Young entrepreneur has uncovered a gem in Devin Ashton Designs
Devin Ashton Ostermann arrived at Clemson University in 2014 with her mind set on becoming a pharmacist. But as a sophomore this fall, she’s studying marketing and psychology – and the prescription for her career path has yet to be written.
The Fredericksburg, Va., native’s change of course, in part, occurred when she started a jewelry business after high school graduation that has blossomed into something beyond her wildest dreams.
“I’ve always had an interest in fashion design and started making bracelets for myself. I’d wear them and my friends wanted them, so I made more,” Devin, 19, said.
A year later, Devin Ashton Designs has become a brand that’s produced thousands of “luxury, handcrafted” bracelets, necklaces and earrings, has 13 campus sales reps in five states, and sells its products through boutiques in two of those states, and online.
“It started with a store on Etsy, and I was selling on Instagram,” Devin said. “The business started with a $200 loan from my father, and a couple of hundred dollars from graduation gifts. I never thought it would last this long, but it has grown way beyond my expectations.”
Devin Ashton Designs produces jewelry made from tarnish-resistant wire, gemstones and acrylic or glass beads. Prices range from $13-$35 and her target market was predominantly millennials, but the jewelry has caught the eyes of another generation. “My friends’ mothers would notice the jewelry they were wearing and start borrowing it. Eventually, many of the moms began purchasing their own,” Devin said.
Being an entrepreneur as a full-time college student is no easy endeavor. Devin does it all – creative design, production, sales, distribution, marketing and customer service. So, nurturing a start-up without losing sight of what she came to Clemson for, takes focus, dedication and perseverance. And with all that comes growing pains.
“This business is my baby, but I want to focus more on school. Grades aren’t an issue, but the business consumes 20 to 30 hours of my week and with it comes a lot of pressure. I’ve had some very good advice since coming to Clemson and it’s helped a lot.”
She credits College of Business and Behavioral Science lecturer and academic advisor Bill Tumblin and Matt Klein, interim director, Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, for helping her successfully deal with some of the brand’s growing pains and the business pressures.
That guidance has prompted a rebranding from “Red, White and Bangled” to the current business name, a more diversified product line and sharpening her business acumen by enrolling in Klein’s “How to Start a Start-up,” entrepreneurial class.
“They (Tumblin and Klein) keep me in check on the business and basically caught me while I was falling. Their advice is a big reason why the business has survived and continues to grow.”
“Devin has made incredible progress with her business in a short period of time,” said Tumblin, who teaches Business 1010-Business Foundations. “I simply gave her some tools and inspiration and she ran with it. She’s a very diligent person who wants to be successful and has a network in place to get her there. Her future is bright if she decides to stick with it.”
As for the future of the business? Devin hasn’t made any final decisions, but she does have a deadline approaching. Her spring semester will be spent studying abroad.
“I need a break from the business and spending January through May studying in Italy is forcing me to find someone to manage the brand while I’m gone. But I’m also at a fork in the road and will have to determine the long-term future of the business when I return in May.”
Eventually, Devin sees herself in fashion design – clothing, shoes – and maybe owning a boutique. “I would love to have my own line of clothing, and maybe a boutique. But financing a clothing line is expensive. But, then, maybe Devin Ashton Designs could help with that part of my dream.”
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