Unless your name is Donald Trump, if asked the question, “What would you like for Christmas?” you’re not likely to say, “How about a nice 110-story high-rise with my name on it?”
Instead, you might say, “I’d like a nice piece of jewelry.” Maybe something like two young women from LSU design?
Mallory Estopinal, of New Orleans, and Zoe Ganch, a native of Dallas, who met as freshmen at the LSU School of Architecture, became friends and experienced a life turnaround the likes of which doesn’t usually happen to 20-somethings before they even walk across the stage for their diplomas.
The story began in January 2014.
“It was two big events, back to back,” Estopinal says. “We were in architecture studio together when I made a laser cut necklace for Zoe’s birthday using the school’s laser cutter.” On top of that, Zoe had discovered a whole new world of Instagram shops.
“We fused these two things together, and we built a company out of them. We named it ‘Etch’.”
Ganch picks up the story.
“Some of our friends started giving me compliments on my necklace and some laser-cut earrings that followed. They started asking if we could make a necklace or a ring or earrings for them as well. … The demand was for Christmas gifts. It really took off from there.
“We started an Instagram shop where our followers could purchase our designs as we posted them in batches twice a week. It was the perfect platform since we were still in school … we would only post and sell things that we had time to make.”
To be honest, it didn’t look like Estopinal and Ganch were likely to shine in the world of architecture. It was also evident that squeezing in jewelry design and sales around college classes was not going to work.
“We’re both working on Etch from different areas right now,” Estopinal says. “Zoe is living in New York City, and she’s meeting with a lot of creative people. She’s also working as an event designer for a fashion collection launching New York Fashion Week.
“I’m in Austin working at an architectural fabrication studio which does small-scale architectural installations and works with a lot of 3D fabrication and custom metal working. We have a lot in store for the upcoming months, some big events and new design releases.
“We’re also in the middle of setting up a production studio in Austin and hiring new staff there to keep up with the tremendous demand. Since our launch of just over a year ago, we’ve sold more than 1,600 pieces of jewelry.” The pair is launching a home goods line this fall.
Both women readily admit that in the last dizzying year of design, build, market and sell, sleep is a commodity they’ve just about forgotten.
“It’s just like anything in life,” Estopinal says. “If you love — absolutely love and have a passion for — what you do, you never get tired. Our love begins with design. Both Zoe and I have a tremendous passion for design. That flows right into marketing and working to expand our designs.”
Estopinal says the jewelry they produce ranges from $18-$54 and “falls somewhere between costume jewelry and fine jewelry.”
“Wearable art” is a phrase Estopinal and Ganch like to use. Many of the popular pieces are made of unconventional materials like wood and leather, and they’re going to introduce acrylic soon.
Estopinal kicks back and breathes a sigh of contentment.
“When I was a kid on the playground, I used to make rock jewelry out of those chalky-type rocks,” she says. “I’d carve them into hearts and circles and I’d paint them with nail polish and any other coloring I could get my hands on.
“I’d attach them to a string necklace and then I’d sell them. They were all the rage at the playground. So I guess you could say I’ve been destined for the jewelry business since kindergarten.”
The characters from the popular television show “Two Broke Girls” are chattering away on a set in another room as Estopinal and Ganch delve into business conversation: “What’s the best approach to increase our market share from eight stores nationwide?” “Does this clasp or this one go best with this necklace?” “I think this pairs nicely with our Cheshire ring. It may even fit into our Alice Collection.”
And so it goes late into the night. Who needs a 110-story high-rise anyway?
Editor's note: This story was changed on Oct. 6, 2015, to correct the headline and make other updates. An earlier version of this story had a headline that incorrectly stated the two women quit school to start their business. Also, Zoe Ganch is a native of Dallas.