College junior fashions dazzling home business
Becca Weisz crafts accessories, kipot with a blast of bling
Becca Weisz has so many ideas bubbling up in her brain, putting them into action is her favorite way of calming down. In addition to her studies — she is just starting her junior year at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, studying anthropology and evolution — she works late into the night making all kinds of sparkly accessories, from hair clips to cowboy boots.
Most recently, she has been making yarmulkes, covered in a mosaic of multi-colored sparkles.
“A friend asked if I could make her a kipa, so I made hers and then I started making others. I’ll make them to order and in whatever colors people want,” she said, chatting a mile a minute at the kitchen table in her parents’ home in Florham Park, just as her vacation was ending.
The dining room table was out of commission, laden with Becca’s products — mounds of colorful bangles, caps, clutch bags, and what at first sight looked like pairs of yarmulkes — but turned out to be sparkle-covered bras. She donates a portion of proceeds from the sale of those items to the Susan G. Komen Fund, for breast cancer research.
“My parents have been so amazing, the way they let me take over the house,” she said. Production, however, was centered in her bedroom — just as back on campus, her dorm room doubles as a workshop. Books make way for an ordered chaos of beads and stones in bags and compartmentalized boxes, tubes of glue, and instruments of various kinds.
Her combination of philanthropy and business savvy isn’t new for Becca. Her parents, long-time members of Congregation Beth Torah in Florham Park, are both entrepreneurs, Andrew with his janitorial supply company, Genie in her family’s paper business.
“I’ve always been creative for a cause,” said Becca.
For her bat mitzva project she knitted patchwork blankets for orphans through Project Linus, and at 16 she got into baking cookies to sell at school for Sweet Charity, the philanthropic initiative that she started.
“We never discouraged her from doing anything she wanted to do,” Genie said. They’ve been just as encouraging with her brother, 17-year-old Spencer, with his projects.
When she got to college, and people started commenting on the striking things she wore, she came up with the idea of starting a real business. It had the added benefit of soothing her attention deficit disorder. “When I’m making stuff, I’m totally calm and focused,” she said.
At college, Becca printed up advertising flyers, which she put up in dorm halls and bathrooms. Her parents — as a gift — hired a lawyer, a family friend, to establish her business as a legal entity, Sugar and Speisz LLC. “Under that label, I can make whatever occurs to me. That’s what I love about it,” Becca said.
Marketing doesn’t faze her at all. “I like networking,” she said. “I’m not shy about it at all. My mother says that shows it’s the right thing for me to be doing.” She has promoted her one-of-a-kind accessories in print, on-line at Etsy.com (etsy.com/shop/SugarandSpeisz), on Facebook, at Wanelo.com, and wherever else she can. She sells them in person — often helped, when she’s on vacation, by her mother — at craft markets and street fairs. Her products are also for sale in a local Florham Park hair salon, Cathy D’s.
“I’ve had sales to customers in 26 states, and in seven countries on four continents,” she said. Orders have come in from places as diverse as Hawaii and Romania.
Heading back to school, she was full of new ideas for new products, but — just in case anyone doubts her academic dedication — she was just as passionate talking about her studies. Learning about the ways creativity like hers fits into the grand scheme of cultural and biological evolution seems like just another way of doing what she likes best — “thinking outside the box.”