TAMPA — Gabriela Young always loved art and crafts and working with her hands. But she never thought it would lead to her own business.
As a senior biomedical science major at the University of South Florida, she has plans of attending pharmacy school after graduation.
“I never thought of the business side because I was very introverted for a long time,” she said, “and I didn’t think business was suited for me.”
But turns out she was wrong.
In high school in her hometown of Naples, she began making macrame bracelets using knotting techniques for her friends. She initially just did it because she loved making them and her friends loved wearing them, but her mom convinced her to start making something out of it.
This year Young, 26, started selling her macrame bracelets. Then she discovered she could make earrings out of polymer clay. She began making jewelry she always wanted but couldn’t find.
“I’ve gone to many stores looking for a certain type of earring and couldn’t find it,” she said, before describing what she wanted.
“Big, bulky, but very neutral-toned. I loved big earrings but they were always crazy, bright colors and I’m very neutral. I was able to combine those and make earrings that I always wanted, and people seem to be on the same vibe.”
That “vibe” became the staple for her business named Earth and Ivory, reflecting its collection of earth-tone, neutral colors like white, ivory, beige and tan that come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
But making them is a strenuous, time-consuming process.
She spends up to four hours daily preparing for a market by purchasing clay from local stores like Michaels or JOANN Fabrics and Crafts in different colors, then cutting them, making holes, sanding and buffing them to make them smooth.
Young then combines the clay to make colors that the stores do not have and then uses a pasta machine to flatten it out.
“It’s the only thing that works,” she said. “There are those rollers that people use for dough, but it didn’t give it the thickness I needed. The pasta machine gives it different diameters.”
It didn’t take long before her business caught the eye of curators with Tampa Bay’s popular Indie Flea market.
Young was an avid attendee of the St. Petersburg market before it added Tampa’s Armature Works to its roster. When it came to Tampa she applied, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
But a few days after applying, Young learned she was accepted.
For her first show on July 21, she prepared up to 60 pairs of earrings to sell. To her surprise, she only came home with nine pairs left. She had nearly quadrupled the $100 she paid for the space in sales.
Indie Flea brand manager and curator Jamie O’Berry said Earth and Ivory’s success was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
The Indie Flea typically receives up to 500 applications and can only accept 100 vendors. And many of those tend to be jewelry, plants, CBD oil, and vintage housewares and clothing.
Young was originally waitlisted until someone dropped out and Indie Flea needed to fill a space.
“A lot of times when we have young companies apply there’s not much out there so we’re taking a chance," O’Berry said. “But Earth and Ivory brings something unique and different that our other makers aren’t doing."
O’Berry said she’s sure others will catch on, but Earth and Ivory is an “OG” in this area. Young, meanwhile, was surprised with the result.
“I did not think it would do as well as it did," Young said. “I was just happy to make over what I paid for my space. I didn’t think people would really like what I was introducing. As a creator that’s your biggest fear.”
Since conquering her fear, she has been with Indie Flea for five months now. This Sunday will mark her third Indie Flea, then she will travel back to her hometown of Naples to sell her jewelry at a market there next on Nov. 23.