How A Former ELLE Accessories Editor Found A Super New Career

by Eddie Roche

Former Elle accessories director Maria Dueñas Jacobs may have left the world of media, but her passion for a little sparkle is alive and well with her new children’s accessories brand inspired by her love of jewels. With the help of her three young daughters, she  launched Super Smalls, which brings a bit of mommy glam to the younger gen. She tells us how she created the line (prepare for cuteness ahead!) and what she misses about life in the Hearst Tower. 

Tell us a little bit about the line and what inspired you to come up with it.
Super Smalls is a feel good accessories brand that celebrates sparkle and is all about giving kids a “wow” experience that’s centered around play, sharing and self expression. The brand is inspired by glitzy, grown-up designs but created for a kid’s playful eye. In my former life as an accessories and jewelry editor, I was exposed to the most beautiful designs and brands that informed my style and helped shape my vision. As a mom of three, my daughters were never satisfied with the kid’s jewelry I bought for them and always wanted to play with mine instead, so that’s how the idea for Super Smalls was born— all in an effort to wow my 7-year-old!

That’s a good mom! Was doing a children’s line something you had always wanted to do?  
I’ve always had a bit of an inventor bug. I have come up with a dozen ideas that never made it past the “drawing on a napkin” phase. Everything I’ve ever dreamt up tends to be fashion or jewelry related —even in my younger years before I was working at Glamour and Elle. Sometimes I see something so genius, and I get jealous I didn’t invent it—like the behind-the door, mirrored jewelry organizer or [unrelated] the Scrub Daddy! So that’s a long-winded way of saying I’ve always wanted to make something, but I didn’t know it would be something in the kid’s space. Super Smalls was an organic and super happy evolution of trying to solve a problem for my kids.

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What have some of the most popular products been since launching?  
People love our sets! I think one of the most special aspects of the Super Smalls brand is that they are fully packaged gifts. The box, the branding and of course the jewelry is deliberate and created to truly surprise and delight. It’s intended to ‘WOW’ the parent and the child. The sparkle is major on every piece, but when you purchase a set, you get two to five pieces in one go—and that’s super exciting. You can find them on our website, supersmalls.com, and can also purchase through our Instagram @Super.Smalls.

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You obviously have a lot of friends in the media industry. How have they helped you launch?
I am so grateful to the friends who have supported me from the onset. In this industry, it can be very hard to know where to turn and having a network from my editor days was truly a godsend. I’ve always worked on the other side of the equation, where brands are coming to me for support or exposure. It was interesting and honestly humbling to sit on this side of the table, explaining my dream to my colleagues and asking for their feedback and support. My relationships definitely helped get those conversations started.

Tell me about the recent launch of the Fashion Week headband.
Well when you love jewelry as much as I do, you are always searching for new ways and places to add some sparkle. Launching Super Smalls gave me the opportunity to really go big on that sentiment, to add tons of jewels and style to everyday objects. The headband was a natural accessory to make “super” and add some shine. We take inspiration from high fashion, and this beauty is a nod to the major houses like Prada and Valentino. It’s also rooted in royal references and heirlooms. I love the idea that this can be worn by an adult and a kid. It’s actually really comfortable for both. My daughter Luna and I did a lot of super cute wear testing on this one! We made sure it doesn’t give you a headache, and it reflects light like a disco ball!

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I read you noticed your own kids love the “adult” accessories from mommy. Why do you think kids are so into the adult things?
I think children in general are always watching us and learning from us. I read somewhere that the way we speak becomes the way their internal voice could sound, and that stuck with me. Super Smalls has allowed me to open up a world of possibilities where Luna, my 7-year-old, can develop and discover an appetite for creation and the use of imagination. She always liked the real jewelry I wore, but I didn’t want it to end there. I asked her to help me make some for her and everyone like her, and that’s where we started.

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How do you want to see Super Smalls grow?
We are focusing on all things giftable. Perfect for gifting; made for play—that’s where we are headed. Our intention is to become the ultimate destination for kid’s gifts and accessories. We want to do all of the work for the parent and really wow the kid. We work really hard to overdeliver for both customers. We are developing toys, crafts, more accessories and jewelry and tons of shine and sparkle. Our focus is always to create things that set the imagination free. Super Smalls is for anyone and everyone, young at heart.

Do you miss anything about working in media?
I miss a lot of things about my editor days—most of all the camaraderie and the “office life,” which in media is always on-the-go. I love deadlines and goal setting, and as an editor, you are always searching and fixing things. You have to stay on top of changes and keep your eye sharp. It’s a challenge and an energy that I love.

How have you been juggling 3 kids at home and running the business? What’s been the best trick to keep yourself sane this year?
My best trick is to abandon the notion of perfection. We keep it a little silly in my house and that softens all of the cracks and imperfections and lightens our mood no matter the outcome. It’s important to know when to get serious, but otherwise, I try to keep it “Super Smalls,” which is to say, awesome but also a little funny.

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