Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in jewelry but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Joy Harmon, founder of Joy Harmon Designs, located in Hendersonville, NC, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Since 2009, the focus of my work has been designing and making fashion jewelry and ornaments that incorporate military and first responder dress uniform buttons. As the spouse of a military member for the last twenty-seven years, I  found there were endless opportunities to encourage or thank a fellow military family member or service member through life’s challenges, losses, and accomplishments. My Uniform Button Designs were created out of the simple desire to show gratitude, support, or acknowledge accomplishments that made a  difference to many.

Tell us about yourself

I started teaching beadwork techniques in 2005 as a way to gather fellow military spouses and new community neighbors together for social and communal activity. Teaching in person also helped me practice the most effective ways to communicate how to build a design; this strongly aids how I communicate in my tutorials that are sold in my Etsy Store, Joy Harmon Designs. At that moment in history, there were conflicts around the world that separated our military families. Gathering together with the purpose of creating something with our own hands not only created an opportunity to build a stronger network of support and encouragement but also encouraged me to design jewelry pieces customized for a unique community.

I continued to teach basic beadwork techniques in retail bead stores for several years while developing my Military Button Jewelry line. In 2010 my jewelry line captured the attention of several other military spouses who constantly had ceremonies or events they were asked to attend. A gift of support, encouragement, or gratitude was often given at these events. These women’s support in ordering and gifting my designs launched my business toward primarily designing finished products incorporating uniform buttons. Before long, my Button Designs were in demand. While the increased sales were a boost to my work goals, I was inspired that people were choosing my designs to gift or wear to mark moments of sacrifice, loss, accomplishment, and celebrations. Eventually, I added more designs such as nonprofit organizational Lapel Pins,  Challenge Coin Ornaments, and glass beaded Star Ornaments that are customized to the military, law enforcement, and other communities. These designs can be customized for many different groups or organizations. They are often gifted to recognize accomplishments of service hours, professional milestones, retirements, and gratitude.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My business did not begin with the intention to be a means of financial provision for myself or my family. It began as a personal passion for handwork that sparked joy and growth inside me during a season of life when my daily focus was on growing our young family and maintaining that growth over multiple household moves and my husband’s military deployments to very frightening places. That personal spark was shared with others and grew into a warm glow of tranquility,  creativity, and accomplishment. It has been my privilege to share with so many. Over the years, I have proposed that my business support itself financially while providing unique opportunities and products that show others that they are recognized, appreciated, supported, valued. I am so honored and humbled that others choose my designs to acknowledge perseverance, commitment, service,  and appreciation and are given for some of life’s more significant events.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the more difficult things that I have had to force myself to do actively is to put a monetary value on my time and my expertise. This is especially true with custom orders. For example, customers will provide challenge coins for me to embellish into ornaments. These coins come in many shapes, sizes, weights from round to pineapple shape! The artist in me wants to grab that challenge of designing beadwork around that pineapple-shaped challenge coin, but the businesswoman in me knows I have to give the customer an estimate that includes the hours and mechanical expertise it will take me to design and make that intricate custom piece that will look good and endure. While I still have a  feeling of awkwardness when communicating custom charges, I have found that people are very gracious in either deciding their custom project is worth the monetary charge and expertise, or rarely, they politely determine that they will go in a different direction.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Be honest with yourself when setting prices. Know all of your expenses. Put a  monetary value on your time. Be realistic and charge what you need to meet your own business needs and goals.
  2. Never stop learning. Continue to grow your knowledge, skills, experiences to develop better and grow your business and yourself.
  3. Purpose of making time for yourself and your family/community. These things can feed your soul, inspire you, and hopefully encourage you down your chosen path.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

While, if I could, I would do what I do, to a point, without any monetary compensation. Passion, knowledge, and practice are valuable tools for growing a  business. But if you are starting a money-making endeavor, remember IT IS A BUSINESS. Maintaining a business has moments of challenge, inspiration,  growth, acknowledgment, success, failure, but it also has boring tasks that have to be completed to grow a business or legally stay in business. Seek professional and experienced help for areas in which you struggle or are inexperienced. Many community colleges have small business centers with free workshops or low-cost small business seminars. These can provide valuable business information and connections with other small businesses. Don’t let ignoring the practical business needs derail your passion.

Where can people find you and your business?



If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.