Cleo Rice

Chasing Bliss


For some people, starting a business happens almost
inevitably-a natural progression as they go ever
deeper into their hobby. When Cleo Rice retired
from her career as a hospital administrator, she
began devoting more and more of her time to making
jewelry, until at last she knew it was time to find an outlet
for her outlet.

"I was producing all over the place," she said, "and it was
taking over the house. I had never thought about retailing; I
just did it for myself and for gifts. But my son encouraged me
to go out and do something with all the pieces I was making,
and I'd be up to my nose in jewelry right now if I hadn't
started retailing."

Like so many artists and craftspeople who create purely for
the sake of following their bliss, Cleo was sort of surprised
when people were interested in buying her jewelry. What
had begun as a passion for finding and redoing vintage
pieces, then later for "stringing" and hunting down exotic
beads, eventually fleshed out into a full line of jewelry Cleo
describes as "larger than life." She sold her work at craft fairs
in Manhattan and Long Island - Cleo was a New Yorker for
most of her adult life - and she found that she loved being
out in the fresh air and talking to all sorts of people.

Not everything was as simple as just doing what she
loved, however; Cleo still had much to learn about the
nuts and bolts of running her own small business. While
her administrative background had taught her how to
deal with large staffs and million dollar budgets, she found
things were a bit different on the scale of her one-woman
show. So when her husband encouraged her to take a few
courses, she did and found them tremendously helpful.

"Not every person who wants to have a business is going
to be successful at it, just because they have an expertise,"
she said. "You really have to think of it as a business and
approach it that way."

After moving to Hilton Head Island with her husband in
2004, she acquired her own retail location and her operation
has grown from there. As a woman - and especially a
woman of color - she's not sure she would have been able
to do this when she first entered the working world.

"We were not encouraged to start our own business,"
Cleo said of her upbringing. "You get yourself security. You
get a degree and then you find a nice job; that was the type
of path that my family followed."

However, she feels the world has changed. "I'm not sure
my parents would have been able to give me the guidance
that I can now give my grandkids," observes Cleo. "This is
a different day and time, and you're only limited by your
ambition. But it has to be a passion."

So what sort of guidance would she give the next
generation? "I would say pursue your dream, but that doesn't
mean you have to drop everything. You do have to take risks
and you have to have support, but start off small and have
patience because it's a process. You can't let a setback or two
keep you from moving forward."


Up Close:

Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Hobbies: travel, "chasing beads"
Recently visited: China, where she found jade, bone and pearls, pearls, pearls!
Her style: edgy and flamboyant
Favorite piece she's ever created: the turquoise and freshwater pearl necklace that's featured on her business card
Up next: a new line of accessories to complement the jewelry, including scarves, shawls, gloves etc.