*FEATURE: Jewelry Startup Offers Gifts Conducive to Holiday Spirit. Mariamor Sells Inspiration on a Coin…..
By Katarina Murdock
With the holidays coming up, jewelry with a message could make the perfect gift.
Mariamor has just the answer for that. It’s a jewelry company, with HQ in Orange, that uses hand-crafted inspirational coins – made from real U.S. currency.
Mariamor‘s mission is to “make the world a better, happier, brighter place.”
Mary Grace Schmidt, 28, is the founder and CEO. She’s a native of the city of Orange.
With a dream of a career in the fashion industry, she developed a line of inspirational jewelry.
How It Works
The company name is a combination of Mary’s name and “amore” for love.
Mariamor uses hand-stamped, inspirational coins as jewelry. Each coin design can be made-to-order and customized with favorite words, quotes, children’s names, etc.
Mariamor’s designs originated from the idea that any coin found on the ground can be seen as a “penny from heaven” or a lucky penny.
Schmidt began collecting these coins during her uncle’s battle with lung cancer. And now, years later, her passion for passing out prayers (these pennies from heaven), along with love has not wavered.
Mariamor has experienced several changes over the past few months. It went from a B2C business model to a fully integrated, e-commerce platform; launched on Amazon’s marketplace; increased membership in its subscription program (the “Love Club”); and improved internal operations to make daily office life “more sustainable and enjoyable” by establishing set working hours, as opposed to working around-the-clock, as can happen when startups are first getting going, Schmidt said.
A Family Affair
Other co-founders include Schmidt’s mom, Debra, who Schmidt says is in the office several days a week as her “right-hand-man.”
Her dad, Joe, an investor who works in private equity, is her sounding board and her idea man.
Two of her aunts help her. Her aunt, Cheryl, works on the creative team and another aunt, Linda, is a total “boss babe” — Schmidt’s go-to call for help at shows or events.
Her husband, siblings, grandmother, and friends have also played key roles at many stages.
“I know I would not be at this point in the journey without each one of them,” Schmidt said. “They are my village and I am forever grateful. Mariamor is about love. It has become a family business, and what is more love than family?”
Mariamor has not received any outside funding.
After receiving a full athletic scholarship to Texas A&M for soccer, Schmidt was able to keep a bit of her college savings as a cushion during the founding stages of Mariamor. She graduated in 2013.
She said she “would have loved to have played soccer professionally,” but was forced to retire at the end of her junior college season due to complications from a broken back.
She stayed on as a volunteer assistant coach for the team until she took a job as an assistant coach at Pepperdine University in 2015.
She majored in business, with two minors in art history and sports management.
The company has been in revenue since its third month in business.
“Sales are great,” Schmidt said. “Having improved our website with Shopify and re-organizing the catalogue for more effective e-commerce, we were ready to launch on Amazon, and increase membership of our Love Club. We are confident in our direction and are looking forward to heading into the holidays.”
As part of Mariamor’s “Love Club,” the company sends out inspirational letters to accompany its monthly coins. These letters are meant to be relevant to the happenings of the world and correlate with each month.
Schmidt shared what one of the Love Club members wrote: “Mariamor is my happy-mail. It is the brightest part of my month and I cannot wait to open each box. I am in love with the messages and the meaning behind them.”
The coins, whether a part of the Love Club or not, are meant to inspire. The company’s hope is that “each person can find the message that speaks to them and let it fill their world with light and love.”
Orange is Schmidt’s childhood home. But she originally started the business in Santa Monica in 2016.
“I was raised only a few miles from our office and it has been incredible to be back,” she said.
She was living in a small apartment while coaching at Pepperdine. She said she “loved the area, but it was not conducive to my new lifestyle.”
Stamping jewelry is not quiet, she explained. And Mariamor “grew quickly,” she said.
“So the noise and inventory began to take over my living space. I needed to find a bigger place while I worked from home. Plus, many of the shows and events that I was working at selling the jewelry were in Orange County, so I moved back down South to be closer to them, and closer to my family who I see often,” she said.
She launched the business officially in OC in 2017. The headquarters in Orange is a combination showroom, office, workshop and has a warehouse for storage.
It hosts private shopping events a few times a year and by private appointment.
There are a few boutiques in LA and OC that regularly carry a few items, but in order to purchase a bigger selection of jewelry, customers should shop online or at the showroom.
“Our family and friends from the area are some of our biggest supporters and they get the word out about Mariamor,” she said. “Old neighbors, former teachers, parents of old school friends, etc… they are so kind and generous and their love and support has meant the world to me. I wouldn’t want to be growing Mariamor anywhere but here.”
The company has a few different verticals. It has its monthly subscription program (the Love Club); wholesale accounts (brand-similar boutiques around the country); its e-commerce business; B2B sales (selling to corporations, teams, charities, etc.); and shows and events (that the company puts on during high-volume times of the year like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentines Day, etc.)
“By continuing to improve, learn, and grow in each of these channels, we have been able to increase our revenue by (a) steady amount year after year,” she said.
Some prominent customers include employees at Bard, UCI, and Bank of America. Bard is a multinational developer, manufacturer, and marketer of medtech in fields including vascular, urology, oncology and surgical specialties.
Schmidt said she gets new customers through her network of friends, family and professional relationships that she’s developed over the years.
“Having been part of the Orange County community for most of my life, there are deep roots with local schools and sports,” she said.
The personal responses after a sale make an indelible imprint on Schmidt.
“I think it is the daily customers that email us with their success stories and their ‘why’ that really stick out to me,” she said. “Our coins might be intended to help during a battle with chemo, the loss of a loved one, a retirement, the birth of a new baby, etc… These are the customers and sales that stand out to me; the ones that fill my heart with love and remind me why we do what we do.”
Board of Advisors
Her board of advisors is mainly her parents.
“I always laugh – we have official ‘board meetings’ and will head to a family dinner right after,” she said. “I am incredibly lucky to have them.”
Her dad, who works at Clearlight Investment and sits on the boards of several other companies, “has a lifetime of business experience that is par-to-none,” she said.
In the holiday spirit, Mariamor is focused on promoting more than just gifting “things.” Schmidt emphasizes that at this time of year, she wants to gift “love.”
To that end, the two designs that Mariamor is promoting now are:
– its “Loved” quarter-sterling silver statement necklace
– and its “Faith” quarter-gold statement necklace, with a diamond cross. Maria Bello on CBS’s series NCIS wore this necklace in one of the episodes.
All this can be found on Mariamor’s website.