UM grad starts jewelry business

Published 6:00 am Sunday, November 8, 2015

By Chloe Riley

Renowned for its celebration of the arts and support of local businesses, Ole Miss alumnus Laura Mesecke knew Oxford would be an ideal place to make her passion for fashion and jewelry come to life.

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Inspired by the unique fashions sold on the Square, Mesecke started Southern Dry Goods in April.

Her main goal in starting Southern Dry Goods was to create a jewelry business that was trendy and affordable, catering to the college-age crowd that populates Oxford.

“While some stores on the Square offer competitive pricing, I felt that a lot of the jewelry sold on the Square was out of reach for most college budgets,” Mesecke said.

Although Oxford’s fashion marketplace played an integral role in Mesecke’s motivation to start Southern Dry Goods, her upbringing was also a contributing factor.

“Growing up, I was constantly exposed to new trends as my mom is heavily involved in the retail industry,” Mesecke said. “After watching her experience, I knew I wanted to be involved in fashion, but didn’t know in what way.”

Making contacts

In March, Mesecke connected with a vendor in California that offered to sell her jewelry in bulk, at wholesale prices.

Seeing this as her opportunity to get her foot in the door of the fashion industry, Mesecke brought west coast styles to Oxford, officially launching the Southern Dry Goods brand.

A name and a vendor for the business secured, Mesecke turned to social media and sorority sisters to help get the word out about her new venture.

“Creating both a Facebook and Instagram page was essential in building an online presence for the company,” Mesecke said. “Because so many people are on these social media sites, we knew it would give the business the exposure it needed to draw in new customers.”

Not only has a social media presence created awareness of the new business for the Oxford community, it has also served as a liaison between Mesecke and existing customers, as Mesecke said. “Facebook and Instagram have remained our primary tools for communicating with customers.”

While Mesecke had her mother’s help to get the business started, she relied on a few of her sorority sisters to help promote and sell the brand.

When approached to join the Southern Dry Goods team, Belle Hankey, a junior at Ole Miss, saw it as the perfect opportunity to gain more experience in the marketing field.

Joining the Southern Dry Goods team as the marketing manager, Hankey’s main responsibilities are photographing the product and promoting deals and new pieces as they come in from California.

“I never thought I would be working with jewelry until Laura reached out to me,” Hankey said, “but I’ve always considered fashion to be a hobby of mine; when it became my responsibility to keep up with and promote new styles and trends, I found a new appreciation and love for the industry all over again.”

Not only does Hankey love her new role in the fashion world, but she also loves the ability to give back to the Oxford community through Southern Dry Goods.

“Part of the Southern Dry Goods business model is to donate a portion of our proceeds to a local charity or philanthropy around Oxford,” Hankey said.

Honoring one of their peers who passed away in a tragic sledding accident last winter, Southern Dry Goods made its last donation to the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment.

Besides its donation to the scholarship fund, Southern Dry Goods has also reached out to several sororities on campus to get involved and donate to different philanthropies or help generate funds for certain events.

“Given that Greek life is so prominent at Ole Miss, our goal is to not only expand our clientele through relations with different sororities on campus, but also give back to them and the community by donating a portion of our proceeds to their philanthropies or fundraising events,” Mesecke said.

Branching out

Branching out on campus and in the Oxford community has proved to be successful for reaching local clients, but both Mesecke and Hankey agree they will take even greater initiative in expanding the business outside of Oxford’s city limits.

“We plan on attending multiple flea markets and fairs to set up tables and advertise to more customers, as well as looking into setting up an Etsy account, that will allow people all over the world to discover and purchase the product,” Hankey said.

“The flea markets we’ve attended thus far have brought great success for the brand, even selling out of our product at the Oxford Flea Market this summer,” Mesecke said. “We plan on continuing to attend these kinds of events as they seem to be a successful avenue for facilitating even greater growth for the business.”

As growth seems imminent for the new business, both Mesecke and Hankey agree that being able to give back to the community has been the most rewarding part of it all.

“Being able to do what I love while giving back to a community that has given so much to me has made this experience an incredible one, one that I feel lucky to be part of,” Hankey said.