On July 1, 2017, Susan Hackney launched her jewelry business, Queen Beedz. She had retired from the regular workforce for the third time. Maybe this time, retirement would stick. Hackney had a plan. She knew she needed to keep her mind and hands busy.
“I liked the freedom of retirement, but I missed being challenged in my work,” Hackney says. “I enjoy learning new things, and I do my best when I’m busy.”
Go where the fates take you • “During the time I was still working, fate guided me in certain directions that would shape my retirement. When I was working in Webster, I would take a daily walk and stop in at Lady Bug Beads as part of my circuit,” she says.
The shop was packed full of beautiful beads, and its big schedule of how-to classes intrigued Hackney. She signed up. Ever the practical one, she had good reason to learn to make beaded jewelry.
Tiny wrists and a big idea • Hackney had a personal quest. “I couldn’t buy nice bracelets to fit my tiny wrists,” she says. She shopped in the children’s departments to find the right size, but the childish designs rarely suited her.
The bracelet classes at Lady Bug Beads channeled her creativity into a bead-focused hobby. She made grown-up bracelets that fit her wrists and her style. Hackney signed up for more classes, making necklaces, earrings and even fancy beaded bookmarks.
She honed her skills with workshops, following You Tube videos and subscribing to bead-making magazines. Her hobby spilled into the corners of her home. “It looked like a bead store threw up in my living room,” she says.
Bees, nurture and nature • “I never consciously planned to open a business. It’s been an ongoing journey; a fun one, that just seemed to happen,” she says. “Even the name came to me easily. Queen Beedz is a play on my dad’s nickname for me — Queenie. The name also reflects my love of nature in the ‘Bee’ of Beedz.
“My grandmother was a wonderful gardener. I live in the house I grew up in, and my garden is my passion. I volunteer as a Master Gardener on Saturdays at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden,” she says. She also volunteers at the Wild Bird Sanctuary.
Nature inspires her work, including her choice of the semiprecious stones she calls “Mother Nature’s jewels” to the findings and metal stampings of leaves, fronds, starfish, seashells, birds and flowers that accent her pieces. “I also make essential oil jewelry using lava beads, which absorb oils,” she says.
Ask the right questions; find the right answers • Hackney’s skills from her work in customer service translated to the jewelry business, especially in the areas of problem solving and negotiations.
But she wasn’t prepared for the legal aspects of how to start a business, and for the record-keeping and essential paperwork she would need to learn. She contacted the office of Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
“They helped me get started,” she says. Through the SBDC she learned the basics of business taxes, the ins and outs of social media and mainstream media publicity. “They continue to be a great resource for me,” she says. “It isn’t all fun and games in a creative business. I spend about 20-percent of my time making things. The remaining 80-percent of my time is work.”
Now, I can work as little or as much as I like. I’m a one-woman show — salesperson, accountant, product manager, purchasing agent, designer, inventor and shipping manager — I do it all.”
Taking it to the streets and the internet • Hackney sells at select art fairs, through her Queen Beedz Etsy store online, and at Restoration Alley in Ellisville, a unique retail store that sells only handmade goods. The store also books classes and holds events in its space.
Hackney connected with Jenna Jahn, the owner of Restoration Alley, not only through a shared love of beautifully designed jewelry, but in the details of business as well.
“She keeps the inventory of each artist on spreadsheets. She posts regularly on Instagram and Facebook. She contacts me twice a month about what’s going on with my pieces.” Jahn’s level of business acumen impressed Hackney. “She jived with my brain,” Hackney says. “It’s a good experience for me.”
Focus on the future • Hackney’s future plans include expanding her retail presence in and around St. Louis. She also wants to develop better packaging and presentation materials for her line.
Although Lady Bug Beads in Webster Groves has closed since she made her first bracelets there, she’s discovered other outlets for high-quality materials, such as the Bead Place in Fairview Heights.
She’s is planning a studio in her basement so she can reclaim her house. “The coolest thing about my business is making people happy with my pieces,” she says. I’ve met so many new people, and made new friends; it’s been a great experience,” she says.Queen Beedz
Designer • Susan Hackney
Age • 62
Home • Granite City
What she makes • Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, beaded bookmarks and more created with semi-precious gemstones, Swarovski crystals and pearls with sterling silver and gold findings.
Where to buy • Restoration Alley in Ellisville; at the Women’s Expo on June 29 at Kirkwood Community Center; on Etsy
How much • $15 to $120 for items in her line; $150 to $200 for custom work