A chat with the founder of Cincinnati’s coolest jewelry brand, Planet Solana
With the growing disdain for corporate working environments in the United States, many have turned to entrepreneurship as salvage from feelings of exploitation or meaninglessness within the workplace. Planet Solana, a small jewelry brand based in Cincinnati, Ohio, was founded in 2020 by Solana Sutton. Solana is a plus size woman of color who has turned jewelry making from a hobby to her main profession. I got the chance to speak with her on entrepreneurship and growing within your local community!
What inspired you to start Planet Solana? How did you get into making jewelry specifically?
Planet Solana started as a business after a year or so of the COVID-19 outbreak. I was miserable working 9-5 jobs where owners didn’t value their workers before COVID but, in a world where you are constantly surrounded by disasters, it felt so dystopian to go into work everyday like anything I was doing even mattered. I hated working for companies that didn’t care about what was going on and what their employees were going through. That’s when I decided to start my own business.
For me, my jewelry making started after my business did! Planet Solana started out as home decor and then I slowly started making accessories and that’s when I found my love for jewelry making! Now Planet Solana only focuses on accessories!!
What was the process of starting a business like? Is this your full-time work?
I started just doing sales on Facebook. Then, I branched out to a website with a friend and we merged our business! We did a couple markets together to sell our wares but after a short time, we split and it was just me again. Now, I have an online site and do markets every month! When you have a business I’d say it’s 24/7 work instead of full time but, I do also take care of children as a side job and I love them a lot!
What inspires the pieces you create? Who do you make them for?
I’d say my pieces are inspired by fashion and music! I am inspired by maximalist style: the different colors and patterns and textures that maximalist fashion icons can make work together is so inspiring!! I also am inspired by different musical artists and love to make pieces that look like how a song sounds! I make them for anyone who wants to express themselves through wearable art! For the plus size peeps, for queer people, for the non-binary, for black and brown communities, for anyone who loves it. We are all represented on Planet Solana.
Has your identity as a black woman affected your journey in the business world? If so, how?
I’d say that as a young, plus size, woman of color there have definitely been business settings where I do not feel as though I belong. There has definitely been times where other business owners may have looked down on me or underestimated me. However, my support system is so strong that I have never let that affect me. And my amazing customers have given me the confidence in my art that I don’t let those people affect my growth!
What has been the hardest part of your journey as a business owner?
The hardest part of owning a business for me is the sacrifices you have to make and the strength you have to have to not give up when the drought season comes. Giving up going out with friends and family because you are working on products or only spending money on your business can become lonely. And when you put your all into a business and then seasons come where sales are low it can feel very defeating. But, you have to work through those times because there might be a big opportunity or huge growth coming around the corner.
What advice would you give to a young person who wants to start a business similar to yours?
Being truly yourself in all ways like the way you act, dress, treat people, and present yourself etc. will put you on your path! People see value in you and your work!
Just start! You are never going to feel ready to start so just do it! Find what you love to make and post it! Take good pictures and see if you have any photogenic family members or friends! Flea markets are a perfect start! And overtime as you figure out the best set up for your booth, you will get the hang of things! Sometimes you have to be willing to try something new! Don’t give up!
Talk to other small business owners!! They are your friends! Usually other small business owners are super willing to let you in on all the best markets and places for your products! When I first started out I went to a flea market and met a wonderful woman named Delaney, who owns Delaney and Blu, a beautiful earring company!! I told her I was just starting my business and I was curious about how she got into that flea market and she immediately helped me and gave me other market names that I could join as well! This is just my first experience but I have had many helpful business owners who only want to see me succeed and I’ve been that helpful business owner to many other new people!! We really are a community of people that care for each other and want to see each other succeed! Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself!