Starting a Social Business During a Global Crisis
Ohio native Cristy Gao, like most business owners during the pandemic, had plenty of free time on her hands last year. While at home with her parents, she took an interest in making earrings, particularly drop and dangle ones, using polymer clay. What started out as a fun project not only turned into a business but also transformed into a social business.
A Desire to Sing
Ms. Gao was a huge Cheetah Girls and High School Musical fan. When she realized that singing wasn’t her calling, she turned to medical school. She’s currently pursuing a master’s in nursing at one of the oldest Ivy League schools in the county. In addition to her business, she plans to become a family nurse practitioner.
Then There Were Sales
In the beginning, Ms. Gao sold earrings for profit. During the middle of the global crisis, however, she had a change of heart. She ultimately decided to give a portion of her profits to charitable organizations.
That’s when she named her business “Caring In Pieces.” Each month, a percentage of the proceeds is donated to a local Columbus, Ohio, nonprofit organization. Her passion for starting Caring in Pieces originated from her days of volunteering at James Cancer Hospital.
Even COVID-19 restrictions didn’t stop her. Ms. Gao is now using her business to bring awareness to community organizations while sharing her craft art with the public. She also wanted customers to feel good about helping others through their purchases.
As the business expands, she will keep the social cause aspect of the business by partnering with more organizations.
The Reality of Business
When starting her business, Ms. Gao quickly learned that research is important. “Working with polymer clay requires baking. My pieces at first were brittle and lacked durability.” In order to retain a customer base, she offered to remake all orders or replace broken earrings. “After spending time to understand how clay works and what equipment is needed, I’m now confident in the quality of products sold to consumers.”
She advises aspiring entrepreneurs to make smart investments. Instead of paying for expensive logos and tools, start with what you have. Once you’re comfortable using tools, then invest in more expensive ones.
“I started out with a $16 clay kit from Amazon, a cap to various bottles, and a small paring knife.”
Ms. Gao chose clay as the jewelry medium because it’s flexible and many styles and textures can be created from it. “It’s also forgiving. You can make mistakes and make adjustments before baking,” Ms. Gao happily explains.
To set herself apart from competitors, she focuses on color mixes and blending them with unique designs. In the future, she hopes to make sea glass jewelry and add brass to her jewelry-making techniques.