If you have been to a park pop-up or a philanthropy event in Isla Vista (I.V.), you may have seen a table decorated with hand-painted rocks and shells, crystals, and a bunch of handmade jewelry. Sitting behind this table is Sophie Pullen, a second-year UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) student and owner of the jewelry company Soso Jane. It is common to see her pieces on the necks, hands, and ears of other students or local I.V. inhabitants
What started as a small project has turned into a full-blown business for Pullen after she learned about the prevalence of sexual violence against women in Africa on a service trip. She was inspired to give back and contribute through buying and making jewelry upon her return at the start of her sophomore year in high school.
“So when I came back, I bought a bunch of bracelets from this charity that works towards that and sold them for double the price at school, and then donated the money back,” Pullen said. “Then when I started making my own jewelry, I started off giving 50 percent of my profits towards that company.”
While she doesn’t work directly with the prevention of sexual violence against women anymore, Pullen still gives back, sometimes dedicating a month of profits to a charity. Her pieces have evolved from just beaded bracelets, as she now picks out and buys all her own materials and decides what she wants to make with them, ranging from necklaces and rings to bracelets and earrings. She also gets inspiration from her older sister. But in order to go from selling beaded bracelets in open markets to getting her jewelry in stores, Pullen had to tackle the expansion of her brand.
“I started junior year and I just would kind of just sell on Instagram and on beaches during the summer […] Last spring, I started making all my things gold-filled instead of gold-plated,” Pullen said. The transition to gold-plated materials increased the quality of her products.
Having time over the summer allowed Pullen to amp up her business, but she wanted to keep expanding. “I would just sell jewelry specifically, and then I kept thinking, I wanted to get a website or sell on Etsy or something,” she said. “So it was this August that I made my website.”
While Pullen uses her website for advertisement, her main platform is her pop-up events, displays in various stores (Miss Behavin and Seavees in downtown Santa Barbara, and a few on the East Coast where she is from), and contributions to the Made and Found Market here in I.V. As Pullen’s business gained more traction, she met the challenge of regulating her prices in order to meet all of her audiences.
“Since I’m selling to college students, I don’t want the prices to be that high. So I try to keep them as low as I can,” she said. “But when I’m selling to stores, they want a wholesale discount of 50 percent off. And I can’t really make that happen with my prices, so I either have to put my prices up for everyone else or just not be able to give them the discount.”
Pullen will have to continue adjusting her prices as she hopes for continued expansion and production of pieces. Alongside getting her jewelry in more stores, Pullen is trying to tie her academic interests as an environmental studies major to her business platform.
“I’m really trying to figure out the best way to make it sustainable because obviously, it’s a small business,” she said. “It’s pretty sustainable, but I still get shipping packages and I want to have the least amount of waste possible.” Pullen is also thinking about how to grow her online platform and has started testing out the promotion features on Instagram.
Pullen continues to push forward with her business and enjoys the reward of seeing her pieces worn by the community. If you are interested in seeing this business in full swing for yourself or want a closer look at her jewelry, stay tuned to future Made and Found Market events in I.V. You can also check the Soso Jane Instagram (@by.sosojane) or website for updates on when Pullen will be having pop-ups or even sales events.