Killian Rieder, a former designer for Polo, had a modest sideline designing custom beads at the jewelry store she and husband, Jeff Julkowski, had in New York. Then at a big jewelry show, her bead sales were brisk. She and Julkowski took note of consumers’ growing interest in goods they can design themselves and personalize—everything from cars to jeans to athletic shoes—and ditched their retail store to do something much bigger.
They founded Chamilia in 2002, a wholesale business that sells beads for high-end design-it-yourself jewelry. Minnesota natives, they moved the company to Minneapolis in 2007.
Now, customers at retail stores in 11 countries create their own unique jewelry by buying Chamilia bracelets (most $50 to $70, though they range as high as $1,000) and mixing and matching Rieders’ beads (most $27 to $60 apiece, though some cost as much as $300). Rieders’ designs are rendered in gold, silver, Italian glass, Swarovski crystal, and semiprecious stones. Scheherazade and seven other local retailers carry Chamilia.
There’s recurring business, as customers often fill bracelets gradually by collecting beads or getting them as gifts over time. “We’ve doubled our revenue every year since inception,” Rieder says.