MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hobbies usually fill our time between work hours. But what if a hobby turns into a job?
Jen Scheffler had it happen. Tinkering and taking a part vintage jewelry turned into a full-time career in 2008, just as the recession started to hit.
Her determination to do what she loves, and the jewelry she stocks on the shelves inside Realia in Bloomington, make Scheffler this week’s Minnesotan to Meet.
“I’ve always been very creative and into crafts and making things and taking things a part,” Scheffler said.
Just like Scheffler’s personality, each display shines.
“I love color, and things that make a statement,” Scheffler said. “I think things that sparkle really do that.”
But before all the glitz and glamour of the jewelry business, Scheffler was a teacher, which is carried through today in her business name.
“It’s a beautiful marriage, it’s Realia by Jen, and Realia actually means real things that you use to teach,” Scheffler said.
While she loves giving advice on fashion, she was the one learning back in 2008, when her jewelry line launched.
“I was offered to bring my things to my home town of New Prague, Minnesota,” Scheffler said.
She became part owner in the boutique Mosaic Alley, developing her skills in design and learning about the business world.
“I would go to bead stores and learn,” Scheffler said. “I was never trained in this formally.”
She did all this while still working in education.
“I found that I wasn’t sleeping, and I was doing my job and doing this as a full-time job as well,” Scheffler said.
Two years later, she dove into the bin, but before she could leave her full-time paycheck, the bracelets and earrings had to become consistent to be considered for shelf space in bigger stores.
“I got my first wholesale client in 2010, Bachman’s,” Scheffler said.
They’re still a client today.
When I first started I used vintage glass,” Scheffler said. “Now I use all Swarovski crystals.”
Now, the Realia by Jen line can be found in retailers throughout the country. While her work isn’t available in all 50 states, she says that’s “a great goal.”
She’s also collaborating on new lines and creating look books, many influenced by her love of color, travel and fashion, like her latest: Bollywood.
“I just think it’s like candy and the colors are delicious, so rich,” Scheffler said.
She currently has a small team of part-time employees, but thinks the future is bright.
“You constantly have to keep looking forward to what’s next,” Scheffler said. “You crawl, then you walk, then you run.”
She’s currently working on private label collections and having her jewelry pulled by different stylists throughout the country.
But a new project has popped up, too.
Scheffler is now blinging out antlers and skulls, thinking home decor could be her next venture.