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As a nine-year-old in Michigan, Jill Golden sold beaded safety-pin bracelets to a local tween store. Her childhood passion led her into the luxury goods business, with stints at Cartier and David Yurman. In 2003, she landed what seemed like a dream job in the beauty industry, as an assistant vice-president at Lancôme, buying advertising and negotiating partnerships.
Golden never stopped designing, and in 2004, while on a jury duty lunchbreak, she registered a tax ID number for a jewelry company called Flutter NYC. (The name comes from her love of travel, which she calls "fluttering.") Three years later she launched www.flutternyc.com and her business began growing through word of mouth. When Lancôme offered her a lateral move in 2008, Golden, now 38, decided it was time to leave corporate life and turn her childhood fascination into a career. "It was the perfect time," she says. "It was a calculated risk, but still a risk."
Golden lessened the risk with shrewd publicity. On the advice of a magazine publisher she hired a PR firm that had strong relationships with jewelry editors. Getting their blessing proved a smart move in a recession: Her jewelry has since appeared in fashion bibles Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Elle, which "gave store buyers and consumers confidence," she says. Golden sees her customer as a stylish, independent woman "not driven by one designer or celebrity." Her pieces, made of materials ranging from oxidized brass to vintage German stones and carnelian, sell for as much as $600 at high-end boutiques including Harvey Nichols in Dubai.
The one-bedroom Manhattan apartment that doubles as her work space (after $8,000 in remodeling) is leagues away from Lancôme's sleek offices, yet Golden measures her biggest transition not in square feet but in inches: from the four-inch stilettos she used to don at Lancome to the 1/2-inch flats she wears now. Within the next year she aims to lease a studio space and hire her first employees. "I loved the industry but the corporate politics got me down," she says. "I'm a lot happier now."
Weekly work hours at Lancôme vs. Flutter NYC: 50 (plus two to four evening events) vs. 105 hours at Flutter
Rise in health care costs: From $1,188 at Lancôme to $5,820 at Flutter NYC
Cost of creating www.flutternyc.com: $10,000
Cost of printed materials (look books, mailers): $14,500 per year
Pieces of Flutter NYC jewelry made in April 2010: 1,500
Retail stores buying Flutter NYC jewelry in April 2010: 40
Price range of the jewelry: $95 (an oxidized brass ring) to $600 (a necklace with blue-green chalcedony stones)
Cost of leather and vintage brass to start making Spring 2011 line: $4,000 and $780, respectively
Membership cost to join Soho House, used for business meetings: $1,800
Number of employees: 0