"I remember reading that 80 percent of startup businesses fail within the first three years because of a lack of knowledge. I said to myself, well, I've got to go to school, cause I'm not failing. I'm just not."
Jaritza Rosario has always had a thing for nature, especially wearing it, she says. Like bracelets made from wood, and earrings made from seashells or fossils. A few years ago, she was inspired to start creating jewelry out of real flowers, so she started a business to do just that – Florr Jewelry, Flor being the Spanish word for flower, with a extra R cause she likes the way it looks. "Flowers, they're so beautiful, and everyone loves them," she says. Last spring, Rosario enrolled at HCC to "get the knowledge" she needs to ensure Florr Jewelry's success.
Photo above: Jaritza Rosario displays a Florr Jewelry exclusive, a necklace she made from a leaf she found at HCC. She's wearing a ring made with a real ladybug.
Favorite course & teacher:
I like Marketing. It teaches you about different kinds of customers, how they shop, what they want, when they want it, and how they want it, and that's something I need to learn, cause I can't just throw my product out there. Prof. Ellen Majka has been very important to me. She invited me to the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation Entrepreneurship Initiative annual awards dinner last spring. I had a table there for my business, Florr Jewelry, and I won an award for one of the best table displays and got a referral to Valley Venture Mentors. I'm working with them now.
What classes are you taking this semester?
Marketing and English.
What brought you to HCC?
I stopped paying attention in school in 8th grade. I was bad. I became a rebel. I skipped school. I was always getting in-house detention. i was suspended. I was in fights. I was so bad they made in-house my homeroom. I just stopped going to school and then I dropped out. I got my GED when I was 18. Then I enrolled in cosmetology school but I knew after the third month that was not what I wanted to do. I finished the program after two years, but when i was there all I could think about was that I wanted to make jewelry out of real flowers. I could picture people wearing it. A year after I graduated I made my first pair of earings out of real orchid flowers. I did a lot of research to learn how to make jewelry from flowers – to make the flowers last forever. Once I had the jewelry part down pat my next step was, how do I do this as a business? I joined the Latino Chamber of Commerce and learned a lot from them. That's where Florr was born. One day I was researching online and I remember reading that 80 percent of startup businesses fail within the first three years because of a lack of knowledge. I will never forget that. That just really set things off in my head. I said to myself, well, I've got to go to school, cause I'm not failing. I'm just not.
What's been your most meaningful experience at HCC?
I've had a few meaningful experiences since I started at HCC. Last spring I won a Spirit Award for $500 from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation Entrepreneurship Initiative to help me with my business and a table display award at the banquet at the Log Cabin. Getting connected with Valley Venture Mentors was probably the biggest, though. They're helping me take Florr Jewelry to the next level. Someone from VVM referred me to a boutique in Vermont and they want my stuff, so I'll be in my first boutique. I was also on a panel at a Grinspoon Foundation event at the MassMutual Center last fall, "Epic Stories of Grinspoon Alumni." Afterward, I had a lot of people come up to me and say they liked my story, that is was really inspiring, and I like that. Now they're going to remember me, especially when they see my jewelry out there.
What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome at HCC?
The schoolwork. I dropped out of school in 8th grade, so it's been very tough. But I like school, and I'm learning things that I need to know, especially about running a business.
What's been your proudest achievement at HCC?
Getting good grades. It feels good. And all the certificates I get to put up on my wall – the Grinspoon award, Latino Chamber of Commerce. And it's going to keep growing.
What is your favorite thing about HCC?
The learning. The experience.
Any advice for other students?
Knowledge is definitely the key. if someone wants to start a business, I'm gonna tell them, get your knowledge. Go to school, 'cause it's the best thing you can do.
What are your plans after HCC?
I love the business world. I love dressing classy, going to events. I love connecting with people, meeting new people. I love it. So this is my little plan. I'm going to keep on doing Valley Venture Mentors and I'm in it to win it. Next November when they hand out their start-up awards, I want a big foam check. That's my dream, and I'm gonna get one. After that, I want to develop my web site so it really draws people's attention. I'm really gonna hit the bridal industry, so I'm going to target that market first and do some advertising, draw those customers and I'm going to be doing that for a couple of years, and I'll be in boutiques, making sales, until I save enough money to open a store.