Summer LuLu’s handmade teething jewelry is by moms, for moms—and it’s catching on with appreciative parents everywhere.
Sarah Wilson never really meant to start her own business.
In 2013, the Cambridge resident and new mom just wanted to find a baby-friendly necklace. It was surprisingly difficult—she prefers to shop locally rather than online, and few stores in the area carried any. So while she was on maternity leave, Wilson, who has always loved crafting (and hated sitting still), took matters into her own hands. She bought a bunch of colorful silicone beads on Etsy and made a couple of fun, funky, chewable accessories for herself and for her two best friends, who were also pregnant.
That would have been it, but a pair of Somerville children’s shops had other ideas.
Wilson is a frequent customer at Two Little Monkeys and Magpie Kids, and her brightly colored bangles caught the eyes of employees at each store while she shopped with her daughter, Charlotte.
“Both stores, independently, were like, ‘Where did you get that? We’ve been wanting to sell something like that,’” Wilson recalls.
Realizing that she’d need some assistance in ramping up operations, she enlisted the help of business partner and best pal Karin Effland. The two decided on the name Summer LuLu, a nod to their two homes; Wilson lives on the Somerville-Cambridge line, and Effland recently moved to Honolulu. The chewelry is handmade by Wilson, Effland and a small but dedicated team of stay-at-home moms.
In fact, “by moms, for moms” is at the crux of what Wilson and Effland are trying to do with Summer LuLu. Wilson belongs to a local moms meet-up that’s full of supportive parents, and she noticed one common concern was the astronomical cost of daycare; she says it’s so expensive that for many moms, going back to work and paying for daycare would almost cost families money.
Another frequent conversational thread among the moms in her group was the fear of losing their individuality after having children. “I think moms are struggling with their sense of self and their sense of purpose,” Wilson explains. “You can get lost in this, like, I’m just a mom—who am I?”
So Wilson floated the invitation out to the group: Anyone who was “even a little crafty” and wanted to make some money on the side without needing to find daycare for their children was welcome to train with her and Effland.
Because they’re handmade by moms who share a commitment to crafting high-quality items—not mass-produced abroad, which Wilson says is common among other chewelry companies—the accessories are catching on with appreciative (and stylish) parents everywhere. They’ve partnered with the American Autism Association for a line of functional jewelry made with members of the autistic community in mind, and earlier this month the AAA named the company one of its “superstar sponsors.”
And while the Summer LuLu duo has big plans, Wilson says she’s just happy to have had some local success, and thrilled that her company is there for appreciative moms. The emphasis on perfection—and the “by moms, for moms” promise—is what’s helped her business’s steady, organic and largely word-of-mouth growth. Wilson says that just a few weeks ago, she received a wholesale order from a new store whose owner learned about Summer LuLu after a fan talked up their wares while she shopped.
“It all happened because this woman who doesn’t even know us told people how much she loves our stuff!” Wilson effuses. “It’s things like that that just make me so excited.”
This story originally appeared in the November/December print issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 250 locations throughout Cambridge or by subscription. Learn more about Summer LuLu at summerlulu.com.