Entrepreneurs are all the millennial rage, but with the word “entrepreneur” we often quickly jump to images of tech start-ups rather than the world of art. For Sarah Klass, 24, her venture took the form of starting her own jewelry line in New York City, a daunting yet rewarding challenge. Originally from Roslyn, New York, Klass relocated to Brooklyn. With an edgy, creative eye (not to mention an impressive background of experience at Jennifer Miller Jewelry, Rent the Runway, Badgley Mischka, the list goes on) her work results in the use of interesting materials and designs.
“The Sarah Klass,” her independent jewelry and accessories company, ranges from rings to reaper hoods. Her style is refreshing and the materials raw. Klass's inspiration comes from a whole slew of places, "wood grains, maps, aerial photography, oil-slick designs, cosmic images, and anything else I find that excites me. Even though I take my inspiration and design very seriously, I think it's really important to have a light-hearted attitude.”
I spoke to Klass about the challenges of starting a business in New York, the necessity for higher education when pursuing the arts and, of course, starting her own business line:
Perry Nagin (PN): How did you decide to start “The Sarah Klass”?
Sarah Klass (SK): I decided to create “The Sarah Klass” during my sophomore year of college at Parsons The New School for Design. I had an assignment to design and create a personal website. When I searched for “SarahKlass.com,” I found that an Australian woman with a stationary stamping business already owned it. So to avoid crossing paths with her, I thought about other ways to use my name in a more creative way; I thought "The Sarah Klass" was fitting. It’s funny and a little self-indulgent, which is what any good company needs. I always knew I would start a design business of some kind, but was unsure of what my passion would be. I have been making accessories since I was old enough to use a hot glue gun, but it wasn't until my last two years at Parsons, after an internship at Made Her Think, that I decided jewelry was it for me.
PN: Where were you working before you officially branched off on your own?
SK: After graduation, I got a job as the repair and production coordinator at a jewelry company in Manhattan. I wanted to participate in a company and have the opportunity to learn before I took the risk of starting my own brand. In this role, I was able to learn all about the jewelry business and a business in general, how the diamond district works, and what customers value the most when they shop for jewelry. I was able to work with styles and materials that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work with otherwise, and I made sure I learned from all of it.
PN: What inspired you to make the change to start your line?
SK: I have been selling jewelry for about a year and a half, but truly launched The Sarah Klass about nine months ago. The turning point for me that inspired me to create the company was the unfulfilled feeling that everything else brought. I felt like something was missing from my life, despite working with jewelry at my job. Creating my own jewelry was an outlet that made me feel complete that nothing else could accomplish. Not even starting small fires. That's when I knew I had to make a change and take a shot at branching off.
PN: What was an unexpected obstacle you faced while creating your own line?
SK: With current technology and social media, starting a company is not as challenging as you would think. The hardest part was reading legal documents. But I knew how important those legal documents were, so I drank a Red Bull and sucked it up. Other than that, it's just putting in the time, and lots of it. There is no detail too small. That, and shameless self-promotion.
PN: Is New York still a practical location for young artists?
SK: For me, there is no other place to start a jewelry line. The number of available resources in New York is insane. There are a ton of people who know so much and have a lot to offer —but it’s not just jewelry. Any kind of art is accessible in New York. Between suppliers and consumers, New York offers easy access to people looking at and for craft. There are also plenty of other artists to offer critique and criticism, which I’ve always felt stirs creativity. The only challenge I can see for young artists in New York (well, any young person in New York) is the cost of living, but luckily there is plenty of decent dollar pizza.
PN: In the world of all consuming debt, is it practical for artists to get an education, particularly if they're going into the arts?
SK: That’s a really interesting question, and one that I have thought about a lot in planning my future. I think that going to school for your desired craft is important, not to instill the passion (that has to be there from the start) but to hone your skills and broaden your understanding of the possibilities. Though to me, school is not necessarily a bachelor's or advanced degree from a traditional college. Especially for the arts, there are so many workshops, short-term programs, and cooperative learning classes (especially around NYC) that tackle specific topics and allow a more intimate experience with a subject. There is always time to dive deeper into your interests and there is always more to be learned.
PN: What is one piece of advice you'd give young artists or designers who are interested in starting their own line?
SK: For anyone interested in starting a line, the only thing I can say is to have your own voice. Don't just repeat the status quo, there are an unlimited amount of possible designs out there — always look to make something new.
For more information, check out The Sarah Klass.