Tara Wilson (’89) graduated from Campbell University with a Business Administration degree, but she could always be found in the Fine Arts building, pouring her heart and her elective credits into her true love of creativity. She took sculpting, 3D design, and oil painting, all the while trying to figure out how to make a living with art as her central focus.
Her path to becoming a full-time artist had a few twists and turns. After graduating from law school, Wilson found herself as “an attorney with a small private practice focused on entrepreneurial business start ups.” Even though that knowledge of how to begin a small business would later come in handy, in 2008, the economy slowed down, as did business at the private practice. Small businesses were closing their doors, and few new ones were opening. “To fill my time, I took a jewelry making class and began a new hobby. The business was an accident,” Wilson said. “While out at Target and other places, people would offer to buy the pieces I was wearing. I sold a couple of necklaces and thought maybe if I made an effort I could sell more. I jumped in with both feet and applied to be an artist at juried mixed media shows. To my surprise I was accepted and Lulu Max Jewelry was born. Things took off and I closed my law practice. Now I make art full time and do pro-bono law on the side.”
Wilson credits Dr. Mostashari in Campbell’s School of Business for helping her become career ready and teaching her how to market herself. “I graduated from Campbell during an awful recession. I needed to be employed immediately and one of the few companies hiring and growing was the Home Depot. I knew nothing of that “do it yourself “(DYI) world. It was a very male dominated industry but they were actively recruiting women. Dr. Mostashari saved me. He helped me rewrite my resume, highlighting my skills learned in fashion retail and buying and made my resume relevant to Home Depot. It worked and I got an interview. As a result, I graduated with a great job waiting.” That combination of business and accounting experience learned in the business school, career preparation, and work experience in the DIY world all combined to create a winning formula for Lula Max Jewelry’s success.
“Initially, people thought I was crazy,” Wilson remembers. “My husband and daughter were the exceptions; they pitched in to help me set up at shows and were my cheerleaders in my moments of doubt.” Even though Wilson is self-employed, she pushes herself towards continuous improvement. “I work hours much like any job, constantly learn and grow as an artist by acquiring new skills and stepping outside of my comfort zone for one project a quarter. Everything I made is handmade and one of a kind, using the best quality materials I can find.”
Now, Wilson is using her business as a testimony to her Campbell University education by becoming a member of Orange Owned, Campbell’s newest alumni recognition program. “I hope being a part of Orange Owned speaks to the quality of the education I received at Campbell and the opportunities it provided. Bringing awareness to the many ways small business owners earn a living helps bring appreciation to all entrepreneurial businesses. Many people see handmade jewelry and wonder why it costs so much more that the cute mass produced necklaces at the mall. Awareness helps me find my market,” she said. “My path from undergrad to jewelry was a windy one, but Campbell equipped me for every step along the way.”
Tara Wilson (’89) is the owner of Lula Max Jewelry. Learn more about her work at www.etsy.com/shop/lulumaxjewelry.
For more information on the Orange Owned recognition program visit alumni.campbell.edu/orange-owned.