Senior Liberal Arts major Kara Tyler smiles while modeling one of her handmade Gucci button necklaces in July in Nashville, Tenn. Tyler said she started her business over quarantine and hopes to continue it after college.
Photos courtesy of Kara Tyler
Senior Liberal Arts major Kara Tyler said she realized she could make her own vintage and sustainable necklaces after shopping for necklaces online. During quarantine, Tyler said she bought chains and vintage buttons and started creating her jewelry business.
Tyler launched her business, Second Breath Buttons, in May. She said she makes necklaces and earrings out of repurposed buttons and charms. She buys her supplies, such as charms and chains, from female-owned small businesses she supports, including SewVintagely, which supports families who make buttons in Italy.
“I think I’ve always been creative, I saw a similar necklace that I wanted and realized that I could probably make it more affordable and be able to give those to friends as presents,” Tyler said. “It is a more sustainable way of having something designer.”
Tyler discovered the world of repurposed buttons last year when she was considering purchasing a designer necklace. She said she was going to splurge on a $100 Chanel button necklace from an online boutique; then she found out the button was vintage.
Tyler did not know about the world of vintage restoration, but she became interested and started buying buttons from sellers. She began making the necklaces with the help of her boyfriend.
“I’ve also bought some non-designer buttons just to have more affordable options as well,” Tyler said. “But they are largely vintage buttons that just came in little button packs back in the day, or they came off of recycled clothing.”
When Tyler prepares orders, she makes them ahead of time. She said she drills holes in the buttons, if they don’t have holes already, then files down the backings that are meant to attach buttons to clothing. Then she puts a jump ring and chain through the button and packages it up to send out for shipping. She sells stainless steel and gold plated stainless steel chains.
Tyler runs the brand’s social media accounts on Etsy, Depop and Instagram. Posts show Tyler in the process of creating her pieces or her friends posing to promote the jewelry. She said she loves to have customers send her photos of them wearing her jewelry to feature on the social media as well.
Tyler said she loves to shop vintage and support the world of second-hand clothing, or “second breath,” and that fashion is more fascinating and inspiring when it has a history. All her clothes are either thrifted or vintage in some way.
“I’m also on Depop buying all the time, mostly for sustainability reasons, also it’s just cheaper that way, getting as few things in landfills as possible is good,” Tyler said.
As a senior, she said she is applying for jobs now. Even though her business started out as a hobby, Tyler said she wants to continue making jewelry after college. She hopes to do something creative that allows her to be with other people, such as social media or art curation.
Tyler said her business venture felt right because making jewelry was an activity she already loved. When she made jewelry for Pepperdine friends and family, a business seemed like the natural next step.
Going viral on sites such as TikTok and Instagram should not be someone’s driving force in starting a business, and to not give up if your business does not take off overnight, Tyler said.
“I think if your main purpose for your small business is to have fun and have a hobby, then it’s hard to be disappointed,” Tyler said. “But if your main goal is to make money off of it, you’re kind of like setting yourself up to be more disappointed. Have fun and let that be what guides you.”
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