Crafting a Connection
How a student entrepreneur’s business helped her piece together her identity.
December 13, 2020
When Dalia Handoush (‘21) opened her jewelry business in 2017, she was only 13 years old. Unsure if people would enjoy her creations or even want to buy them in the first place, Handoush explained, “I was really scared of what people would think of me.”
But with her persistent passion to create and design handmade jewelry, Handoush established Dalia Designs Co. “When I was younger, I loved jewelry, but it was so expensive, especially for a kid who had no job. I wanted to make something that girls my age, or whatever age, could enjoy without the worry of how much it costs.”
When Handoush first started her business, she went on frequent “JoAnn’s runs,” or trips to gather materials such as beads or chains. While shopping, Handoush said, “I picked the colors based on how I felt that day, and with the beads or pendants that I chose, I would pick different materials that match with that style.”
Then, to craft the jewelry, Handoush relied on her artistic skills and support from the internet. “At first, I learned everything myself, but when it came to the point where I was like, ‘Oh shoot, I don’t know the next step,’ I would just search ‘how to make a star necklace,’ and the idea would pop up.”
Business has been a part of Handoush’s life from the very beginning. Not only is her father in business, but her sister is in marketing; both have helped Handoush grow her business and expand her knowledge of entrepreneurship.
She recalled, “Profits, revenue, expenditures… my dad taught me [those words]. My sister taught me how to edit and how to caption [on Instagram]. Like how things are passed to a child, business was kind of grinded into my brain.”
As a Palestinian-American, Handoush has ideas for incorporating her unique heritage, as well as others’ heritage, into her jewelry. “I think it would be great if I [created jewelry] not only for people who are a part of my culture, but [for] people who already model for me now, and they can wear that jewelry and be a part of that culture.”
After working on her business for years, Handoush feels it has become a part of her identity. “Creating this business [has] helped me be more confident, and helped me say, ‘I created something. Why do I have to be insecure?’”
A Connection to Business
Dalia Designs Co has received its orders from a variety of places, including Tennessee, California, and Jerusalem (where Handoush is from). She even recalled a customer who purchased from across the Atlantic Ocean. “I just think it’s so cool that someone all the way in [Europe] has my jewelry.”
Other than working on her business, Handoush is active in lacrosse, Mock Trial, and manages a babysitting job on the side. Her strategy to manage her time is unusual when compared to the usual teenage procrastination. “I get things done ahead of time. For example, if I have homework that is assigned tomorrow, I do it today. So I’m always a day ahead.”
Handoush places a high priority on customer service. In one case, she received a very specific order, unlike anything she had ever made before. To stay organized, Handoush made use of an empty wall. “I called it the dream board, and it was just all my orders on one wall.”
By staying organized and listening to her customer, Handoush believes the order “turned out beautiful.” She promised that no matter how specific the order is, she “will go to whatever lengths to make sure [customers] are happy.”
Handoush works expediently in handling customers’ orders, making and shipping it to them in two days.
As a result of her efforts, her business has exploded. In 2017, Handoush started out with zero sales. Currently, she has garnered over 500 on her business’ Etsy page.
A Connection to Conventions
Handoush’s business extends outside of school and her community. As a member and unofficial board member of the AACC (Arab American Community Center), Handoush sponsors the organization’s annual gala with her business. She also occasionally sells her jewelry at the Riverside Arts Market, which showcases different cultures in Jacksonville every weekend.
However, the most significant event which Handoush attended was the Orlando Al-Bireh Convention, whose purpose is to celebrate, showcase, and recognize people of the Arab-American community. When Handoush attended, it was December of 2019, and her first time going to a convention.
With her jewelry table set up at 7:30 a.m., despite the event’s opening time at noon, Handoush placed herself in front of the bathroom doors. “I refused to leave my table because I was like, if one person comes out of the bathroom, they’re gonna order from me.”
When a customer walked up to her stand, she immediately switched to her sales-pitch personality. “I was like, do you have a daughter? Do you have a son? A husband? A wife? How about Valentine’s Day? How about Christmas? I was not about to let them leave with only one thing and not spread it to their family.”
In the end, Handoush sold around 500 items, solely from this event. She ended up working for 72 hours, three days straight, not even leaving her table to take a break or get food. “My mom had a waiter bring me food.”
Without this convention, Handoush believes her business would have lacked the opportunities that it received now. “I loved how I had the chance to do that. I don’t think my business would be spread out as much if I didn’t have that.”
A Connection to the Future
With the arrival of COVID-19, Handoush’s sales have declined. “I don’t know if I should be buying materials because I don’t know when everything is going to be okay.”
However, Handoush has big plans for the future. “[My business] will be a big part of who I am even after college. Let’s say I have a big job– I still want this to be my hobby. I don’t want it on the side. I don’t want to let it go.”
For others who want to start a business while living through school, sports, and hobbies, Handoush advises them to have confidence. “Be proud of what you are doing; it’s something that will become who you are, and shape who you are. I can definitely say it shaped who I am.”
Check out some pictures below of Handoush’s work (courtesy of Handoush), and visit her store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/DaliaDesignsCo.