June 28, 2006
Seventeen-year-old Natasha Spedalle, may look like your average teen — she likes to shop at Obligato, workout at the REC-Center and frequent East End beaches — but don't be fooled. Spedalle has made quite a name for herself as the founder/CEO of BliNg BliNg Discount Fashion Jewelry and as America's youngest recipient of a street fair vendor's license. This young woman's go-getter spirit proves it's never too early to realize one's dream.
At age 14, Spedalle, a Queens resident, who summers with her grandmother on the East End, was politely denied a retail job because she was "too young." She took matters into her own hands and sought alternative ways to fulfill her goals. Spedalle's persistence resulted in her current entrepreneurial and philanthropic career as a discount fashion jewelry merchant.
Spedalle began selling make-up, but relinquished the pursuit, when she found it melted in the sun. She decided to try jewelry, which she sold in church basements and eventually at flea markets and colleges in the Northeast. "I thought it was a lemonade stand thing," she said. But, as the demand for her wares increased, and as Spedalle yearned for a "larger audience," her roadside business naturally evolved into a larger endeavor.
The young entrepreneur enrolled in classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and studied twice at the Harvard Business School's program "Growing Up CEO." Presently, she peruses numerous fashion magazines to brush up on the latest trends. She then buys en vogue jewelry from wholesale traders and discounts the items from the prices seen at high-end boutiques in mid-town Manhattan or on Main Street in East Hampton. When asked why discount jewelry is important, Spedalle remarked, "Everyone is looking for a bargain. To spend more than $20 on a piece that will be out of style next season is ridiculous . . . the happiness of my customers is the most important thing. I haven't had complaints yet." Finally, a business woman with some sense!
Spedalle has garnered a great deal of recognition for her accomplishments. She was named entrepreneur of the year by NFTE and "Youngest Accessories Entrepreneur" by Accessories Magazine; she was a grand-prize winner in a Bank of America competition; and she won the Dollar Diva Independent Means' National Business plan competition. Currently, Spedalle is writing a book entitled How To Go from Church Basement Flea Markets to Harvard Business School by Age Fifteen. Additionally, BliNg BliNg is creating a website so that customers may browse and purchase discount jewels on the net.
"My mom is my greatest inspiration," she said. "She's superwoman. She does everything. My whole family is made up of entrepreneurs."
Spedalle's age is not the only factor that distinguishes her from other CEOs. Her commitment to charity is commendable. In 2004, Spedalle made a holiday donation to Dress For Success, an organization that aids unemployed or homeless women by outfitting them for job or housing interviews. Specifically, DFS was in need of pearls. Spedalle agreed, "a pearl necklace and earrings are the classic job interview accessories." In response to their dilemma, she engineered Project Pearl. Spedalle assembled a board of directors and promoted awareness about proper job attire with flyers and fund-raising events. Over 1600 pearl necklaces sets and pearl earring accessories were donated to put the finishing touches on DFS clients' business suits. Today, Spedalle continues to write social entrepreneurship grants to fund Project Pearl.
Don't miss a chance to contribute to this worthy cause on Saturday when Spedalle will hold a "Hamptons Style" jewelry trunk show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3775 Three Mile Harbor Road outside of Fiddler's Cove Restaurant. She will sell necklaces, earrings, and bracelets that are typically priced at $30-$90 for only $7-$15 each. Only checks or cash will be accepted. The rain date for the event is Sunday. Proceeds from the show will be donated to Pearl Project.
"There is a distinct East Hampton jewelry style this season. Delicate necklaces with flat gold or silver charms, earrings of gold openwork or translucent droplets in fresh fruit colors, are what's hot this season. It's uncomplicated jewelry in simple styles that flatter a complexion with an East End glow," Spedalle said. If you're interested in jewelry, bargains, supporting America's youth, and helping those in need, be sure to attend the trunk show.