If you haven’t heard of MARRIN COSTELLO INC yet, all I can say is go check out their website NOW. It’s the perfect time of year to shop for a unique, beautiful piece of jewelry for a loved one or indulge in a little stocking stuffer for yourself.
I got an early holiday gift this year in the form of an incredible interview with the founder and CEO herself, Marrin Costello. Marrin and I became friends at UCLA and since then I have watched her build a strong, creative, and dynamic business. She is an inspiring example of how to blend passion with purpose to realize an entrepreneurial vision. Enjoy!
Tell me about MARRIN COSTELLO INC—how you got started and what your journey has been like so far.
This beautiful journey started over 20 years ago, and when it did, I had no idea that it would become the foundation for a business and a brand. I first fell in love with jewelry design when I was seven. My aunt gave me an FAO Schwartz bead kit for Christmas and designing jewelry quickly became my favorite way to spend time. Jewelry was my meditation; and to this day, I still crave the therapeutic feeling of getting lost in the creative process. One of my company slogans says it all — Started With a Bead Kit Now We’re Here™.
After running out of jewelry-making supplies from my first bead kit, I quickly turned to local craft stores and vintage shops to both source materials and re-work old jewelry into new designs. In a very short period of time, I amassed a large inventory of completed pieces, and my parents encouraged me to sell the product at a local craft fair in my hometown. The following summer, I set up a booth at the fair and have done so every year since. This last summer marked my 18th showcase at the same event.
I come from a long line of entrepreneurial trailblazers and risk-takers on both sides of my family and thinking with a business mindset has always been second nature. In grammar school, I brought jewels I had crafted to dance class in plastic bags and sold them in between numbers. In high school, I made custom jewelry for classmates to wear at formals, and had the gumption to visit local boutiques unannounced to show them my work — and many stores agreed to carry and sell the jewels on consignment.
In college, a family friend turned LA-stylist requested to use my pieces for a red-carpet event. This lead to a cable television spotlight on Season 6 of American Idol where my name was featured adjacent to household names like Michael Kors and Rebecca Minkoff. After this “big break”, I started receiving phone calls from large PR and marketing firms inquiring about the brand and wanting to represent the “company”.
As making jewelry was still very much a glorified hobby, I quickly created accounts for every social media platform available and began the process of registering for a business license. But come time to name the company, I was stumped. Every name I came up with seemed trendy and temperamental. Since I knew my legal name wasn’t budging anytime soon, I used it to name my business, with *every* intention of renaming the company when the “right” name came to mind. But nearly 7 years later, nothing else has seemed more fitting, and I have inadvertently become both the name and the face of the brand.
In retrospect, I think I knew that I was creating something with lasting power. Since formally creating the business, the company has expanded into a multifaceted lifestyle brand with jewelry at its core. The collection can now be found online and in boutique retailers worldwide, and we have many other projects and project launches in the pipeline. It has been an incredible journey thus far, and it’s exhilarating to think of the brand’s potential with all of the opportunities ahead.
What has been your greatest challenge as an entrepreneur? What did you learn and what advice can you offer based on that experience?
The transition from making jewelry as a hobby to designing jewelry for my business was by far the most difficult challenge that I have faced as an entrepreneur. After college, I got another job for several years and continued answering opportunities for my jewelry business on the side. At that point in time, I didn’t truly understand being a jewelry designer could be a full-time venture. Making this shift from hobby to profession felt like a breakup of sorts, as designing wasn’t solely a means of meditation and creativity anymore. It transformed into my means of survival, which added an element of pressure and stress onto the activity that was once purely meditative.
After working through this uncomfortable transition and redefining my relationship with jewelry design, I’ve realized that while the brand has a foundation in accessories, there are so many other opportunities leading the company down a variety of avenues. In learning how to adjust and pivot my relationship with jewelry design, I became even more prepared to deal with the inevitable ebbs and flows of entrepreneurship and business.
I am by no means the end-all-be-all for entrepreneurship and am still learning so much every single day. But off the top of my head, these are nuggets of information that others may find useful:
Commit to your business 350%. I believe that a *true* entrepreneur never *fully* feels like they have achieved everything that they need and want to achieve. Try not to be hypnotized by entrepreneurship’s glorification in the media. Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of time and sacrifice and is not glamorous — and this is coming to you from a woman whose company literally sells a glamorous product.
