By Monica Poisson, Contributing Writer
While most University of New Hampshire students are stressing out over exams and where to go out this Saturday night, senior Annah Todd is taking a 20-credit course load, graduating early and starting her own business, Pomp Pearls.
The Durham-native journalism major has plenty on her plate to keep her busy until she graduates this December, as well as for some time after.
Todd sprouted the idea for Pomp Pearls back in January and brought it to her boyfriend and co-founder, Jack Callahan.
The idea was to create a business that sold pearl necklaces.
It quickly became a reality with the help of Callahan’s family, who is in the pearl business and already distribute to big stores such as Macy’s and J.C. Penny.
“It was awesome because we jumped like 10 years of communication,” Todd said about the connection. The first samples arrived in March, and Todd was about to begin putting designs together.
“How can I make this different?” Todd thought while looking at a string of pearls she already owned. “’This is such a classic, traditional object, how can we make this cool? What would make this stand out, make it different, make it trendy?’ So we came up with the colored string.”
The string of each necklace is a different color based on the trends of the season and the string is double knotted between each pearl to make it pop more. For hundreds of years, pearl necklaces have focused only on the pearls, so Todd wanted to take that and flip it on its head.
The business is more than just selling pearl necklaces; Todd said a large part of it is developing a strong brand.
The company does this with their blog, photo shoots and events. Since the company is small and Todd has modeling experience, she is the model seen in most pictures on the blog and website.
“We go to a lot of places and obviously ham it up a little bit,” Todd said. “My life is not that great, not as great as it looks on the blog anyway. The whole idea is to make someone be like, ‘I want to be like them.’ It sounds silly but we all do it.”
This idea seems to be working on the current demographic of buyers. The original aim was to sell the necklaces to college-aged women and young professionals up to about age 30; people with enough of their own disposable income to be able to buy the products. To Todd’s surprise, much of the sales are to high school-aged girls.
“Perhaps it’s aspirational,” Todd Said. “We’re always thinking about the next step and what we want to be like.”
The most recent event, held at Todd’s parents’ house, was a party with the hashtag #PompInTheWild attached to posts and pictures. All of the girls present were given a string of pearls to wear for the night and to be photographed in.
“We invited 30 or so of our friends,” Todd told of the event. “We basically had a bonfire, we gave them alcohol, we made marshmallows, and we had a professional photographer there that kind of staged the whole thing.”
The idea is to get buyers to think that if they buy the necklaces they can also be like the girls in the pictures — they can be pomp. Todd likes to joke that Pomp Pearls is more of a marketing company than a business that sells pearls. They are working very hard to create a lifestyle. How do you make people want to buy more? You develop a very strong brand.
“The party was a great way to promote the product,” senior Caitlin Ayer said. “We all got to take a closer look at the necklaces and got to wear whatever ones we wanted. It was a super casual night and was a lot of fun to celebrate and to get people excited about the company. I thought it was a great way to get their name out and to get people more interested about the pearls.”
Pomp Pearls is a growing business, with Todd already making back her initial investment and currently making money. But being successful is not easy.
“Last year was pretty hectic,” Todd said. “I took 20 credits all year and worked three jobs and also founded a business.”
Despite it being a hectic year, Todd doesn’t discourage anyone from starting a business as an undergrad.
“It gives you real-world experience, you kind of get tossed into the fire a bit,” she said. “It’s hard, and it’s a lot of work. I wouldn’t suggest it unless you really care a lot, but don’t be scared of caring about that idea.
If I could go back and change anything, it would be to go back and be more confident that I had chosen to do this.”
The photos of the event can be found on the blog at www.pomppearls.com.