I must say that 2017 is off to a fabulous start! Why? Well because I have only had total love and encouragement on my re-direction with the company, I am getting to marry the man of my dreams in 17 days (but who's counting?) and I landed my first ever COVER FEATURE! Thank you so much to the Maroon Weekly crew for having enough confidence in my story to put me on the cover of your publication! Thank you to one of the owners - Chance Okoinski - for reaching out and making this happen. Check out his personal site here.
So here's the beautiful cover they put together that hits newsstands today! I of course have to blog the entire article to share with each of you. If you would like to see the entire online magazine, check it out here. So here goes:
"From the moment you meet Randa Yezak you are mesmerized by her infectious personality. She is strong, confident, obviously capable, yet there is such an endearing quality to her. Only 50 miles removed from her home town of Bremond, TX, Yezak made the decision to come to Texas A&M and studied in Animal Science. That may seem like a circuitous route to where she is now. But she always had that entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout her time at A&M and over the next several years she established a well-respected, largely followed lifestyle brand named Southern Jewlz. We recently sat down to talk with Yezak about the path that led to Southern Jewlz, her upcoming nuptials, and the shift she believes retail is making away from traditional brick and mortar stores."
MW: How did Southern Jewlz get started?
RY: I am a first-generation Aggie. I was born and raised in Bremond, TX about 50 miles away. I actually have a degree in Animal Science. I thought the agriculture industry is where I would go. When I was in college I started making my own jewelry, then my friends and other people started wanting to buy it. I remember having an internship the summer before I graduated college with the American Angus Association in Kansas City. That summer was the first time that people identified me by my business name rather than saying I was from Texas or even Texas A&M. I started creating a lifestyle brand before that was even a thing.
After I graduated in 2009 I decided to take a year and see what happens. I would travel to shows and I would make sales, but the expenses were so high. Then I had my website, and I rented a kiosk in the Post of Mall from September through December 2009. When I saw what the December sales were off a little kiosk, I truly thought I could make this happen. I stopped hand making jewelry because I couldn’t keep up with the demand. So I started going to markets and learning about being a buyer, and curating for my own brand.
In July 2010 USA Today ran a feature on me that looked at small businesses utilizing social media. That was my cue from God to go open a store. We started with the pink house on Hwy. 30. We were there for a year and a half before moving to the location on Harvey. I then made the Aggie 100 in 2014 at #11.
MW: You mentioned that you grew up in Bremond, so it seems logical that you landed in College Station. But has there ever been a draw to try and open a retail location in another market?
RY: I loved being an Aggie and being in college so much. So obviously when I graduated I wanted to stay. I loved the town, I was only 50 miles away from my family, and I never thought of moving until about three years ago. I realized I was a 26-year-old young professional that was single, and I wondered how many people above the age of 22 would stick around in this town. I started thinking about Dallas or Austin, but I just love College Station too much. And then I met my fiancé, Grant, who was born and raised in Bryan/College Station. So that is where my roots are and will be forever.
MW: You have over 100,000 followers on social media. That is quite impressive for a boutique from Bryan/College Station.
RY: I think part of it is because I was the leader of the pack in some sense. I really capitalized on what I could get out of social media before other businesses realized it was such a big thing. I caught on early on and that is what helped develop my growth. 6 or 7 years ago, when you followed someone on social media, you saw there stuff more, you were more engaged. People really got to know me and my lifestyle brand. I try to keep our personality in our posts and keep it real.
MW: As we have followed you on social media, we love how it is a good mix of Southern Jewlz and Randa Yezak. It keeps the personal touch in there.
RY: What I have realized in the past year is that the constant in all of this is me. I have stepped out to the front of my brand. I want to grow the age. I don’t want people to think it is only for 18-21-year-olds. I am a 29-year-old girl, about to get married. I am growing with my brand, and I think it keeps those followers, that I have had all along, interactive with me.
MW: You recently announced on SouthernJewlz.com that you would be closing down your brick and mortar location. What are some of the motivations for that decision?
RY: I think when we made that announcement 95% of the people who read it were totally shocked. Obviously Southern Jewlz is my identity. But it boils down to the fact that it is a business. The future of retail is online. For me to truly take Southern Jewlz to the next level I need to focus on the online presence, the social media. I could go get help in those areas, but because it is a lifestyle brand based on me, I can’t give it all up to someone else. If I was just starting out, I wouldn’t try to be exclusively online. It is so competitive. But I have built a following. I want to maintain that and grow it.
