Kristen Meeter had a simple goal the first time she brought her custom jewelry to sell at the Spencer Riverfront District Farmers Market: Make a sale.
“I ended up selling a lot more than I expected,” Kristen said. “That just kind of launched it from there.”
After that successful Saturday in 2015, Pressed Jewelry and Apparel was in business. Kristen, who already had 11 years of retail fashion experience, started and continues to operate the buisness out of her home in Spencer.
Kristen spends much of her time in the house’s loft, designing and carefully crafting each piece of jewelry. Some of the designs require special tools. The jewelry is handmade, so each turns out slightly different.
Every Pressed Jewelry and Apparel item draws from faith-based, inspirational, family or Midwest themes.
“The name Pressed speaks to both the literal pressing of the metal that’s being done and the pressing of the ink through the screen, so it talks about our art forms that we use,” Kristen said. “But most of our product is faith-based or inspirational in nature, so the name also comes from a verse in 2 Corinthians that talks about being pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.”
The decision to make that verse part of the brand came from a season in life Kristen went through before she moved to Spencer in 2013.
“I found myself drawn to jewelry with meaning, like jewelry that had words on it that kind of anchored my heart and mind,” she said.
Now others are drawn to her jewelry’s meanings and themes. Though many sales are online, either through the website or Etsy, Kristen takes her jewelry to shows, including the Clay County Fair last year.
“We get to meet so many great people at shows,” Kristen said. “You watch them read the words on the jewelry and sometimes you’ll see a tear because it connects with them so much.”
Pressed Jewelry and Apparel has grown so significantly that Kristen’s husband, Eric Meeter, in August plans to go part-time at his job with Hope Reformed Church in Spencer to devote more of his time to the business.
He’s been helping on nights and weekends up to this point.
“This business is our life right now; it’s our home,” he said. “It’s always hard to turn it off.”
Both are often up late working.
Growing and hustling from home
“We’re also in that phase of growth where we’re hustling,” Kristen said. “He still has the full-time job and I do have one part-time maker with me now, but as the business grows, we’re hustling to keep up with it. So we have to get creative with how we go about fitting it all in.”
Eric has been focused lately on the apparel side of the business.
“While we were brainstorming that process and all the stuff that we would need to have, Kristen always had in the back of her mind that we should incorporate apparel t-shirts into our line,” he said. “We just assumed that it would be a process of the two of us designing it, sending it off to a third party, getting it printed and coming back.”
Instead, Eric looked at what it would take to screen print in house.
“I basically wrote up a business plan and presented it to my wife and was like, ‘This is what it’s going to take. I think we can recoup it pretty quickly. I think we should go for it.’”
They bought the equipment and turned their home basement into the print shop.
“We design the shirts together and then he screen prints them by hand,” Kristen said.
The business has always taken up much of the Meeters’ home, but the space required has increased even faster since adding apparel. What once fit in the loft has expanded to a room for shipping and receiving, another for a photo studio and now the living room.
“We actually had to sell the furniture in the living room to make room for the business,” Kristen said.
As Pressed grows, more decisions will need to be made.
“We know that if we’re going to continue on the trajectory we’re on, we’ve got to move it out of the house,” Kristen said. “We just don’t know for sure what that looks like yet. We’re enjoying this phase of the business.”
Kristen added some day they’d like to have a family. That would require them to take back from the business more space in the home.
“We try to picture that,” she said. “Having a kid in the house with all the business around and we just can’t make those worlds work in our heads, just with all the inventory we have to carry at all times.”
Though what moving the business outside their home would look like isn’t clear, the Meeters are committed to Spencer.
“We are planted,” Eric said. “We love this community. Honestly, for me, if we’re talking dreams, that is part of my dream and why I would lean more toward brick and mortar in downtown Spencer is because I love this community and I would love to see us bring a little bit of life back to downtown.”
Eric, a Spencer native, said a lot of his desire to locate downtown is nostalgic.
“We have a gorgeous downtown here in Spencer,” Eric said. “I remember when I was younger it was bustling. Retail was good. And I know with just some economy changes and stuff like that, downtown has become more office space and less retail. It would be really fun to see a little bit of a push back for retail and just a place where people can come walk downtown and enjoy the night, stop in at different shops, stuff like that. We still consider ourselves (part of) the younger generation in town and maybe be a catalyst in that.”