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Constructing business out of passion

There is an ongoing debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made, and, as I continue to meet with the city’s top innovators and entrepreneurs, I constantly find myself pondering that age-old question. While all entrepreneurs certainly share a certain spirit and skill set, I believe that many start-ups are launched from a passion to grow a niche expertise into a new business.  And, sometimes, all you need is a small opportunity to turn your passion or skill into a new business venture.

A good example of such a metamorphosis is Lauren Eckstein Shonekas, founder and designer of Construct Jewelry.

Construct Jewelry designer and founder Lauren Eckstein Shonekas creates one-of-a-kind jewelry using parts from deconstructed vintage jewelry.

A native of New Orleans, Lauren delved into jewelry making as a means of therapy when she evacuated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. Taking apart old jewelry and reconstructing it into unique pieces was an avenue of expression during those difficult months. After the success of her first sale, Lauren continued to evolve her collection, even after returning to New Orleans to pursue her Masters of Social Work at Tulane University. Along the way she was encouraged by her roommate, also a jewelry designer, to take her newfound hobby more seriously.

From the buying process to the creation of each piece, Lauren’s collection continued to evolve, initially as a side venture. She sold her pieces to friends and gained new clients through word of mouth while she worked as a therapist providing counseling to children in New Orleans.

Over the years, the buying process for her original pieces became more sophisticated as she scouted garage sales and high-end antique stores for jewelry to deconstruct.  Through the process, she learned how to identify pieces according to decade, and developed a system for choosing each vintage piece based on its weight, texture, luster, and detail.  All the criteria make up the elements of her one-of-a-kind designs, while still keeping the quality and history of the original piece.

Lauren continued to use the creative process as a means of therapy, applying and projecting her methodologies and unique perspectives into building relationships with her clients as well as jewelry making. In her creative process, every part of the original is eventually put to use.

 “I never throw any part of the original away,” explains Lauren. “I believe that each part has potential, and it’s just a matter of time for when and where it can be used again.”

Adopting the same thought process in both of her passions --helping others and recreating jewelry -- Lauren focuses on finding the value of and beauty in aspects that might otherwise seem hopeless or useless, and inspires others to see that as well.

With growing popularity for her pieces, Lauren has added custom design to her repertoire, creating

Construct Jewelry’s bridal line can also be customized using the client’s family heirlooms and antiques.

unique pieces for her clients by integrating family heirlooms and antiques into modern creations to fit the client’s personality. Eventually, she developed a bridal collection in the process.

In March, the designer and entrepreneur decided to focus on Construct Jewelry full time, crediting New Orleans Entrepreneur Week sessions for helping her formalize the steps she needed to take to launch a business.  Having spent time working with the city’s education reform, she feels encouraged and excited to be involved in yet another growing aspect in New Orleans – its entrepreneurial community.

 Construct Jewelry can currently be found at www.construct-jewelry.com, Vintage 329, and Wedding Belles. 

Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups through her non-profit organization GenNOLA