Anna Caroline Barker
Consumers are always searching for fun gift ideas, unique purchases, and last-minute grabs. Whether it’s a birthday present or something special for Valentine’s Day, Riley Kellum, 21, has a creative solution for shoppers.
The designer hand-makes hip jewelry, Rikell Originals, in Jackson. She created the business a few years ago during Christmas when she wanted to buy a stylish wrap necklace as a gift, but it was too pricey. Determined, Kellum found the materials and created her own version of the necklace.
Polly Kellum, Riley’s mother, wore the necklace to a holiday party, and her daughter’s creation garnered so much attention, she received 30 orders by the end of the evening and connected with two potential retailers.
Riley Kellum was thrilled. “So many people were interested, so I got into making jewelry,” she said. “That was the birth of RiKell Originals.”
Steady clientele enabled her to expand the business, selling it in Jackson and some Oxford area retail stores.
Polly Kellum is glad her daughter discovered a talent she is passionate about and that helps her make money. “It’s crazy how it happened,” she said. “The business just kind of fell in her lap. We had no idea she could do that.”
Polly Kellum said she is grateful she wore the necklace the night of the Christmas party.
Ava Boney, an undergraduate student at Belmont University, and loyal customer, said each piece is subtle, yet head-turning.
“Every time I wear something she made, whether it’s a small bracelet or a long beaded necklace, somebody asks me about it,” she said. “They just have to know where I got it.”
Boney said she wears Kellum’s jewelry to dress up casual outfits, or to add extra flair to a nicer outfits.
Kellum’s business helps her pay the rent and a portion of her college tuition at Belmont University in Tennessee, where she studying to become an entertainment industry professional.
“It has also sparked an intense passion for creation,” Riley Kellum said. “Making jewelry has become my creative outlet that allows me to express myself.”
As Riley Kellum moves closer to the end of her college years, she is becoming busier. Last year, she decided to give more than 30 percent of her business to business partner and friend, Hannah Beth Moorehouse, so she could focus more on creating.
Moorehouse now runs the business side of the company, while Kellum focuses on the creative side. Moorehouse handles the operations and finances so the business can run as smoothly and as stress-free as possible.
“Riley and I work really well together as partners because she has a very artistic personality, and I am a lot more business-minded,” Moorehouse said. “I have truly loved working for RiKell originals.”
While business has been good, the two have faced challenges. “I have learned that it can be hard to balance being a student and running a business,” Moorehouse said.
Both she and Kellum are getting a taste of what it’s like working in the real world and learning how to manage their time and balance priorities.
RiKell Originals continues to grow, and Kellum is still coming up with new ideas. Moorehouse contacts stores all over the South, including shops in Nashville, where the girls attend school.
Polly Kellum remains thankful the business has kept her daughter on her feet and able to stay at Belmont University, where she knew she belonged.
“We just knew that was God providing for her to stay there at Belmont,” Polly said with a smile, “because we knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was supposed to be at Belmont. God’s plan was for her to be there, and he ignited this passion for her artistic ability to make jewelry.”
While both girls are finishing their final days in college, they have agreed to slow the business a bit until after graduation. They want to finish strong and successfully, but are excited to eventually speed up the business and continue doing what they love.