Almost every other kid tries to start some sort of business out of their backyard or basement. Lauren Cornell is no exception to that, only she went on to see things through years later as a full-on adult. Think Unique was a brand created back in her teens and after some definite lows and personal battles, she walked away from the ordinary into the one of a kind realm known as Think Unique Jewelry.
We started with her precocious beginnings as a young entrepreneur, dove into her self-care realizations, and even got to hear about what’s shaping up at the end of the year!
Kendra: There are so many layers to who you are and your journey. It was hard to know where to start. Let’s take it back to the beginning. Not every eight-year-old was starting a business in the ’90s. Being that your parents gave you both your drive and creativity, were they not the least bit surprised at that point in your budding entrepreneurship?
Lauren Cornell: My parents always said that I dance to the beat of my own drum so I don’t think they were surprised when I decided to start my own business(es) from scratch, although there were (and still are) a bit of parental nerves involved!
Fortunately for me, they have both always been incredibly supportive of me in my endeavors. They were the ones taking me to my first drawing classes and art shows; encouraging my art and creative talents, hanging my work on the walls or wearing it, and helping me with my confidence as an artist and creator. As I’ve gotten older, they have also both been very encouraging and vocal about my business acumen and how much I have learned over the years.
A really cute fun fact, my dad has one of every business card I’ve ever made, even the first one with stickers on it!
Kendra: Today anyone that brands themselves are labeled an influencer and those people have become cemented into the current culture but you were doing that way back in the day when you were 15. Trendsetter much? Did you think that you’d still be repping Think Unique into adulthood?
Lauren Cornell: Funny, my mom has always called me a trendsetter, which I always thought of as typical (adorable) mom compliments, but the older I got the more comfortable I’ve become with that sort of label. I embrace it!
I definitely wanted to be repping Think Unique as an adult, envisioning my artistic empire in my parents’ basement, but I do always think back about how proud young me would be of where I am today and what I’ve done with that initial idea.
Kendra: I know you did the day job thing for a while, was that even with the degree in metalsmithing and jewelry design?
Lauren Cornell: It was! I was feeling a bit lost after college, as many grads are, and wanted to explore what the career world had to offer. I was fortunate to work for and learn from a lot of great people and businesses.
Starting off with Anthropologie and Target helped my visual merchandising and customer service skills, while Velocity helped me with my sales abilities. Working for Toro and SuChi helped me understand what it takes to run a small business in a big city, and I got to learn how to roll sushi which was awesome!
I always wanted to be an artist but working for these companies helped to shape my mind and teach me things I now use daily in my own business, and I am grateful for those experiences.
Kendra: While Think Unique has been with you for a long time, you didn’t go all-in until 2018. A part of that was getting sober and taking care of yourself. How do you feel your craft has benefited from your overall lifestyle change. Not only ditching the 9-5 but also positively focusing on yourself?
Lauren Cornell: Oh man, I could probably write a whole book about just this question. I honestly feel like a new person. My priorities have shifted, my understanding of myself as a human being, a woman, a creator, and now a business owner, has grown and changed so drastically in the last year it’s sometimes hard to believe that I am the same person.
Now, I can spend hours working on logistics or creations when I used to be stunted by a hangover, or a desire to go out partying. I feel that my priorities have finally shifted to put myself and my well being first and to not let these distractions take away from my potential. I felt that the capability was always within me but it took a clear mind for it to manifest in this positive and productive way.
Kendra: Which, let’s talk about your jewelry! Your pieces are beautiful marriages of metal and natural materials. How do you come about the stones and whatnot for your work?
Lauren Cornell: Thank you so much! I am really proud and grateful to be able to work with some of nature’s most gorgeous materials and to help share their benefits and beauty with the world. I have a trusted US-based friend I get my stones from, a few rescue farms where I source my cruelty-free feathers for my earrings and smudge wands.
I always try to support ethically managed, fair trade, sustainable small businesses for the rest of my materials. It’s really important to me that while I grow my business, I am growing other small businesses as well. I think small businesses are crucial to our economy and I want to contribute to that as much as possible so I will always make that a part of my business practice.
Kendra: You’ve also got a steady stream of events you showcase your work at. Are there ones people can catch you at regularly?
Lauren Cornell: Very true, it sometimes seems like I am at events more often than I am at my apartment! Currently, I participate in the Made in Chicago Markets, the Revolution Brewing Craft shows, and many of the events hosted by Amdur Productions. I also currently co-host a monthly Pop-Up Market here in Chicago called Handmade Happy Hours with my friend and co-founder, Jenny, which is my most regular event.
We are very excited about our event this month in honor of Suicide Prevention Month (September) since we are hosting a big fundraiser market with raffles, live music, and local artists. That’s happening on September 27th and more details can be found at our Facebook event page.
Kendra: Lastly, do you have any new designs heading our way this year? Collections?
Lauren Cornell: I do! I am very excited to announce my new line of jewelry which is taking things back to my metalsmithing roots. Working in Sterling Silver, Gold, and some semi-precious gemstones, this is aimed to be a more high-end collection of my work that I am thrilled to share with the world just in time for the 2019 holiday season.
The new collection will go live on my website this November. As always, my signature pieces will be available as well.