This Women’s History Month, we’re putting a well-deserved spotlight on female founders in the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle space. Next up, Chelsey Bartrum, the founder of Starling. The jewelry brand seeks to create high-quality, ethically-made, and personal pieces at an attainable price point. Bartrum, inspired by her own journey to become a mother, pays special attention to creating mama and mini heirloom bracelets, which quickly put the company on the map. Here, she tells The Daily about the backstory to the brand and what she wants to teach her own daughter via her work ethic.
What did you initially study and where did you begin your career?
I studied science in college. The plan was actually to go to dental school, but it just never felt 100% right for me. I actually took my first metal-smithing class in the 8th grade and throughout high school. I got back into jewelry after an extended trip to Mexico a few years after graduating college. It kind of clicked that dentistry and metal-smithing have a lot of similarities and use many of the same tools! My first job in jewelry was apprenticing for a master goldsmith in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Was launching a jewelry brand always in the cards?
Kind of! I’ve always drawn and made my own designs, but I enjoyed working with and for other designers. At one of my last jobs I was really encouraged to go out on my own; kind of pushed actually! But I think I needed that push, otherwise I may have let fear hold me back.
What’s your earliest memory involving jewelry?
I love this question! My grandmother had a drawer of vintage and custom jewelry in her guest bedroom. It was always the first place I ran when we visited. A magical treasure chest. I would take every piece out, carefully inspecting it, sometimes wearing as much of it as possible to dinner.
What led to the creation of Starling and what message did you hope to get across with the brand?
I launched the brand in 2016 with the goal of creating wearable heirloom pieces for all ages. I hope our designs inspire and connect people, taking on a meaning of their own for the wearer.
How have your personal experiences shaped what the brand is all about?
We started very heavily doing mother daughter matching bracelets and baby-focused branding. Going through my own fertility struggles for several years made that positioning really hard for me, and although we never changed our products I backed off that messaging. Now after having my daughter, I’m trying to find a balance. I love making bracelet sets for mamas and their little ones; it’s such a special gift. But if you are on your own hard fertility journey or are happily child-free, I still want you to feel welcome. Jewelry, after all, is for everyone.
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You create pieces for people of all ages—was this the plan since day one or something that evolved as the brand grew?
It was always part of the brand. As a child that loved jewelry and someone that is so sentimental, pieces of jewelry from my childhood are so important to me. My hope is that your Starling designs stay with you throughout your life, taking on memories and meaning and that you still want to wear them as an adult.
What values are important to you?
Connection, creativity, honesty, and sustainability. Non-negotiables are making everything in the U.S., having great working relationships with everyone on our team and treating every customer like we would our closest friends.
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What marks Starling apart?
I hope it’s the design, quality of our pieces, and our customer service. I love offering a collection of heirloom pieces in baby to adult sizes and matching bracelet sets for mama and minis.
What’s the hardest thing about running your own brand?
Right now it’s organizing my time, boundaries, and turning off at night, I am trying to learn all of those things!
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own brand?
Hearing stories from our amazing customers about what their Starling pieces mean to them.
What lessons do you hope to teach your daughter through your work?
I hope she sees how rewarding it can be to build something you dreamed up and, more importantly, that however you spend your time it’s important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone sometimes.
How do you stay motivated and inspired every day?
Some days it’s harder than others, right?! My family, gratitude for the little things, and, of course, getting to look at beautiful sparkly things helps too. We also have a board of all of our customers’ thank you notes and emails; I re-read them all the time.
What does 2021 hold for you and Starling?
So many things! Personally I’m trying to figure out how to slow time and enjoy every second I can with my family. For Starling, we are doing some exciting collaborative pieces with people I’ve admired for a long time, a few new collections, applying for some big certifications. And this week we are launching something really new for us, a capsule collection of one-of-a-kind birthstone rings! I wanted to try pieces with larger stones, not as delicate but still simplistic, in the vein of minimal maximalism.
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