earrings be a part of some local photo shoots and the photographers have been kind enough to let me use the photos from those shoots.
I also attribute the growth of my business to the incredible community that is our Valley. There has been no shortage of support and opportunities to sell locally, such as: ArtHop, flea markets and vendor fairs.
FY: Have you encountered any significant challenges as your business has grown, and do you have any advice for getting through bumps in the road for others?
Brooke: I totally don’t feel like I’m in any place to give much advice yet, ha, but I’m a true believer in learning by doing. It was terrifying for me to put myself and my products out into the world, but I feel like I’ve learned so much by doing just that.
You have to stay patient and remain persistent. One of my favorite quotes is “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I try not to be too hard on myself, allow for mistakes, and remind myself to have fun!
My other biggest piece of advice is reach out to others! You don’t have to be an expert on everything. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, who built you up, and who support you. It’s HARD to start a small business and often feels overwhelming. Having a group of people to lean on is so important.
FY: Do you have any other local artisans or business owners that you look up to or love – and if so, what draws you to them?
Brooke: There is SO much talent in this community, I can’t even name them all! I am so proud of all the incredible makers and artists I’ve met in just a short amount of time.
- Cassey & Kirk James from Root General have been HUGE mentors to me and I’m so grateful. (Root was the first store to stock my earrings!) Along with running Root for the last 5 years, they pour their hearts into supporting so many local artisans and have truly kept Downtown Fresno alive.
- Yvette Goltaio (@yvettita) is a branding and content photographer who I met through Root and we both immediately hit it off! Her eye for design and her photography style is so spot on and has meshed really well with what I was looking for for Brooke Creative Co.
- Elowyn of Elowyn Makes Art is so talented and her art always makes me smile!
- Alana from @makepie is also an inspiration! I think she’s had her jewelry business for over almost a decade and is basically an Etsy seller queen!
- Keryn from @nicholsonhatco – another crazy talented maker and boss lady
- Alex from KLSD – another hugely successful woman/mom run business in the Valley …that’s just a few off the top of my head!
Thank you for your time, Brooke. Can’t wait to watch as your business continues to grow!