Ellie Vail secured the first retailer to sell her jewelry line the way any young, smart entrepreneur would – through Instagram. “I was on Instagram searching through hashtags and I saw [Lilli & Tori] boutique and sent a comment, and within that week, she placed an order with me,” Vail says.
Vail grew her business within months from an Etsy.com boutique to a line that’s retailed in 14 different local storefronts and national online shops. And while her jewelry design career has really just begun, it’s something she’s been working toward for years.
Vail always knew she would work in the fashion industry – so she decided to major in business. How do the two add up? “I feel that I’m naturally talented with fashion and putting things together,” Vail says. “So, I felt like I needed to brush up on the business side.”
In between studying at the University of Florida, Vail worked as a personal stylist at Saks Fifth Avenue in Boca Raton, then at the department store’s location on Worth Avenue. There, Vail provided exclusive styling for Sofia Vergara, Celine Dion and the Kennedy family.
Upon graduation, Vail felt the urge to take a jewelry making class. In a seminar at Boca Beads, she made a lariat necklace that sat at 18 inches and dropped to 24 inches in total. Here friends wanted to buy it from her, so she thought maybe other people would too. And they did – during her first month operating an Etsy.com account, she made $2,000 selling her jewelry pieces.
In Vail’s two-bedroom apartment in Delray Beach, she used one room for sleeping and the other for making and shipping jewelry. Vail estimates she was shipping 30 pieces a month when she decided to involve a manufacturer and lease an office space on Spanish River Boulevard and Dixie Highway in Boca Raton.
With her designs, Vail aims to make high-quality jewelry for the prices she finds appropriate. “I feel like I’ve always been on a budget, and with accessories, it was always complete crap that would tarnish within a few days or it would be $500,” she says.
Vail decided to meet somewhere in the middle, and refuses to overprice the jewelry she crafts using stainless steel and 18k gold plating. She describes her designs as combining minimalism with edge.
In the next five months, Vail plans to have her designs sold in a department store like Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom. Within the next five years, she plans to be sold by at least 500 retailers around the world. And while these are large goals, Vail just might have the charisma to accomplish them.
“If you know how to work social media and aren’t afraid to be outgoing, you can kind of do whatever you want,” Vail says.
But for now, South Florida residents can purchase her designs at places like Love Shack in Delray Beach, Love and Pieces in Miami, or online at lillitori.com, blufly.com, or Vail’s website – ellievail.com.