As an artist turned jewelry designer and new mom in 2014, Jenny Luckett discovered teething necklaces were seriously lacking beautiful, thoughtfully designed options. So, naturally she created them herself, eventually turning it into a full-time business venture. January Moon is now a full line of accessories inspired by both style and function for stylish moms and their little ones. She shared her story with us on how it all started, what she'd tell her younger self and how she balances motherhood, marriage and running a business.
How long have you been designing and making teething jewelry?
I started making teething necklaces when my son Shep was teething, 3 years ago. It took 2 years to develop the product, and I’ve officially been in business for 15 months now (with a three month maternity leave).
What were you doing before?
I was a designer and artisan at Judith Bright, a local Nashville jewelry designer that specializes in semi precious stones, wire wrapping and hammering. I worked for her for 7 years.
How did you learn how to do this?
I've always been crafty. Jewelry was not actually a skill that I had developed, but when she hired me, she hired me knowing I was capable of figuring it out and learning fast. My jewelry experience was stuff you did as a kid like stringing beads. Before that, my husband and I painted murals together and worked in galleries on 5th Ave. I've had jobs in the arts for a long time and had been trying to find one that was reliable, one I could grow in. Jewelry became that opportunity.
I was introduced to this concept that, much like Nascar drivers have sponsor logos on their outfits, that in your professional life, you have people's names on you who have helped you along the way. Do you consider Judith one of those people for you?
Definitely, she took a big chance with me because up until that point I had been doing freelance, very undisciplined, very unstructured art jobs. I was kind of scrappy about it. I had been floating around looking for a good fit.
Do you feel like she saw things in you that you didn't even see?
She gave me a chance to learn, and she gave me a lot of responsibilities when I started showing that I was capable of handling them. I grew so much. We started off in her house having open studio days, then she opened a store in the Green Hills Mall and she now has a studio/store on 12th South. She's also opened stores in Atlanta, Birmingham and Los Angeles. So I witnessed and participated in the progression of seeing her move from a home based business into multiple retail spaces. I got to see first hand the change of what that's like for a company. Also, when she opened the store in Los Angeles, she sent Mike and I out there for 8 months to establish and manage the store.
Did you go to college for any of this, or did you go for fine art?
I've always done a ton of crafting, bead looming, macrame, sewing ... I’m very capable with my hands, fine detail, composition, and color. Those skills have always come to me naturally. But then in college, I felt so insecure about my role as an artist because the focus was on high concepts that seemed to tend towards serious and heavy subjects. That never felt right to me. So I went through a phase of thinking, “I guess I can't be an artist because I don't have anything that I need to say.” Then when the makers movement started, I was like, that's where I fit because I can make things and I understand art and composition and colors and shapes — I can do that. I love that. That's where I feel my strengths lie.
What are the unexpected things that you're like, “Oh, I hate this”?
Social media. I'm not surprised because I didn't like it before. But the intensity of it and constantly having to have content and make it relatable or interesting or have any sense of purpose is difficult. Because there are definitely times when nothing's happening and you don't have anything to say.
How does balancing being a mom work for you?
It's tricky. I actually went to a conference called Be In Good Company hosted by Mother Magazine. They featured panels of female mom entrepreneurs powerhouses like Clare Vivier, chef Liz Pruitt of Tartine, Joy Cho of Oh Joy!, and Bob Bland, the co-founder of the Women's March on Washington. They discussed the different obstacles of work/life balance and it sounds like nobody's got it figured out. Everybody is trying the best they can — some days are successful and some days you throw up your hands. Like a stomach virus goes through the family and well, that's it. I can't do anything about this. We're just going to hunker down and get through this and then I'll pick up on work when I can. I view late nights as my work hours and I’m very protective of my time, meaning…I barely do anything social at night. Life is just a lot of piecemeal and a lot of planning. And then a lot of not sleeping.
But it fulfills everything I've ever wanted to do and I'm doing it for myself. Sure the balance is insane, but I get to be present with my kids. I have a lot of freedom because I can make it work how I need to make it work. Like Wednesday is just not a workday because Shep doesn’t have school. We go to the zoo and then I stay up and work at night. Pretty much every night I stay up and work, but especially on Wednesdays.
I think for any mom that has her own thing going, it's so important for them to have a partner that will step in.
Oh absolutely, yes. My husband Mike is phenomenal. He's really supportive. When I did my first Porter Flea Holiday Market, he was up with me until three in the morning helping me build the booth and displays.
Also, it’s really about communication, preparation and expectations. For instance, when I have a big week coming up, I just tell him, “OK, I'm sorry, I'm not going to be making any meals and I'm going to be really busy. It's going to be a hard week for you, but after that I'll come back.” I am so fortunate to have a husband that is patient, reliable, supportive and an incredible craftsman.
When your son was teething, what moment made you decide, “I'm going to start this thing”? How did it dawn on you to do this?
I bought a teething necklace and thought it was kind of awful. I knew there had to be something better and so I started looking and there really wasn’t. Every option looked like a toy and was poorly designed with cheap materials. I knew I had the skill set and experience as a mom to make it better.
At that point I started designing, I used vintage jewelry supplies, tassels, chain and really anything I wanted, which was really fun. I was invited to show my prototypes at a children’s clothing lines launch party and I got great reception. I was so excited to start a business. Then my dad, who's a businessman, was like, “Oh no, absolutely not. If this is actually something you want to do, you need to completely understand the safety and legal ramifications of this field. You need to do this right.” That was 4 years ago. It took 2 years to check off all the boxes and be able to launch.
What would you say to a younger version of yourself?
Oh, be way more productive in your twenties! I've always known I have an entrepreneurial spirit, but I didn't know all the work that it took to have a business. It would've been great to have dug in deeper when I was younger, learn more things and put myself in uncomfortable situations to grow. There are so many skill sets that I wish I would've been working on instead of doing jobs that allowed me to just coast. Jobs that didn't really push me very hard.
It doesn't even have to be in your field. Now I realize that sales are really important. Marketing is really important. Finances are really important. Knowing how to manage people is really important. There are so many things that I wish I knew more about because the creativity part of it is innate. It's everything else about my business that might do me in. I really wish that I would've been sharpening my skills when I was younger. I’m now kind of jumping in a little late and I’m having to figure it out fast.
What's your favorite kind of wine?
Vinho Verde. But, really, I just love wine.