Each day when she clocked out from her job in art education, Larissa Loden would spend time working late into the evening on her true passion: jewelry making. After endless late nights and weekends spent selling her designs at art fairs, Larissa decided to take the leap and pursue her passion full-time, founding her namesake brand, Larissa Loden.
Since founding the brand in 2005, Larissa has built a line of chic, contemporary jewelry and accessories, all of which are hand-crafted in Minneapolis by a team of artisans, mothers, students and creative individuals. In addition to supporting this incredible small business employing a collective of talented individuals, each piece sold also supports a worthy cause. As a company, they’ve committed to donate 5% of their profits to Cookie Cart, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit teaching teens life, leadership and small business skills through experience training in an urban bakery.
At Peach, we’ve made it our mission to cultivate an empowering community of women surrounding our brand. So naturally we were thrilled to partner with a fellow female entrepreneur that shares this same idea that when people come together, they can make the world shine a little brighter. We are thrilled to introduce you to Larissa Loden and her incredible line of jewelry as our Featured Entrepreneur for our Autumn 2019 Into The Wild collection.
We caught up with Larissa to hear more about how she got to where she is, what makes her brand so unique, and how she’s doing her part to break the glass ceiling.
Where did your interest in jewelry come from? And what made you want to take the leap and start your own business?
“I had built this great relationship with my art teacher while In my senior year of high school. She really fostered so much out of me as an artist, and at my graduation she had placed a gift on my seat. It was a beautiful necklace she had made for me. It blew my mind – not only was it such a kind gesture, but I had never really realized that you could make jewelry like the kind you would buy in stores. I never thought of jewelry making as an art form. Painting, ‘photography, print-making, ceramics – sure. Jewelry making just never even occurred to me prior to this.
That same teacher went on to introduce me to a bead store, and I got hooked! I spent a lot of time traveling to scour through their offerings. Then when I moved to Minneapolis to pursue career in art education, I walked right into the Mall of America and got myself a part-time job in a jewelry store. I had waltzed right in and just talked myself up – I don’t even think they were hiring!
The store allowed you to sell pieces of your own there, so that really got my entrepreneurial mindset going. At a certain point, though, I had felt like I had exhausted my network of family and a friends and needed to cast a wider net, so I started selling at art fairs on the weekends and eventually I got some wholesale interest – it was just a natural transition from there”.
Most brands work on really developing a strong product line before integrating charitable initiatives. For the Larissa Loden brand, however, this has always been at the forefront. Why was it so important for you to make this a priority?
“Four years ago, I had left my career in education and went from being a teacher to a full-fledged business owner. While I was excited to be pursuing this next phase in my life and starting to build the Larissa Loden brand, I missed being able to give back. As a teacher, you commit a lot of time and energy into fostering a sense of confidence and excitement in kids, through education. I knew that I still wanted to be able to give back in some way and create jewelry for good – Cookie Cart was such a natural fit”.
You donate 5% of proceeds to Cookie Cart – tell us a little about this charity and why you choose to stand behind it.
“Cookie Cart is such an incredible organization. They provide at-risk kids, starting at the age of 16, with their first job making and selling cookies. Not only is this an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have at their age, but it also teaches them the importance of presentation, professionalism, and gives them responsibilities and sales experience. For these kids, working at Cookie Cart is so much more than a job, it’s a chance to really jumpstart their future and gain the skills they need to be successful.
Many of the students that I worked with during my time as a teacher are now part of the program, so that’s especially rewarding!”
In addition to your charitable efforts, you also support small businesses and tap local collectives to help create your handcrafted designs. Tell us a little about that.
“I truly believe you’re only as strong as your community. It’s so important to be each other’s hype squad and cheer each other on, so when I meet fellow entrepreneurs and business owners that I really click with, I love finding ways to partner and collaborate together. Often times these collaborations will focus on producing just one or two really amazing pieces, rather than trying to tackle a full collection. It’s really a lot of fun.
However, the majority of the Larissa Loden collection is made in-house in Minneapolis. The team is made up of college students, stay at home parents, and people that just need a little extra income and don’t have the ability to work a traditional 9-to-5. It’s a group of some pretty incredible individuals, and I love that I’m able to offer them this level of flexibility”.
As a fellow supporter of women’s entrepreneurship, what does it mean to be able to partner with a company like Peach that offers an opportunity for women to build their own fashion business?
“If we, as females, can continue to build each other up, we’ll have a really great shot at being able to break through the glass ceiling. There is so much room at the top for all of us and it’s important that we keep building awareness around these opportunities, and start ruffling feathers within those male-dominated environments. Partnering with Peach is another opportunity to build great female partnerships where we can support each other and build each other up along the way”.
What’s your goal for Larissa Loden over the next five years? What’s something you want to accomplish that you haven’t had a chance to already?
“We actually just had a staff meeting about this yesterday! My three to five year goal is to manufacture 75% of components in-house. We already do some of this, but I really want to push to do this to a larger extent. For us, that means being able to cut all the metal on site, do acrylic, etc. – really being able to create a holistic approach to manufacturing where we can have more control over the supply chain and be able to ensure the process remains ethical.
The other big goal we have is to create the Larissa Loden flagship store. I love the idea of having a brick and mortar location that has both a store and offices, but our biggest focus is on being able to create more of a concept store than a traditional retail experience. The retail landscape is really changing, and we’re focused on figuring out what that looks like for us and how we can break the traditional model to create an experience that people look forward to coming back to”.
Building a business can have its ups and downs. What’s something you turn to when you need a little encouragement?
“My community. I recently joined a networking group made up of other female entrepreneurs with companies that are generating the same level of revenue. This is really important because as you continue to grow you face certain types of issues- at this level, we’re all managing teams, supply chains, and the ins and outs of budgeting. Together, we’re able to help each other through those growing pains and provide valuable insight to one another.
Between social media and the internet in general, these types of networks have become really accessible. I’ve learned over the past few years how important having these networks is and being able to find individuals who can understand, support and encourage you through all these ups and downs.
Don’t get me wrong I have a great network of friends and family as well, but within your business you experience such a unique set of issues and being able to talk with some who is currently going through it or has already experienced them is huge. Whether you’re just venting or really rolling up your sleeves and problem solving, having that level of relatability is so important”.
Shop our collection of Larissa Loden accessories here.
Shop our latest Peach Collection here.