After taking her turn on the catwalk as a model for some of the top fashion houses in New York, Shauna Neely would go backstage and silently observe how the designers ran their empire.
Leveraging that knowledge and the relationships she built in the industry during the early 2000s, Neely launched her eponymous accessories line Shauna Neely Jewelry, specializing in custom hand-crafted gold wire jewelry and special occasion statement pieces. Having already caught the eye of Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Eve, Star Jones, and others, Shauna is still not satisfied. Here, she dishes about what’s next for her growing lifestyle brand.
How did you break into the jewelry biz? As a former model in New York, I was afforded insider knowledge of the fashion industry and was able to connect with celebrity clientele early, which helped me gain the attention of stylists and editors. After that, the stores/wholesale business followed.
What is the most valuable business lesson you’ve learned?: In my business trust is EVERYTHING, because I deal with very expensive high-end jewelry. The most valuable business lesson I’ve learned is to make sure that I’m meeting delivery times with a quality product and that my business partners and clients think of me as a reliable and trustworthy person and business owner.
What would you say is your "claim to fame?": I met Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh and had the pleasure of designing his then-fiance’s engagement ring and both of their wedding bands. I also designed custom monogrammed sterling silver cufflinks for Chris Paul’s wedding (Lebron James was one of his groomsmen) thanks to a referral from my dear friend and stylist Rachel Johnson. However, I am most proud of my collaboration with designer Tracy Reese for her Spring 2011 collection.
What’s next for Shauna Neely Jewelry?: I’m currently working on expanding my brand into a more diverse accessories collection that will include timepieces and other goodies through a partnership with Manny Winick and Sons Jewelry.
REFLECTIONS: Hometown: Born in Kansas City, Mo., but raised in San Francisco * Advice you would have given yourself 10 years ago: Don't chase money so much and find a gazillionaire husband! I'm joking…well sort of. I’m speaking in the context of a power couple. Power couples are sexy! * First job: Receptionist at now Senator Barbara Boxer’s campaign headquarters in San Francisco. She was running for Congress at the time. * Most valuable life lesson: Humility is everything, and without it you may have a very lonely, empty existence. * Words to live by: I live my life by the law of attraction, because it’s important to realize that we control everything through our thoughts. What keeps you up at night: Nothing. I sleep like a log.
DIVERSIONS: Reading now: Alchemy: A Passion For Jewels by Temple St. Clair * Reading next: Inspiration: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World by my dear friend Crystal McCrary Anthony * Recently discovered: Approximately 90 percent of the diamonds sold in America come through New York’s Diamond District. * Last fun purchase: Surprisingly, a $60 Elgin watch from Walmart!
PLAYING FAVORITES: Accessories line (apart from her own): Carolina Bucci is everything! * Hotel: CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa in Anguilla * Getaway: Anguilla * Entrée: Crispy duck from Philippe Chow * Drink: An Arnold Palmer.