BABE #251: MARCI CARUSO - Owner & Fine Jeweler, MAC Designs
Marci, like many of us, has always been fascinated by the idea of owning her own business — but never imagined actually following through with it. With a love for antique Victorian jewelry, nature and magic, she began metalsmithing through trial and error as a hobby, and her entrepreneurial dreams became a reality. Today, she runs MAC Designs, through which she creates fine jewelry, wears all of the biz-owning hats, and sets herself apart with integrity, individuality and a whole lot of hard work.
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Current city: Jacksonville, Florida
Alma mater: FSCJ
Very first job: Camp counselor
Current jobs: Owner & Fine Jeweler, MAC Designs
Babe you admire and why?
My mom. She always taught me I had to work hard, that things aren’t always easy and that being independent was important.
How do you spend your free time?
I love/hate exercise. I have somehow become a runner over the past few years and this has become a part of my routine. Also (not going to lie), I am a Disney/Universal nerd. I love being able to take day/weekend trips with my fiance.
Favorite fictional female character?
General Leia. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Day: iced (even if it’s cold out) Americano, splash of soy, one stevia. Night: old fashioned. I have always been a bourbon girl.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
(Vegan) pizza and New York-style cheesecake with strawberries!
What’s something you want to learn or master?
A foreign language. I would love to learn French.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Frida Kahlo. I have always been fascinated with her. Her struggle, her heartbreak, her art, everything.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
I love Star Wars and 90s hip-hop.
What tools, books, or ideas help you in your day-to-day work?
Tell us about your hustle, providing an overview of your job and roles.
I’m a jeweler and one-woman show. I design, fabricate, polish, set stones, do lapidary work (cut and polish stones), hand-engrave, photograph and edit, package and ship, handle all customer service and emails, website design and management, social media, accounting, advertisement, research, study—you name it and I do it.
What does your typical workday look like?
Each day is different and flexible, which I love. But first, always coffee. Then I’ll check new orders, make notes, email clients any questions and make sure my studio is a clean and welcoming space. I put on music or a podcast (I love SiriusXMU and the Strange Magic podcast) and get situated at my bench. Before I know it, afternoon hits. I’ll get any product photos that need to be done before I lose light and start packaging orders for shipment. I’ll try to get a workout in and make a post-office trip. My day usually ends with me in bed with my laptop (like now), working. Or, if I’m lucky, flipping through a book I’m pulling inspiration from.
Have you always had a creative spirit?
I have! I can actually remember making bracelets in kindergarten and selling them. I continued an interest in art through elementary and high school, where I took every art class that was offered. I took a few in college but got distracted with life and growing up. Jewelry found me again later when I needed it most and I haven’t looked back since.
How has your jewelry-making style evolved and developed over time?
It has evolved so much. At first I could only afford silver and very basic stones, which eventually turned into using a lot of turquoise. I kind of felt stuck doing that. People who knew me, knew it wasn’t totally my style. I love antique jewelry but had no clue how to work with gold or gemstones. I invested in myself and got an education that elevated my skill set to where I am today. I am focused on my fine jewelry line, which was always my dream.
What was it like transitioning from working in the service industry with MAC as your side hustle, to leaving the service industry and tackling MAC full-time?
It was a lot of work. MAC started as a hobby. I was miserable—not really with my job but, just where I was. My creative drive saved me and kept me up at night tinkering with jewels. I worked hard and invested all of my paychecks in buying tools. Before I knew it, I had a (very) basic jeweler set up in my apartment hallway on an art desk. I worked my normal job hours and spent all my free time teaching myself through trial/error and old books. It took a long time to convince myself to take the leap. I was lucky to have a partner who believed in me and pushed me to follow my dream (Thank you). I would tell fellow babes to believe in and educate yourself. To work hard. It won’t be easy and you will likely want to quit many times. A friend told me today in an unrelated conversation: ”Just find the right place. The time will never be right,” which rings true here. The “right time” to leap may never come. The best thing you can ever take a chance on is yourself.
How have your past professional and academic experiences and lessons prepared you for your today?
My past jobs in customer service taught me so much with how I handle my clients now. I was fortunate to work for Marriott (which is an great company to work for!), who teaches amazing customer service standards. I use many of them in my business (and real life) today. Academically, I really had no lessons that transferred to my business aside from study and research skills. I stopped attending college shortly after finishing my AA when I decided my at-the-time path of becoming a RN was not for me. I was a creator and I needed to find my path.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
It is definitely evolving. I see so many women jewelers promoting themselves now. It’s crazy to think back when I started my line there were really only a handful on social media, and now there are more than I can count!
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
I think people often assume MAC Jewelry is a larger team, when it’s really just my assistant and I. Wearing all the hats means I have to change them often. I can’t always get back to someone right away and in the meantime, I am figuring out how to best meet their needs while maintaining the flow of the work day. Most days I run out of time and have to just try my best the following day.
What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work?
Fighting my learning curve. When I started, I knew nothing and no one in my field. I tried finding someone who could teach me the basics and came up empty-handed. Teaching myself was hard but, it helped me learn my own methods—many of which I still use today.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is a teacher and mentor of mine, Kate Wolf. She has been in the business for close to 40 years. When she started, it was a male-dominated field. She overcame gender obstacles and is one of the greatest tool-makers in the industry. She is wicked smart, funny and I am constantly in awe of her talent. I find myself hearing her words of wisdom (and puns) in my head often when I am working.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Invest in yourself—in every sense of the word. Becoming educated in your field is the best gift you can give yourself. Find your own voice and listen to it. Do what makes you happy.
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