Catherine Borzym is a hands-on, do-it-yourself kind of girl who likes chocolate, playing with her two fluffy cats, the color kiwi green, and most importantly — designing jewelry.
Borzym credits her success to the education she received at North Central College where she found friends and mentors who would help her develop an entrepreneurial spirit. Since then, she has become CEO of Kiwi Avenue, an individually owned and operated jewelry business.
The 25-year-old Borzym, of Plainfield, says that Kiwi Avenue has allowed her to turn a high school hobby into a business.
“I first became interested in jewelry when my aunt gave me some beads as a Christmas present, and from there, my design work started to evolve,” she said. “I first started the business when I was 16, and would sell things to friends and family and make prom jewelry.”
Two years later, Borzym would incorporate her business and go on to hone her skills while she majored in small business, entrepreneurship and marketing while attending North Central College. To raise awareness about her product, she began selling her creations at farmer’s markets, art fairs and house parties. She also developed a website for an online boutique.
In the past year, a sales representative presented several of her collections at a wholesale show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and she is hoping to roll out a boutique truck that will help further her marketing efforts.
Kathy Teffertiller, of McLeansboro, Ill., says when the two attended North Central College, Borzym “was already passionate and driven” about her business.
“When we were taking business classes back at North Central, everyone had to have a project in the business field, and Catherine used that opportunity to get brand exposure, and by the time she left school, I don’t think there was anyone who didn’t know about what she was doing,” Teffertiller said.
Besides, Teffertiller said, she thought Borzym had a great idea.
“I was a marketing major, and to me, this was always a cool idea as here was someone who started with a few beads and has grown it to what it is now,” Teffertiller said. “I think the Kiwi jewelry will have mass appeal because pieces are personalized and customized and designed so you can get what you want.”
Borzym said that, throughout her designing career, she has made about 5,000 pieces that have included a handmade jewelry accessory line, jewelry made with semi-precious stones, pewter, hand-poured pendants, silver-plated and sterling-silver chains. She said her most popular items have been a “Love Letters” monogram collection and a “Forever Yours” birthstone collection.
Jewelry is also about color, and for herself, Borzym admits she is stuck on the color kiwi green.
“I try to wear that color in some way every day,” she said. “It is a color scheme I like, and I’ve stuck with it.
“Eventually as the business grows, I’d like to give back money towards helping the kiwi birds, who are an endangered species.”
Borzym is looking to give back in another way. She will be leading a discussion group during the upcoming North Central College Self Employment in the Arts Conference, which will be Feb. 21 and 22 at the Hilton Lisle/Naperville Hotel, 3003 Corporate West Drive, Lisle.
SEA Director Amy Rogers said she was impressed with Borzym when she met her a few years ago as a student and that she is looking forward to her being a part of the discussion group.
“I first met Catherine while she was a student at North Central College and attending the Self-Employment in the Arts Conference, and while many students are interested in exploring the idea of entrepreneurship, Catherine was a student already immersed in the concept,” Rogers said. “She has learned to combine her creative gifts with business savvy to create a growing product line and customer base, and we are honored to have her now come back this year and present at the conference.”
When asked about the advice she’d give to aspiring entrepreneurs like herself, Borzym said that she has worked from a fairly short list.
“You have to have a business plan, have your thoughts organized about who you plan to market your products to, and how you’re going to do that,” she said. “I think for me the boutique truck is going to help with all that, and as I was going through the program at North Central, I always brain stormed with my professors about ideas.”