If there were ever a business that grew naturally from the seeds of inborn talent, a passion for design and seizing life’s opportunities, Loren Hope Designs LLC is it.
“I’ve done art my entire life,” said Loren Barham, who “fell in love with working with metals” when she studied fine arts at East Carolina University. She also fell in love with fellow ECU student Aaron Barham, and the couple moved to England when he was stationed at Lakenheath Air Force Base in Bury St. Edmunds.
“I started ordering beads and stones and jewelry components and having them shipped to my APO address,” said Barham. “I was doing jewelry design on my dining room table.”
When the couple returned home to Apex, N.C., in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, the beads and stones got more space in a room designated as a home-design studio. It was a part-time endeavor and Barham occasionally sold jewelry that brought in $200 or $300.
Her full-time job was in marketing, graphic design and as the overseer of safety regulations for her father-in-law’s painting company. Her husband also worked in the family business.
“All that time, I was always itching to do my jewelry,” said Barham.
Then came one of those forks in the road.
“One day a girlfriend of mine who managed a local boutique said the owner wanted to see my work, so I gave her some of my jewelry,” said Barham. “She came back and said the owner wanted it all, to send an invoice. It was about $2,000 worth of jewelry. That really fueled me. I thought, ‘I’m really onto something.’ ”
She kept a day job, along with her jewelry making, and in 2009 began working with a showroom in Atlanta that placed her jewelry in stores. “That was a big step,” she said. “I still hand-made all the jewelry and when I got really busy, my mom would come over and help me out. She was always artistic, she draws and paints.”
Barham and her husband later built a house in Pittsboro, N.C. In the new house, she started exploring a new technique for her jewelry-making that ignited the creative fire. She ordered stones and other materials from Rhode Island. One of her suppliers suggested she come up and look around, which she did in November 2011.
“For four days, he drove me around and introduced me to various vendors in the area. I think he saw something in me, that I was hungry for design and for growing my business,” said Barham.