While making jewelry from the comfort of your home may seem like a hobby to most, Southeastern marketing junior Callie Fulmer turned her dream into a reality.
The 21-year-old Ponchatoula native is the proprietor of Fringe With Benefits, an earring line with a cult following.
“It’s a simple story. I saw something and said, I could do that. And I did it,” Fulmer said.
Always up for a DIY project, she had the idea while out boutique shopping to replicate a pair of fringe earrings she saw in a store.
“Fringe earrings have become pretty popular, and I’m very into the DIY scene, so obviously I wanted to try to make them on my own,” she said. “So I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some supplies, brought them to my boyfriend Tony’s apartment (whom now manages the financial side, store website and email interaction) and started making them.”
Her boyfriend suggested to start selling them, and after a bit of hesitation, she decided to take the plunge, pick the first name she thought of (with a pun, no less) and create a website.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I didn’t exactly know it would become a business or really anything at all. I really just thought I would make some and sell it to my friends and give them away as gifts or something to have some fun. It’s turned into a lot, it’s crazy. Eventually it just became something,” Fulmer said.
It’s no surprise that Fulmer has learned important business skills to complement her marketing curriculum. Beginning with a “fake it until you make it” attitude, she has cultivated her following on her social media and inside 17 boutiques in six different states—and counting.
“Callie’s earrings are one of my favorites in my jewelry collection. They’re so much fun to pair with any outfit, dressy or casual, and I always get compliments on them,” said Dana DiPiazza, a junior communication major at Southeastern. “One of my favorite parts about her business is her Instagram. I love social media, and she does it right on both her personal and business page. Her style is worth noticing.”
Tori Hoover, owner of Obsession Boutique and Tailored Clothing and Home in Hammond, carries Fringe With Benefits at Obsession. A fellow entrepreneur herself, she notices the local support and recognition Fulmer has received and praises her for all of her success.
“Her earrings have done very well at Obsession,” Hoover said. “Callie has done a great job at building her brand. We carry similar earrings too, but they don’t do nearly as well because the quality of Fringe With Benefits earrings is far superior. My customers who have bought the earrings are Hammond locals who follow Callie personally and know her success story. So I believe by purchasing her earrings, they take pride in knowing they are supporting a local entrepreneur.”
Fulmer usually communicates with businesses through social media, and she hasn’t had to sell too much of her brand up to this point. In a “like it or you don’t” decisioning factor with fashion, her line’s appeal to people has not been much of a challenge, and boutiques are quick to take notice of her rise and strategic planning.
“It’s all about moving your inventory and social media helps me be very strategic with that. I’ve learned the value in how to space things out instead of putting things up all at once,” she said.
Taking about 20 minutes to make a set of earrings, she makes the personal orders and has a few women in New York to help her out with business orders. What helps Fulmer through the planning, order filling and daily tasks of a business owner is her undeniable love of fashion. At just four years old, she learned to sew with her grandmother and took classes with her.
“I used to make clothes for my pets, and I’ve watched every episode of Project Runway. I don’t remember not loving clothes or making things. It’s a good way to express yourself,” Fulmer said.
Entrepreneurship, along with her passion for fashion, has been a major influence for her since the beginning. Fulmer’s father Mike Fulmer, owns Berryland Campers in Ponchatoula and has been her biggest mentor throughout the whole process.
“At first, I didn’t think my dad and I were anything alike. But I find more and more that I’m calling him for advice and answers. He’s been really helpful for anything and everything. He’s the best mentor I could have,” she proudly said.
Always knowing she wanted to work for herself, she feels that no matter what happens, the skills she has learned can easily transition into the next stage in her life, whenever that might be.
As for now, Fulmer manages a full school schedule with the demands of a business effortlessly. Recently, she hosted a pop-up shop at Pottery Barn in Baton Rouge, as well as one during downtown Hammond’s 22nd Annual Hot August Night.
“When you’re doing something for yourself, I could be up at 2 a.m. working or checking emails in between classes,” she said. “It’s an all day type of thing for me. It’s my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Her advice for aspiring business owners boils down to two simple things: passion and love.
“Choose something that you love, because there is no way you can fail. Better yet, choose something that you do when you procrastinate. For me, when I procrastinate homework, I look at clothes online or look at trends. Making my jewelry and knowing I’m in fashion makes it not feel like work,” she said. “My dad always told me to do what I love and make it work in your life.”
Looking into the future, Fulmer will be launching a limited edition pink earring for the month of October, with all proceeds going towards breast cancer research. By the end of the year, she hopes to be in up to 30 boutiques nationwide and create new product styles.
“Even if I don’t become the next Kendra Scott, I think my main goal is to continue to work for myself and make my own creative decisions. I think I’m on the right track,” she said.