By Jeb Bing
Mommy jewelry? Now I know!Uploaded: Apr 3, 2009
I've never been a shopper for mommy jewelry, but maybe I'll start. There's a lot of demand for these personalized mini-tags and necklaces, making and selling them seem like a lot of fun and it's apparently a good way to pay the bills in these tough economic times.
Just ask Erin Costello-Buck and her longtime close friend and neighbor Ali Sekany-Krebs. Both come from large Pleasanton families--the Costellos and Sekanys, who were well known in the 1990s at Amador Valley High School, where Ali graduated in 1995, although Erin broke the tradition by opting for Foothill, where she graduated in 1996. The two women then went to St. Mary's College, with Ali earning a degree in business and Erin in art. They married, moved to homes just a block apart in San Ramon and started families.
Ali and her husband Brian, a financial planner with Waddell & Reed in Concord, have two children: Tanner, 4, and Tayler, 2. Erin and her husband Marques, who works for Old Republic Title Company on Main Street, have four: Branden, 8; Ashley, 6; Tyler, 4; and Sienna, 2. So you'd think these families would be settled in their neighborhood, busy with homemaking and school, except for the frequent trips they make to friends and family in Pleasanton. Not quite.
A fan of mommy jewelry, Erin didn't like what was being offered in local stores and knew she could do better. Capitalizing on on her art studies background and Ali's business acumen, the two launched their own line of Swank Mommy Necklaces a year and a half ago and they've struck pay dirt, literally.
Operating out of their homes, the two are taking more than 50 orders a day from as far as Australia and Canada with retailers calling to ask to sell their mommy jewelry in stores up and down the West Coast, in Texas and in the East. A colorful website features scores of different types of products ranging from a dime-size tag to a popular, versatile necklace with a silver birthstone disc that sells for $60. Celebrity Milla Jovovich has one with her daughter's name Ever personalized vertically, which is pictured on the website, and now her fiance Paul has his own. It turns out that mommy jewelry is popular with men, too, though more in the form of dog tags that hang around the neck.
If you don't know much about mommy jewelry (I didn't), Erin and Ali also have turned to Facebook and Twitter to promote it. Just Googling the product brings up scores of firms and styles with Swank now a leader. Erin is so astounded by the success of what started as an idea that kept her awake at night that she sees similar opportunities for stay-at-home moms everywhere. Success found us, she exclaims, after downloading an email from a wedding party that wants special necklaces for their flower girls, all personalized with names, dates and the occasion. Celebrities including Brooke Burke and Kimberly Quaid are regular customers and several have talked about their unusual necklaces on Oprah. With orders pouring in, the two expect Ali's garage stock, where they design and make the jewelry, to be sold out before Mother's Day.
Erin's determination to follow through on her business concept no doubt came from her grandfather, Everett (Skip) Mohatt, the legendary civics teacher and coach at Amador who died last Nov. 21. I remember visiting with Skip and Erin at his last book-signing at Towne Center Books on Main Street.
An outspoken and award winning "We the People" teacher, Mr. Mohatt was also known for his demands on students to do more than they ever thought possible. My son Chris was on his "We the People" team that won the national championship in Washington, D.C. in 1995, the same year both he and Ali graduated from Amador.
Skip's wife Joyce took magazine stories about Erin and her new jewelry business to read to him in his hospital room in Auburn, where Joyce still lives. Skip quickly gave his granddaughter his customary thumbs up for a job well done. His endorsement was another important notch in the career achievements being enjoyed by Erin Costello-Buck and Ali Sekany-Krebs. For more information, check out http://www.swankmommy.com