Designed To Shine
Hilary and Jimmy Brady’s leap-of-faith jewelry business combines their love of creativity and business sense with their need to find meaning in life’s events.
On a sleepy little street in a quiet neighborhood in Leland, three golden haired girls run and squeal. It is bedtime and chaos reigns. Hilary and Jimmy Brady work as a team to get them all comfy, sleepy and tucked in for the night. Prayers and stories tumble out of open doorways; kisses are softly planted on freshly washed heads. Little eyes drift closed as the door softly closes.
Hilary sighs and then laughs softly. We settle down to chat about the path this extraordinary family’s life has taken in the past six months since launching their custom jewelry company Designed to Shine.
Born to an artist mother and a businessman father, Hilary grew up wanting to be both creative and business savvy. She studied business and went into marketing, honoring both of her creative and practical parents.
After she and Jimmy married, necessity required them to live as frugally as possible. Part of that frugal living was creating homemade gifts for loved ones, and that included making homemade jewelry. In 2012 friends and relatives began asking for more jewelry — custom pieces and one-of-a-kind gifts. The couple began putting together orders in the evening after their girls went to sleep.
Word of Hilary’s unique designs spread, as did demand. What was at first a fun hobby quickly morphed into a booming business. And six months ago, she and Jimmy took a huge leap of faith and quit both of their jobs to run Designed to Shine full time.
In a sun-soaked room brimming with metal stamps, bracelets, rows of beads and piles of shipping envelopes, the Bradys create amazing custom jewelry. Jimmy does all the metalworking and Hilary does all of the designing. Together with two support staff, the Bradys ship out roughly 250 orders a week.
They work primarily through an etsy website, where clients can request anything from a completely custom piece created by the client themselves to one that the Bradys have full creative control over.
“Some people write me and have no idea what they want,” says Hilary. “But others will draw something, take a picture of it and send it to me and want that exact thing. I love it all, from giving the customer exactly what they requested to working with them to find out what they are truly trying to communicate with a piece.”
Very soon after launching their etsy shop, the Bradys were receiving orders for specialty jewelry. Pieces personalized for women battling cancer. For women running triathlons. For women pregnant with their first babies, or grandmas celebrating their sixth grandchild. Pieces from men looking for something special for their wives. Women looking for unique personalized jewelry for their children. The Bradys created unique designs for them all, lovingly hand-stamped specifically to order.
Then came the requests from mothers battling the worst loss any woman can experience: the loss of a child. Whether a woman was grieving a baby lost in the womb or a child lost in the world, every single piece strikes a deep chord for the couple.
“We’ve lost several babies,” says Hilary. “We understand grief. We understand pain. When I create a piece for a grieving mother, I think, ‘What would bring ME peace?’ I want them to hold their necklace and have hope. I want them to know how much they have to live for. Both here on earth and in heaven.”
Their pieces for lost babies reflect this deep understanding of the pain and of the sweet burden of knowing one or more of your children waits for you in heaven. Their stories are also carried in the Bradys’ hearts and souls.
“I get these orders, and I just understand the pain,” says Hilary. “I’ve been there. I know what these women are going through. It’s a sisterhood of sorts, one you never would have chosen, but a powerful one all the same.”
Just a few weeks ago, Hilary miscarried twins. When she came home from the hospital that day, there was an order waiting for her. A woman wanted a necklace to celebrate the fact that she had just found out she was expecting twins.
“I made that piece with a lot of tears,” Hilary says. “There was pain, yes. But there was also joy. I got to celebrate with a woman who was carrying what I knew to be so precious.”
Also poignant for the couple are pieces made for mothers of premature babies. Their own miracle middle child, Aubri, was born at 29 weeks gestation.
“We’ve been there too,” Hilary says. “We know the fear and the worry. I want to give these women hope and peace. I want them to know it’s going to be okay.”
Recently, Hilary received an order from a woman dealing with debilitating dementia in her grandmother. Because Hilary’s mom is struggling with this herself, the order hit home.
“I hadn’t grieved my own situation yet,” she says. “But this order forced me to go there, to think through it — what is it that brings me peace? The promise that my mother may not be healed in this life, but she will be made whole for eternity? How do I want to remember her? In creating a design for this woman, I found myself dealing with my issue head on. It initiated a healing process in me with something I didn’t think I was even ready to tackle.”
Sometimes the Bradys are contacted to make a piece for a grieving widow. Two entwined fingerprints. A bracelet with a beloved spouse’s handwriting; Hearts; Angel wings; Names of their loved one, set into metal, to be worn next to the heart. Destined to be bathed in tears as fingers trace the letters over and over again.
Nearly every memorial piece carries a name. Names of babies that never drew breath. Names of children that left too soon. Spouses lost to cancer, to accidents. Parents of young children. All of them have traveled the path to the Bradys door in words and phrases on an order form and have been turned into beauty.
Hilary says she prays over every single piece.
“Our hearts are poured into each order,” she says. “We can relate to so many of the struggles and can literally feel their hurt, so not only are they in our prayers but it’s inevitable that we’re shedding tears on order forms on a regular basis. People contact us from around the world with these amazing stories. We feel so blessed to be able to create something so meaningful for so many.”
There are joyful pieces as well. Celebrating new babies, new marriages, love and life and laughter. Best friend necklaces and sparkly bracelets any woman would squeal over. Dog tag necklaces with soccer balls for boys and pretty gems for little girls. All of them are given the Bradys hands-on treatment. They work to place the words just so, the symbols in the perfect spot to make the recipient smile. Joy is the goal of these pieces, to make people happy.
“We have two sections to our jewelry — ‘In the Heart’ and ‘On the Town,’” says Hilary. “Both are important, both celebrate very meaningful parts of our lives. One is for remembering, the other for feeling beautiful.”
Children can also get special goodies just for them. Bracelets designed specifically with a message inside just for the child from their parent. Tags that warn of an allergy. Strings of multi-colored pearls. Book bag toggles. From simple to deeply meaningful, there’s something for every child.
Even the name of the Bradys’ business has special meaning.
“We wanted something that honored all we have been through and captured what we have learned,” says Hilary. “Yes, we all have our share of tragic events. I truly believe God wants us to use these things in our lives. They are so hard, and they hurt. But He carries us through, all while watching us grow stronger, love deeper, live bigger and shine brighter. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from the most difficult moments of my life? It’s always going to be ok. He designed us to shine. And so we will.”
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