Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Colaneri.
Hi Courtney, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I have always had a love affair with fashion since I can remember. I got my first job in retail at the age of 15 and couldn’t wait to spend that paycheck on clothes. I was obsessed with accessorizing and coordinating my outfits, especially the jewelry.
When I was a teenager, my Grandma moved in with my family. I was always so impressed with how creative she was. My Grandma could do anything, she was a wonderful painter and loved taking different types of classes. Unfortunately, I did not get that gene- my Mom is the same way and both of my brothers are pretty artistic as well. I was the athlete, the tomboy who also loved all things girly.
One summer, my Grandma was very into making jewelry; she had taken a jewelry-making class with some friends of hers back in Naples, Florida where she used to live. I was intrigued, she showed me the ropes mostly using Swarovski crystals and how to work with clasps. I enjoyed it, mostly because I got to spend time with my Mom and my Grandma. Three generations all working on something together. However, just like when I was little girl at Girl Scouts- I got bored quickly.
Even though I lost interest in jewelry making, that didn’t stop my Grandma from creating such beautiful customized pieces just for me. I would show her my dress for homecoming (which she always altered for me btw), and she would create something so perfect for me to wear. It was always sparkly and always an entire set including earrings, a bracelet and necklace. It was truly a labor of love.
Flash forward about 16 years. It’s 2018, I’m now a 34 years old stay at home Mom. I had quite the journey along the way. After years of retail management and the corporate life, I thought I had found my calling. I was wrong. It took me about five years to get pregnant with my twins, and then I blinked and got pregnant with my third on my twin’s first birthday. Whoops! My kiddos are considered “Irish Triplets”, yikes I know.
It was a very long December and I had three babies in diapers and was home full time. I remember going on a diaper run to the grocery store in my “athleisure” and was on day five without a shower. I was basically feeling pretty confident and sexy, just kidding. Anyways, I was moping through the cereal aisle and I saw this woman from across the way. I immediately felt even worse about myself because of how FABULOUS she looked. Now, this woman wasn’t wearing a ball gown by any means. But, she was so effortlessly styled to perfection. From her glasses to her shoes and then THE BRACELETS. I was obviously too embarrassed to approach her and ask where she got them from. So instead, I did the mature thing and I went home and stalked the internet to find them. I spent so much time trying to figure it out that I was finding so many neat designs and styles. Where had I been, I felt like I had been living under a rock. I had no sense of style or fashion that I once had. I felt like a part of me was in hibernation or something. I was crazed, I became obsessed.
One night after I put the kids to bed, I told my husband I was going to run to Michaels. Over an hour later, I came home with over $200 worth of beads. Oops. I remember the feeling when I walked up to the jewelry-making section. I was like a kid in a candy store. All the ideas just came flooding into my brain- I had BIG plans.
I didn’t know I had a plan, but it all happened so naturally. I created my first three pieces and sent pics to my two best friends. They both LOVED them. I wore my second set out to dinner on NYE with some friends. I had my first order that night. It was just the thing I needed to push me to the next step, telling my Mom. I showed my Mom what I had created and asked her for some tips. Immediately my Mom was all in. It was exhilarating to think of the possibilities of the future of my little business.
One day, my Mom showed up to my house with a big box of stuff. It was all of my Grandma’s old jewelry-making tools and beads. There were how to books with her handwritten notes in it, tools with her initials on them. It was magical. Using these exact tools that I had learned with so long ago. It was meant to be, they were fueling the passion to take my next move.
Now, a few months in I had the approval and support from my Mom and husband. I decided to test out this new business. This leads me to the “Launch Party”. It was just for family and friends, but the reaction was OVERWHELMING. The thing that I remember everyone kept saying was just how good the quality was and “wow these are like really professional looking”. I kept thinking, “thanks, I guess”- LOL. I sold over $2500 that day. I couldn’t believe it. How could I have made so much money doing something that was so much fun?
From there, I kept creating new designs and looked for ways to slowly broaden my brand. I signed up to participate in a few local holiday shows and was asked to host trunk shows at a few of the boutiques here in town. I was approached to be on Show Me St. Louis and in Ladue News. Things were going great, better than I had ever expected.
Then, just as I took a huge leap of faith and went all in on an out of town event- COVID hit. I had spent a small fortune prepping inventory and upping my display game. I had booked a hotel room, a rental car and paid for my event space. I was devastated. All of the shows I had signed up for were getting canceled left and right. I didn’t know what to do. So, I sulked for a day. Then I decided to take matters into my own hands. I started introducing my new pieces on social media and offering virtual “styling” sessions. Then I started creating one of a kind pieces and it was first come first serve. Wow, this was working.
It was summertime, and things were getting a little better with the covid restrictions, etc. I decided to walk in stores and introduce myself and show them some of my pieces. I got turned down more times then I can count and kept following up over and over. I felt like an actress going in for auditions and never getting the part.
But it all worked out in the end. I am still absolutely in love with what I do. It NEVER feels like work. I am so grateful to get to do something that actually brings me joy. I genuinely love owning my own business, and I cant wait to see what’s next for sunny + luna.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road AT ALL. I was struggling to find a balance between raising three kiddos under two and run a successful business. My business needed to work, we had just bought a new house to get more space. Diapers, formula, and all the things that come with parenting.
Obviously, covid was a major struggle for everyone.
Also, being told no over and over and over again is not fun to hear.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I have passion for all things fashion. Particularly accessories. I feel like you can transform a boring bland old wardrobe staple just simply by adding fresh new fun and colorful accessories. I mostly specialize in jewelry, but I am branching out the brand and slowly, I’m adding in other fun elements like handbags, hats, headbands, and scarves!
I am a firm believer and form my brand around what I like to call “elevated costume” pieces.
I hate when I walk in somewhere and I love so many things, but can really only leave with one. I try to keep that in mind at all times. I want people to feel like they can have champagne taste on a beer budget.
We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
Hmm . . . this is a tough one. I married my high school sweetheart, we’ve been together for almost 20 years.
- Prices start as low as $15
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.shopsunnyandluna.com
- Instagram: shopsunnyandluna
- Facebook: sunny+luna