The face behind the brand and Utah native Alona (Harper) James. Get to know her as we talk about what inspired her to start Harper & Teal – with continuing to work in Information Technology to being a mom of 2; we learn the reasons why she began this journey of becoming a business owner.
What is your inspiration behind Harper & Teal?
This is a small question with a big heartfelt answer, so I will try to keep it short and sweet. I had a fascination with running my own company since I was young. It started with my compassion for architecture while my family and I lived in Japan. I wanted to build my own female-based architecture company and that drive drove me into retail. Working at Talbot’s in my 20’s I had a knack for clothing customers and accessorizing them to perfection! After 2008, things started to slow down in the retail space and my hours were reduced until I was let go and eventually pursued a career in Information Technology. IT had consumed me mainly cybersecurity and I enjoy every bit of learning in this field.
Wait? So, what does IT and Jewelry have in common?
Well, no similarities, (unless its 3D printed jewelry) yet the thoughts of running my own company kept playing in my mind. In 2014 I moved to Georgia while working fulltime for General Dynamics, being a mom, and studying everything that I could about business. I joined SBA and graduated the NxtEntrepreneur course to understand business in depth. I will not tell you a lie- it was tough juggling it all, but well worth the time and knowledge. From 2014-2016 I will admit there was a little fear of the unknown to get started, I did not want to fail. And it was not until 2017 that I said, “if I fail – at least I tried, but I’m never giving up”. After a year of preparation Harper & Teal launched in June 2018. Today, I continue to work in IT, recently graduated with a BA in Business Management all while running Harper & Teal – but I do have my husband and two little helpers who are wide-eyed to assist (you may see them from time to time).
Who is the inspiration for your Jewelry and Scholarship Program?
The inspiration behind Harper & Teal is my aunt Edwina, and grandparents Georgia and William Harper. My aunt would take me to this one particular jewelry store in Atlanta, full of beading and nick-knacks. From there I would create to my heart's content. Ladies from church would ask about designing pieces exclusively for them to fixing or repurposing jewelry - I even had one customer ask to repurpose her wedding jewelry into bracelets for her daughters. With a love for architecture, I was able to connect that passion into designing jewelry. (Still love architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright)
My grandparents are the reason behind our Sparkle.Inspire Scholarship program that will roll out in the fall of 2023. Throughout my educational career, my grandparents were always asking how I was doing in school. I would tell them all the accolades and they kept pushing me to continue down the path to learn more; their motto was, to never stop learning, I am grateful to continue to learn and reach new heights. With their compassion for me to succeed I want to be able to show that same giving spirit through our scholarship. Learn more about our program here.
Harper & Teal is one of the ways that I can give back and say thank you to my aunt and grandparents who have since gone on.
What is your role in Harper & Teal?
From customer service, photography, website management, social media marketing, to shipping – I currently wear all the hats for Harper & Teal – and honestly, I am excited that I am. This time gives me preparation to learn and establish the ins-and-outs of my business and later expand and bring on some amazing talent.
Is it ever overwhelming running a business alone?
I knew that when I started that I was going to be a solo-preneur, (not forever) does that come with challenges - yes, but I cannot say that it is overwhelming. Running a business has been a dream of mine. It holds my family name - so I cannot give up. Every day I am learning how to automate and better my business. I also have two little helpers that assist too.
Since starting Harper & Teal, who or what excites you in your business.
Knowing that you are visiting my little space on the internet and ordering from our store is exciting! When we went live on June 22, 2018, our first order was in 42 seconds. A customer had her cart ready from her wish list and placed her order soon as we opened. That excitement I will never forget! From then on, we have connected with so many people and continue to give advice to budding entrepreneurs. From time to time I can catch our daughters sketching pieces and modeling their clay/playdough into jewelry asking to incorporate some of their designs for Harper & Teal. Although they are 8 & 7 – it is the sweetest thing to see your children invested in what you love.
What are some of your favorite pieces at Harper & Teal?
Ok, this may be tough because I love everything we have. I would have to say the Marcia Hoops because they are so lightweight and colorful – I am absolutely a sucker for anything colorful. Also, t-shirts with a meaningful saying are my jam, so the First Things First, I’m the Realist t-shirt is my favorite.