If I am being completely honest, there are a lot of boutiques opening up, and they will continue to open up. But I don’t have to worry about that because I am not in a brick and mortar anymore. I need to continue to do what Randa does and what other people can’t be, me and my lifestyle brand. Having a storefront is wonderful. But there is only so much of me to go around.
I have this wonderful fiancé. I take finding my true love, and being married, very seriously. I think the people that follow me appreciate that. I have worked hard. I built my own business. I am powerful, successful, and independent in myself. But I am getting married and I don’t want to rush that time because that is one thing I can’t get back. I don’t want to look back and realize I couldn’t enjoy my honeymoon because I was too worried about what was going on at the store.
Everything is still up and running. The online store is still going. I am still shipping. But any new brand exposure or product launches aren’t going to happen until April 1. We will still do pop-up shops at our old location. Mule Barn is taking over that space. Miss Nancy with Mule Barn has been one of my business mentors since before I started this business. That is just a great relationship and I know she will speak highly of customers who continue to come into that location.
MW: Can you give us a snapshot of what people can expect from Southern Jewlz with this transition?
RY: This is a good thing. I don’t want people to think this is minimizing the brand. I am still moving 100 mph. The ultimate goal is to be our own version of asos.com or lulus.com. What comes next for us are the steps to get us there. I don’t want to take the personality out of it, but we want to be nationwide and a household brand, rather than just a College Station boutique. I love that this is my roots, but I want to take it to the next level. There are also several exciting things coming up in the next few months with my personal name.
MW: You are getting married in less than 3 weeks! What has the process been like? Are you ready?
RY: I am so excited to get to marry Grant. I feel like it is a fresh new start for my life. I have worked really hard to get where I am and I have this platform I can stand on now. I have learned so much about retail and now I feel like I am entering a brand new chapter with a fresh start.
MW: Are you nervous for the wedding?
RY: We are having a small intimate wedding. We are planning to start the morning with just the two of us and our preacher for a Bible stud before anything starts that day. Before the hair and makeup, I think that day will be very emotional. We just want to focus on our faith and our new life together.
The theme for the wedding is classic fairytale meets Victorian Valentine. I feel like it represents timeless love leading right up to Valentine's Day. We want everyone there to just focus on love.
MW: What is next after the wedding and honeymoon?
RY: I am jumping headfirst into a new project. RandaCarrabba.com is going to be a chance for me to talk more about my experiences. I can share with people what it took to plan a bachelorette party and the process to pick out a wedding band. My clientele is getting married and helping to plan weddings.
MW: It sounds like RandaCarrabba.com is you stepping out from behind the Southern Jewlz brand and having your own platform to discuss what you enjoy on a more personal level. Fashion is obviously a huge part of that, but not the only part.
RY: Absolutely. It will be fashion, lifestyle, wedding planning, house decorating, workout regiments. It really will cover a lot of different areas. I think this will be a more mature Randa. It will be more glam and luxurious. That is where I want the future of my personal brand to go.
MW: So, this has been a crazy ride. If someone gave you the opportunity to go back over the last 6 or 7 years to change something or do something differently, what would it be?
RY: Not a thing.
MW: We love it!
RY: Ok, maybe I would have learned to use an under-eye wrinkle cream at 22 instead of 29. But that is the only change in my life I would make. Every struggle, every victory or defeat, every challenge or wrong turn has led me to who I am today. Southern Jewlz is a big thing. But who I am is a much bigger thing. The reality and education I have behind me is not something I would change.
MW: Who are some of the people that have impacted you the most as a person and a business owner?
RY: One would be Nancy Gilmore with the Mule Barn. She is taking over my space on Harvey. She introduced me to the Prayer of Jabez. She has always encouraged me that if you do right and you pray right God has got it. I don't have to worry so much. And I see her lead her business like that.
Another would be Wendy Brown. She has so much life and personality. There is nothing that can't be done. Break any rule. Call anybody. Make a personal connection to make something happen that other people would be waiting in line to do the standard procedure. Wendy just bypasses all of that and knocks it out.
Lorinda Van Newkirk was the owner of Gypsy Soule. They closed a year and a half ago. Even through that transition, she has been such a powerhouse. She is doing consulting and radio work. She has always been so raw and real with me.
I would also say Emily Huskinson Heath. Have a friend that understands what goes into running a business like packaging, branding, details, events. I just think there are a lot of relationships I have had for a long time and cultivated that have really benefitted me.
To connect further with me, feel free to follow me on instagram or snapchat for the most up-to-date info! Back to wedding planning I go! xoxo