By Kristen Hunt
As students at the College face midterm season, one business owner continues to run her Instagram shop, Earrings By Ria amidst course work, studying and contributing to numerous student organizations.
Ria Dones, a junior nursing student had a simple idea — make earrings. This idea soon turned into a business during winter break, when she had the freedom to invest time and money into creating and advertising products through her shop’s social media page.
“I always told myself, oh, when I have time, or when I have some extra money,” said Dones. “It just so happened that over winter break I was really bored and just had a lot of time available.”
The clientele for Earrings By Ria began as friends and family who posted and reposted the shop’s products on their own social media page to help advertise. The demand quickly grew, and now Dones receives orders from different states.
“I’ve used the Instagram sponsorships before, so, while it was initially targeted to friends, I started to get orders from other states and they would post in on their story and show their friends, so, that’s kind of the main way it goes around, which has been really effective,” Dones said.
During winter break, Dones spent almost all of her time making earrings — mass producing different designs by hand to reduce time spent on each order. When it comes to the process of hand crafting her earrings, Dones said she purchases the charms from bigger companies, and uses jewelry making tools and glue to assemble each pair.
Her favorite part of the earring-making process, she said, is the packaging. Each package includes the earrings sealed in custom Earrings By Ria packaging, along with a heartfelt note.
“I try to make my packaging really personal, like I have my own business stickers and on my instagram I have the same color scheme going on,” she said. “Then I add a little message and ship it on its way.”
The shop offers a wide variety of dangling earrings at affordable prices. From snake, to fruit, to bubble tea earrings, Dones showcases her creativity through the handcrafted jewelry, and said she never releases products she does not truly love.
“I definitely make earrings for myself, too, ‘cause I’m like oh my gosh, I want them for myself!” said Dones.
The nursing student said her favorite design is the “love letters” from her Valentine’s Day collection.
With the midpoint of the semester adding a heavier workload, she spends whatever free time she can contributing to Earrings by Ria, but she said she has not had the same amount of time as she did during the extended winter break.
“[During winter break] I worked on it every single day, I would package things every single day and I would put out a lot of new things pretty regularly.” said Dones. “So, I was very aware of the fact that when I would come back to school I wouldn’t be able to work as often, and honestly I wish I could work on it a little bit more. School has been a little crazy.”
The jewelry crafter’s work ethic is not only evident in Earrings By Ria, but in her everyday academic and on-campus involvement. Dones is a part of the Student Nurses Association and the College’s Panhellenic committee. She’s the Vice President of Operations at Kappa Delta, the performance chair of TCNJ Barkada, and an orientation leader.
“I feel like I’m always just running around doing stuff for different things!” said Dones amidst laughter, “but it’s very rewarding.”
Dones said dealing with the heavy course load inherent with being a nursing major helps her to understand time management in regards to her business.
“Obviously business and nursing are very different things, but I feel like the one thing that did cross over was time management, or just pacing yourself,” said Dones. “When I first started my business I was only focusing on that, and then I realized that you have to pace yourself or else you’ll feel burnt out. I think definitely nursing and studying for my nursing classes has taught me to pace myself and be patient.”
When Dones isn’t busy with on campus life, academics or Earrings By Ria, you can find her participating in different types of activities at home — like exercising or cooking.
“I love to cook, that was my quarantine thing!” said Dones, “It was a good stress relief thing because you put so much time into something, and it’s a rewarding process.”
While managing school and everyday life with her business, Dones hopes to run Earrings by Ria as a way to express creativity, and spread happiness amongst her customers.
Visit @earringsbyria on Instagram to check out her earrings.