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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Western alumna makes earrings

New business during pandemic will help the public environmentally and socially with earring deliveries and sustainable products

Georgia Golla’s favorite earrings, made out of clay // Photo courtesy of Georgia Golla

By Georgia Costa

Western alumna Georgia Golla’s up-and-coming earring business, The Naked Ear, sells affordable, handmade clay earrings that are intended for a variety of customers.

The 23-year-old Western alumna delivers her products to Bellingham, Seattle and Lynnwood. For every $10 pair sold, Golla said she donates $2 to the Seattle Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund. 

“I’ve donated $60 so far,” Golla said. “It felt right to donate something, it’s better than nothing. The foundation helps communities like minorities, the homeless, essential workers and furlough recipients.”

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Before COVID-19, Golla worked in Gene Juarez’s Salon and Spa corporate office for five months until she received furlough and was temporarily laid off. When she went home during the pandemic, she became inspired by Instagram and decided to make 30 pairs of earrings for her family — which began her triple bottom line business. A triple bottom line business has financial, social and environmental goals, according to The University of Wisconsin

Every business must have financial goals in order to have a base, said Kevin Hoult, a member of Western’s Small Business Development Center. When a business prioritizes an environmental focus, long-term sustainability will result in high financial gain because customers are drawn to businesses focusing on the health and well-being of their communities, Hoult said. 

“I am zero-waste with my scraps so nothing has to be thrown out,” Golla said. “I’ve been doing research on ways that small polymer clay earrings business can be more sustainable if I make more of a [carbon] footprint.”

There are very few customers looking for companies that are abusive toward the environment, Hoult said. 

“We have to have a relationship with customers because of what has been saturated by society,” Hoult said. “The level of engagement is greater when businesses communicate social values.”

One of Golla’s biggest entrepreneurial struggles is modifying her Instagram platform to reach more than her circle of friends, Golla said. She wants to build a diverse audience beyond teenagers and people in their mid-20s. 

“My biggest struggle is brand awareness. I want to make it trustworthy [to strangers],” Golla said. “I want to make it so everyone can buy them.”

On Saturday, May 23, Golla held a “delivery day” in Bellingham and went from house-to-house delivering purchased earrings. 

Bellingham customer and friend Kristin Snyder said she received a pair of earrings from Golla’s first batch. 

“She gave the first batch to family and friends for free,” Snyder said. Snyder said she believes that The Naked Ear is gradually growing every day. Ever since COVID-19 began, she has been supporting local businesses because she knows they face the biggest financial stressors.

“One-third of Bellingham businesses, like grocery stores and home improvement centers, are doing better than ever before,” Hoult said. “The other third [of businesses] are not changing much and will be fine. The last third are undergoing significant stress and will struggle to come out of this.”

Golla plans to continue her small earring business when she resumes working for Gene Juarez after the pandemic. 

“It’s kind of surprising how high the demand is [for The Naked Ear],” Golla said. “Being a marketing major, I’ve had this built up and I’m really excited.”

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