Hilary Marino ’09 has always been driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. As a child, she sold homemade cookies to her neighbors, and as a teenager she sold jewelry on eBay. Where some people might have seen a simple hobby, she saw a business opportunity.
“In the summer of 2008, I was living in New York City, interning at Macys.com,” Marino says. “I went to the Young Designers Market, where handmade goods are sold, and I saw a lot of jewelry that looked simple but had very high price tags. My entrepreneurial drive kicked in: I said to myself, ‘I could do that!’”
Marino’s business blossomed when she developed the plan as a project for an entrepreneurship course in Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics. The CBE’s academically rigorous classes and multifaceted entrepreneurial training, combined with practical, hands-on experience from her internship, prepared Marino, a finance major, for success even before she graduated.
“I learned how much work really goes into starting a business,” she says, “like how to write business plans, proper marketing techniques, and how to carefully monitor finances, especially during the vital start-up period.”
A place on Etsy, and on Cape Cod
While still a senior, Marino started Hilary Caroline Jewelry to sell “haute handmade jewelry for every occasion.” She designs and makes the jewelry herself. From simple hairpins and post earrings made of colorful Lucite roses to elegant necklaces with gold chain and Swarovski pearls, the company sells a little bit of everything, under the tagline, “Modern vintage, fabulously feminine, nature inspired.” The pieces, many of which feature flowers and filigree, are available on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items, and in a boutique on Cape Cod.
Marino says the keys to her success are understanding Etsy and the tools it offers, and keeping customers happy by responding to their needs. She specializes in custom jewelry for brides-to-be and is especially proud of her Garden Cuff bracelet, which was featured in Get Married magazine.
After she graduated from Lehigh in 2009, Marino returned to New York City and Macys.com, where she works as an assistant planner. But she still enjoys running her own jewelry business.
“Brides often keep in touch with me and send pictures of their wedding party wearing the jewelry,” she says. “I love being able to personally connect to my customers in this kind of way. It is really gratifying and makes all the time and effort worth it.”