Aware of their approaching utility bills and inspired by the thought of putting pumpkins, batman figurines and doll shoes on their ears, three roommates decided to start an online shop for handmade earrings.
University of Kansas sophomores Kaja Wakefield, Sadie Putnam and Emma Olinger are the artists behind the new shop, Putlingfield Manor. Olinger and Wakefield are friends from high school, and Putnam met the pair through classes in 2019.
“A lot of the motivation was that it was fun and we needed money for utilities,” Putnam says.“I was gone for a weekend, and I saw pictures of them [Wakefield and Olinger] making stuff. When I got back they were like, ‘Sadie, we started a business. We’re gonna sell earrings, do you want to help?’”
The friends initially knew very little about the jewelry business, but were driven by their love of art and the joys of crafting together. They are committed to selling one-of-a-kind pieces.
“We just winged it. The things we are putting on earrings aren’t usually made to be put on earrings, so we had to be creative,” Wakefield says.
The jewelry the trio subsequently created is unique to them and their small local business.
“They aren’t earrings that you would go into H&M and find. They’re funky,” Olinger says.
Putlingfield Manor offers themed earring collections, which currently include: back-to-school, reptile and doll accessories. The jewelry is made with college budgets in mind, but the low price does not limit their generosity. Each jewelry shipment comes with additional artistic offerings.
“Most of our earrings are $3. The bigger ones, like the doll shoes and the reptiles, are $6. Shipping is free, and we send cute little art and candy in each order,” Olinger says.
Their personal tastes have shaped the store's selection. Each themed collection includes earrings of different sizes, colors and models.
“Emma likes to make larger earrings,” Putnam says. “I prefer smaller earrings, so I am a voice of reason for making sure we also have smaller earrings for people who don’t want giant pieces. Kaja is somewhere in the middle.”
Putlingfield Manor’s customer base began as close friends and family, but has now expanded. This is partly due to their creative promotional tactics, including a promotional video the trio recently made for the brand. Most of their promotion ideas are catered towards their target audience: college students.
“A lot of our earrings are more college student focused, we make things we think they’d like to wear,” Putnam says. “That's why we post a lot on our Instagram. We have a link on our social media to our website where the earrings can be purchased.”
Freshman Meg Farney, a political science major from Andover, recently made a purchase from Putlingfield Manor. Farney is an avid fan of custom jewelry.
“I was very satisfied with their communication and how nice they were,” Farney says. “I got some really cute lego earrings, erasers and high heel doll shoes. The earrings are really cheap, but still great quality.”
Putlingfield Manor is still in its early stages, but the roommates have many plans for the future, and are excited about growing their business.
“We're making a new collection soon. We’re also thinking about making some TikToks,” says Wakefield.