By Peyton Edwards | Visual Editor | email@example.com
At 15 years old, Francesca D’Elia, owner of Homegrown Jewelry and a St. Michael’s alumna, discovered a passion for jewelry making after attending an after-school program that introduced her to wire working, a basic form of jewelry making.
“I was able to just like sit for hours and follow Pinterest tutorials or YouTube tutorials of basic designs,” D’Elia explained. Her hobby turned into a small business that has grown into the successful company that Homegrown Jewelry is today.
“I was at my first craft show, I was selling a decent amount, and all of a sudden I was like wait, I can actually, like pursue this further,” she said.
D’Elia explained that she is thankful that she started her business early.
At 23 years old, D’Elia now has a jewelry business she started from the ground up that has a plethora of customers and supporters. “Definitely crazy to see how far both the business and I myself have come. When I think about starting my business at 15 compared to like, 23 it’s really weird to see how I’ve changed, how the business has changed. But like it’s still happening,” D’Elia said.
From starting out by having one table at a craft show to having an online presence including a website, ads, as well as selling at a few wholesale store fronts, D’Elia said that she has seen many successes throughout her journey.
When she started the business, she had her “teenage blinders” on, meaning she did not have to think about rent, jobs or other commitments.
“I always suggest to people, if you have something that you even think you want to do, just start it as soon as you possibly can, because there’s never going to be an ideal time,” D’Elia said.
When she started Homegrown Jewelry, she didn’t know about common business practices or think about if she could handle it financially. She just focused on making and selling jewelry.
D’Elia came to St. Michael’s in 2016 hoping to put her business to the side to focus on academics, but after two months living at school, her friends found out about her jewelry business and jumped at the chance to help. D’Elia had her first jewelry show in her dorm room, Ryan 251. Word spread and she was surprised with the turnout.
“The dorm room was packed for the full two hours of people my age, upperclassmen, every O-leader I had met like, it was just so insane,” D’Elia said.
Rosemary D’Elia, Francesca’s mom, has watched the business and her daughter grow so much since she started seeing jewelery at 15. She recalls a very proud moment when she heard about Francesca’s first show.
Francesca has three sisters, all of whom happen to go to St. Michael’s. Rosemary explained that growing up, they all leaned on each other for support which she attributes to Francesca’s “Yeah, I am a girl and I can be a bad-ass” energy.
Throughout all of the shows, jewelery making, orders, and creating a business, Francesca explained that her mom was the one who was always there through the exciting times, and the hardships. Rosemary said that she would always be ready to help out at Francesca’s shows and was happy to do it because she saw her daughter pursuing her dream. “She can have her events, and she’s not going to worry too much about getting lunch because I can be there. I can, you know, bring lunch or carry stuff around, or whatever it is that needs to be done,” she explained.
Rachael Prescott, another St. Michael’s alumna from the class of 2020 lived with D’Elia for three years. Prescott was by D’Elia’s side throughout her college career while also helping her grow the business and the brand.
“When she was at school, she would set up her jewelry tools on her desk, and in the middle of the day I would be home from classes just hanging out downstairs, and we just hear hammering upstairs making jewelery in her room.”
Prescott explained how she could tell that D’Elia was so passionate about her work because she would somehow tie it into every aspect of her life. “We both felt it was so fun to be able to mutually develop our skills and experience, and kind of feed off of each other creatively while we were still learning,” Prescott explained.
Because Prescott was an MJD major, she photographed D’Elia’s jewelery and helped promote her shows through social media.
D’Elia felt that same supportive energy throughout her four years at St. Michael’s from everyone on campus. “Every time I did a show in Alliot or I had something going on there, it was always just packed and always always always seemed like people were cheering me on. Professors would come to my shows which was really fun,” she explained.
D’Elia said that her professors were very accommodating to her situation. Knowing that she was applying the things she was learning in class directly to her business, they would allow her to have creative freedom with projects as it applied to her business to gain more real world experience.
Sadie Pratt ‘23 worked for D’Elia as an unpaid intern last semester. Pratt mostly handled communicating with customers even though she had no previous business experience.
“It was cool working for someone who went to St. Mike’s and is now successful doing what they want to do and what makes them happy,” she said. Pratt explained she remembers seeing D’Elia tabling in Alliot and wanted to learn more about her.
“I remember thinking, I think this girl is so cool. I want to like be friends with her, at least get to know her before she leaves and finishes senior year,” Pratt said. One week later, students left for spring break and couldn’t return because of COVID.
When Pratt viewed an ad on social media that D’Elia was looking for people to work for her, she hesitated, but still applied because it gave her a chance to explore her options as to what she may want to do with her future.
D’Elia said St. Michael’s was such a huge part of the creation of Homegrown jewelry as it is today, and it is something that she can always go back to and connect with people through. D’Elia explained that she gets messages today from people who are St. Michael’s graduates buying her product and give her a note expressing their support for a fellow alum.
“Saint Mike’s has always and I think will always be the number one hype person for Homegrown,” D’Elia said.