Lyfe Style Win | WCW- Carolyn Healy
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WCW- Carolyn Healy

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, jewelry advertisements are everywhere! So many people are shopping for gifts for the ones they love. If you’re still looking for some fabulous options, look no further!


In 2009, my client Carolyn came in for her hair appointment. She sat down and proudly told me she had quit her 9-5. We’d talked about her love for jewelry design and I was so very happy for her when she decided to pull the trigger!

Since then her jewelry has been my go to gifts for my girls. Whenever I need something for someone, I know I’ll find exactly the right gift from Substance Designs!


Meet Carolyn Healy- Owner of Substance Designs 


When did you decide you wanted to start your business?

I had a terrible day at work in my IT job.  One of those days where you get home from work and you are hours late, tired, stressed, and mad at the world.  I went to sleep that night knowing I needed something else in life.  The next day, I signed up for a jewelry class.  I had been doing stained glass for years, and had dabbled in jewelry making woven beaded bracelets when I was younger.  A month or two after taking the class, I was working on making some earrings on a trip to Austin, and the flight attendant bought them, on the spot.  My first sale! 

At the same time, I was fortunate to have an ex-coworker and friend who had heard that I was making jewelry, and offered to set up a coffee meeting with a buyer he knew.  At that meeting, I was hoping to show her what I was making and talk about some selling options, but it turned into so much more.  I walked away knowing about 95% of what I was making was pretty meh, but there were a few things that were headed in the right direction.  One thing was a set of hair bobbies with vintage watch parts and movements — very simple, but unexpected; they had a story, and most importantly, they were the pieces that had just come from me tinkering with an idea.  She was able to give me an introduction to the first store I sold through, Click Shoes on Southport.  They liked my things, and suddenly everything clicked!

That was 2009, and it’s been an incredible journey since.  I’m so grateful I spend a decent portion of my life creating things that I love. 

Who has been your biggest mentor and what have you learned from them?

Everyone has something to teach — from the small shop owners I’ve worked with, that spend every single day kicking *ss fighting to be an amazing local business that supports handmade and American made items, to all the ridiculously amazing artists I’ve had the honor to meet at shows over the years, to the charities I’ve partnered with, where they are spending every single day working to make this world a little better.  

One of the cool things that happens is you look up one day and all of a sudden, you are the person helping to pass along some of the incredible wisdom people shared with you when you were starting out:

Trust yourself.

Don’t try to be all things to all people.

Have fun with this.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable with the risk… learn to be comfortable with that.

Bring your own prosecco to shows.  

You aren’t charging enough for the work you are making.

Don’t be afraid to say no.

Don’t be afraid to say yes.

Coleman aluminum camping tables rock.

Some days you are barely going to cover the show fee and you are going to think every decision you have ever made is completely wrong.  

And some days you are going to end your 14 hour day, bone tired but tipsy with success (and the prosecco you brought) – excited about the choices you’ve made, excited about the incredible people you talked to all day, in love with the stories people share about what the things you’ve created have meant to them, excited to be part of reminding people why it is so amazing to buy things you love from people in your city, your neighborhood, your country, and excited to be exactly who you are at that moment.

What would you consider to be your biggest success?

The best thing is that so many things came to mind with this question. At my craziest moments, I’ve sold to over 70 stores around the world and to Uncommon Goods (along with shows and online orders), and that makes me super proud. But I think what I’ve always loved the most about this business, this career, this life, is that every decision I make corresponds with my values.  I purchase American-made materials whenever possible, I care about the source of my components, and I take pride in being able to make every decision knowing my dollars are going exactly where I want them to.  I get to sell them through stores that I admire and support, and I get to make jewelry that actually means something to the people that wear it. That makes me feel pretty good. I get to partner with amazing programs in the community that make a difference in people’s lives like the Salvation Army Promise program.  That’s what was missing from my life before I started this jewelry (ad)venture. I’m so honored to be able to make the tiniest difference in this world by doing something I love.

Where would you like to see your business go in the next year?

Over the last two years I’ve devoted myself to finding a balance in life.  One of the things that drives me this year is continuing to create new pieces that I love, while really making sure my overall collection syncs with what I love.  I’ll continue to work on mastering the art of product photography, and continue to build out my wholesale and retail websites.  Maybe attempt some self-promotion/social media… or see if someone would like a tiny side job that would involve dealing with me.

Why should someone hire you? 

I’ve always taken an organic approach to growth.  I’m not a big social media person, and I’m a terrible self-promoter.  The one thing I’ve always trusted is my work.  My jewelry will either speak to you, or it won’t.  And I’m totally okay with that.  It took a long time to get there, but I did.

Everything is a choice.  For people who appreciate a simple aesthetic, combined with materials sourced with love and care, created by hand in Chicago, and who value supporting small local business, substance jewelry may be the right choice for them.  I’m always happy to work with people to make ideas happen, but in the end, I trust my work to speak for itself.  If it speaks to you, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be your new favorite jewelry.

And just for fun, what’s the one beauty product you can’t live without?

I love this!  And anyone that knows me can answer this question (although they will hesitate for a moment thinking maybe it’s my hand lotion, but then they’ll remember they’ve seen me McGuyver lip balm into hand lotion in a pinch),  So, yep, I have a lip balm problem.  The first step is admitting it.  I’d turn the car around and head back home to get my Alba Botanica Hawaiian Lip Gloss.  Which just made me realize I want to put more on!

Jon, I know you’re reading this. Any gift you need to get me ever, Carolyn has here.
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