On her dining room table at her home in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, Morgan Yoder sat molding the first earrings for her business.
After posting photos of them on her personal Instagram, Yoder a senior speech, language and hearing science major, received messages from her friends asking if they could buy a pair, she said.
“I feel like it kind of fueled me to create more and more,” Yoder said.
Now back at her apartment on 18th Street near Montgomery Avenue, Yoder runs Clay Date Co. which she started in May 2020 when she moved home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although she started her business as a hobby, it’s become her main source of income, she said.
Within her first month of selling the earrings on Instagram, Yoder sold more than 35 pairs. Almost a year later, she’s now sold over six times as many.
Yoder’s earrings incorporate different materials, like gold metals and macrame fabric pieces. She sells studs, hoops and chandelier-style earrings ranging from $6 to $20.
More than 1,300 people follow Clay Date Co. on Instagram, and Yoder’s sold almost 250 pieces, she said. Her next step is to move the company from her website to Etsy to gain more customers, she added.
Yoder first worked with clay her junior year of high school in a ceramics class and began using it again last year to ease her boredom during quarantine, she said.
Once Yoder has a design plan, she lays out blocks of colored clay, fabrics and metals on her desk and isn’t afraid of making a “complete mess” to make a pair of earrings, she said.
“It really helps me put together ideas if I can see everything in front of me,” Yoder added. “I can kind of picture it in my mind a little bit better.”
Jenna Camacho, a senior music education major, found Clay Date Co. through Instagram, and she immediately liked the jewelry and wanted to support a small business, she said. She purchased Clay Date Co.’s crescent moon earrings from Yoder in July 2020.
“She had a unique style that I kind of haven’t seen,” Camacho added. “It wasn’t just clay earrings, she was also offering other options, too.”
Yoder, a sister of Tri Delta Epsilon Phi since her freshman year, said her sorority sisters were her main supporters and first customers.
“It makes me feel really good because I feel like they want to support me,” she said. “Them wearing it and even just like a simple social media post like tagging me on it means a lot to me because that’s a way that can further my business and they’re actively trying to do that.”
Madison Okkerse, a junior international business major and member of Tri Delta, was one of Yoder’s first customers.
“It’s just so awesome that she kind of built a business during a time where things are not going great in the world, and she found a way to make a positive out of it,” Okkerse said.
Tri Delta held virtual recruitment the weekend of Jan. 30, and several of Yoder’s sorority sisters were wearing her earrings and promoting Clay Date Co. Yoder is an inspiration to her other sisters, Okkerse said.
After graduating in Fall 2021, Yoder plans to attend graduate school to become a speech pathologist, but she hopes to continue Clay Date Co. during that time, she said.
“I’m kind of playing it by ear,” Yoder said. “I know right now that clay earrings are super trendy, but a fear of mine is that they’re not going to be trendy anymore, for like, in years. But for now, I like where it’s going.”