Be kind — always. Know that people are doing the best they can with the tools that they have. Have sympathy for someone who may not be acting like their best selves. Hurt people hurt people. Is that an excuse for their shitty behavior? Absolutely not. But know that handling yourself with grace, especially in times of stress, will only earn respect from those around you.
Stay grounded. Acknowledge the people in your life with whom you have reciprocal love, respect, and care, and keep them close to you. You may need to lean on them when times are hard, and them on you. They may not always understand you or your business, but such is life. Maintaining your business is essential, but not at the expense of the people who truly love you — including yourself.
Know your numbers!! Hire a bookkeeper and accountant immediately. Managing your finances yourself is risky unless you have an extensive accounting background, and even then I would advise you hire out so you can focus on other business tasks. I beg you to please hire a bookkeeper and accountant to properly handle your financials. You can thank me later!
Lastly, but certainly most importantly — take care of your health. Without your physical machine operating in perfect condition, your business will suffer. Take care of yourself first. No exceptions.
You’ve been in business since you were a teenager. How has the growth of digital media affected your marketing and sales strategy? What’s changed and what has stayed the same?
Digital media has been such a game-changer for my business. At the core of the MARRIN COSTELLO INC brand is genuine human connection — whether it’s communicating with our customers, having the jewelry act as conversation pieces, or two parties connecting when our product is given as a gift. Using social media, we are now able to speak with our customers instantaneously and offer a level of customer service that truly serves our audience. We can also get immediate feedback from those who have experienced the product or who are simply digesting our digital content.
Social media has made the world an even smaller place, which has specifically allowed for rapid and effective growth for the company in the last few years. A more recent shift in social media is the craving for brand transparency. Fans and customers of MARRIN COSTELLO INC have voiced a desire to see more behind-the-scenes footage of the everyday life of my “world”, so to speak. With all of the upcoming projects that my team and I have planned for the new year, transparency and authenticity will play a huge role. I have truly stepped into the role of becoming the face and voice of the brand, and am excited to further our core value of connection and create community using the brand as a vessel.
What are you working on now that you’re most excited about?
Oh, my goodness, SO many things! With MC Inc having transformed into a lifestyle brand, we are not only improving the jewelry product but also introducing new product categories while continuing to produce dynamic, interactive in-person events. We also plan to further enter the digital space with a podcast, show, and blog, just to name a few! I am giddy over all the projects in the pipeline, and I cannot wait until they come to fruition so you can experience all things MARRIN COSTELLO INC. It’s going to be epic.
How are you challenging yourself to continue growing?
On a personal level, exercising and meditation have both become necessary parts of my morning ritual. They keep me sane and centered and increase my focus and productivity throughout the rest of the day. In an effort to always remain a student, I am constantly listening to podcasts and audiobooks, most often in the business and self-improvement categories. I constantly ask myself what area of my life needs a little love, and I try to fuel myself accordingly. Sometimes there are even days when all I want is to be alone and in silence, allowing myself the space to think and listen to my own thoughts.
On a business level, I am proud (and relieved) to announce that I have officially graduated from the “I can do everything myself” school of thought, and have hired people whose expertise in certain areas far surpasses my own. I know in my gut this will only make the company function faster and more effectively.
What inspiring women are you watching right now?
For the past several years, I have consistently looked to a handful of women for both personal and business inspiration. Marie Forleo and Bethenny Frankel for building massive brands they are passionate about, with philanthropy at their core. Rachel Zoe and Leandra Medine for their poise, vulnerability in sharing their personal lives with their audiences, flawless style, and for creating brands with massive followings that are true reflections of who they are as individuals. Stacy London — from her What Not To Wear days to now — for her eloquence, honesty, and tenacity as a trailblazer in the fashion industry. And lastly, Shea Marie, Caroline Vreeland, and Olivia Palermo, my forever fashion muses, for their impeccable personal style and attention to detail.
If you’d like to learn more about MARRIN COSTELLO INC or shop the collection, visit them here!
Photo Credit: Daybreak + Dusk Photography (daybreakanddusk.com)