Two Martinsville sisters have been making earrings frantically for the past several months — 10,000 pairs of them.
Kara Carter-Hundley and her sister, Monica Menschner, not only sell about 1,000 pairs of earrings a month, but they also are preparing to sell 10,000 of their da Sorella original designs and creations at the Southern Christmas Show, which is Thursday through Nov. 24 at The Park Expo and Conference Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Their da Sorella pieces are lightweight, large wooden and acrylic earrings. The prices range from $10 to $12.
Carter-Huntley said she has been selling jewelry since she was a girl, her first customers other kids at summer camps.
The Carter family — including father Michael, a hospital administrator, and mother Kimberly, a nurse — moved to the area from North Carolina in 1993.
Carter-Hundley was graduated of Fieldale-Collinsville High School in 1997 and then went to Patrick Henry Community College, where she studied art under Gerry Bannon for an associate degree. “I credit him with a lot of my artistic abilities,” she said.
She said she didn’t do much with jewelry while she was a student at Liberty University, where her major was criminal justice.
After college, though, she got back into the arts, teaching entrepreneurial and eventually becoming the director of The Artisan Center, which PHCC used to run uptown.
She and her husband, Jonathan, have two children, Hayes, 6, and Larson, 2. “When I got pregnant with Hayes I decided to put my money where my mouth is” and be an entrepreneur herself, “and I’ve done it ever since,” she said.
She sells jewelry she designs and makes through her company, Frostings Jewelry, mostly over a website by that name and occasionally at festivals. Selling around 500 pieces a month, “I make more money now than when I worked for the state,” she said.
Meanwhile, Menschner was graduated from Fieldale-Collinsville High School in 2000, then got a master’s degree in nursing from Liberty University.
She worked in the Intensive Care Unit of Memorial Hospital, then was in leadership at Moorehead Hospital in Eden, N.C. She and her husband, Paul, have two children, Cadence, 4, and Brooks, 1. She didn’t go back to public work after Brooks.
A new company
Instead, in January, the two sisters went in together on a second jewelry company, da Sorella. The name is Italian for “sisterly.”
The sisters started making their da Sorella earrings at Patrick Henry Community College’s Fab Lab, where they cut out their unique designs from wood and acrylic using a laser cutter.
Carter-Huntley paints or stains all of the pieces by hand, and Menschner does the metal work. Their earrings are sold over their website, social media and occasional shows, as well as four boutiques: Sparkle Me Pretty in Martinsville and three in North Carolina.
About 1,000 pairs are bought each month.
“We weren’t quite expecting” that the earrings would take off as quickly as they had,” Carter-Hundley said. “We’re grateful” for their quick popularity.
Amy Benton of Sparkle Me Pretty said she has been selling da Sorella earrings for the past several months. “We love the fact that they are locally made and handcrafted,” she said. “They are so lightweight, and the designs are so unique and stylish. They are versatile and can accompany any outfit.”
A big opportunity
Someone recommended da Sorella as vendors for the Southern Christmas Show. It normally takes a couple of years from the time of application until acceptance, the sisters said, but they were invited as soon as they had sent in their application.
They said they know a woman who spends all year making potpourri which she only sells at the Southern Christmas Show — where she makes money in the six figures, a more than sufficient yearly income.
However, selling there involves quite a commitment, they said. It is suggested a vendor have enough product to sell to 1% of show attendees, who are numbered at about 113,000. Vendors are obligated to remain with their booths for the duration of the show, even if they sell out of product, they said.
The registration fee for the show is $1,500, and parking and Wifi fees alone are another $450, they said.
They began making the 10,000 pairs in the spring, as soon as they learned they were accepted into the show. To handle that amount, they’ve had to hire three friends to help put the earrings on cards and in bags: Amanda Compton, Amy Reed and Madison Martin.
Although they paced out making the 10,000 pairs over the months, “now we’re frantically working,” Menschner said.
On to the show
The Southern Christmas Show is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. A cousin will help them with sales at the show.
The sisters made arrangements through Airbnb for accommodations, and their mother will look after the children.
The sisters use some of their proceeds and products to help charities, such as the children’s ministry at their church, Twin Oaks Baptist in Henry; mission trips; adoptions; and breast cancer fundraisers.
Once the show is behind them, the sisters have another plan for da Sorella: to start making bracelets and necklaces.
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.