WHO: Whitney Williams
WHAT: Tramonti by Whitney – Jewelry with a Cause.
WHERE: Waco, TX
HOW: Whitney Williams started her first business at the age of ten. An avid artist, Williams designed stationery for friends and family, creating custom invitations and Christmas cards. Soon after, she bought a laminating machine, and by laminating the pages of fashion magazines and enlisting the help of the local shoe cobbler, Williams started making purses that she sold to her friends. So, with the entrepreneurial spirit in her from a young age, it was no surprise that, by the time she was a freshman in college, she’d launched Tramonti by Whitney, LLC – a line of handcrafted jewelry that Williams launched from her dorm room at Baylor University.
Williams first made jewelry when she was a teenager – crafting pieces that her mother’s friends purchased. But by the time she got to college, she discovered that this wasn’t just a job – Williams wanted it to be her career. Tramonti – the Italian word for “sunset,” served as her inspiration. After a trip to Italy before college, Williams was amazed to see the artisans that lined the city streets working long past sunset to make their crafts. “It didn’t seem like they were making it because they had to, but because they truly enjoyed their work,” says Williams. “I wanted to always view my business that didn’t begin at 9 and end at 5, but instead sprang from my passion and if that meant working past sunset, then so be it.”
Pulling together $600, Williams set up a bank account, obtained an LLC, and bought the raw materials she needed to make her first necklace under the company name. She began by borrowing only as much money as she needed from her parents, rather than taking out a loan, so her business could grow at a rate she was comfortable with. “After selling jewelry, I would pay my parents back and reinvest back into the business,” she says. “I figured that if my business could survive on a small scale and I could build my clientele, find my target market, and design pieces that people wanted to wear and kept coming back for, I would be as successful as I needed to be,” says Williams. That model worked well for her – since her launch, she’s turned a profit each year. Between 4 trunk shows and her online sales, Williams grosses upward of $90,000 annually. With no full time employees (but lots of volunteers!), and a part-time bookkeeper, Williams handles much of the business on her own – but credits her friends, family, and mentors for help making the right decisions for her company. Those decisions include a major change coming this fall, when Williams plans to re-launch the company as The Whitney Williams Collection – and will take out a loan so the business can grow on a larger scale.
Williams also tries to stick to her roots. “I started the business with the goal of giving back at the root of my company,” says Williams. “I decided to choose a charity each year to donate a percentage of my profits.” This approach has proven to be a great marketing tool – “I have been asked to partner with the Gladney Center for Adoption to create an awareness bracelet for an international humanitarian aid effort,” says Williams. “[The effort] will provide marketable job and life-skills training to orphaned and foster care teens.” After the company’s re-launch this fall, Williams hopes to create opportunities within the company for low-income children. “I think it’s important to teach kids how to have a skill and make money, and it would also hopefully give them an opportunity to find their passion.”
HER ADVICE: “Don’t start your own business unless you are passionate about it and even so, make sure that at its root your company has a purpose,” says Williams. “If you aren’t passionate and don’t have a greater purpose moving you forward, your business won’t be the best it can be.”