Chyna Dorcean, 14, of Upper Marlboro said she has been selling handmade jewelry at vending tables at various community days for years, but customers always asked about a brick-and-mortar location to purchase her wares.
“They would always ask me where they could go to pick up my jewelry [on a regular basis],” Chyna said.
The 10th-grader at Frederick Douglass High School opened just such a location on Friday. Chyna, with the help of her mother, Mildred Charles-Butler, and Bernadette Clay, president of BLE Executive and Virtual Office Suites, opened Chyna’s Jewelry Boutique in a Largo office park.
Virtual offices refer to office space and resources that small businesses can employ on a part-time basis if they cannot yet afford a permanent location.
Chyna said because she will be juggling school work and her business, the shop only will be open twice per month — on the first Saturday and third Thursday. However, the opening still is a big step forward because she will have to increase the amount of jewelry she makes for a more regular clientele.
Chyna said she tends to have an inventory of 50 to 60 sets of jewelry at any given time, but even with increased demand, she can put some pieces together within 15 to 20 minutes.
“There’s still a lot of work to get to where I really want to be,” she said. “I’m starting from the bottom up and it’ll take a long time to get there.”
Charles-Butler said Chyna, who started making jewelry when she was 9, is becoming more and more financially involved in her company as well. Although Charles-Butler said she initially provided the funding for materials and table rentals at community events, which can run from $300 to $600 every six months, Chyna has begun to take part of that burden on, contributing about 30 percent of her sales revenue.
“She’s understanding more now,” Charles-Butler said. “She’s beginning to realize, ‘I have to think like a businesswoman and put money into my company and talk to and cultivate my customer base.’”
Chyna agreed, adding she also contributes some of her proceeds to her church, the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro.
“I used to like to just go shopping with the money I made,” Chyna said. “Now I tithe 10 percent, I put money in my savings account and I help contribute money for my supplies.”
Clay, whose business provides temporary spaces for local small businesses who might not be able to afford permanent office space, said she never has seen someone so young and motivated run a small business.
“I’m truly impressed by Chyna, so I’m willing to do what I can to help her,” Clay said. “She’s so business-minded and so creative.”
Going forward, Chyna is starting a second line of jewelry, called “Chyna Renee,” featuring higher-quality materials such as sterling silver and crystal, to complement her more moderately-priced jewelry, which feature semi-precious stones including agate, jade and jasper. It’s all part of her plan to eventually have her designs mass-produced.
And her mother said she’ll continue to encourage Chyna, as long as her education remains a priority.
“I’ll be ensuring that she’s staying focused,” Charles-Butler said. “We want to make sure [the business expansion] doesn’t impact her education.”