When someone says “she’s a jack of all trades,” it’s safe to say they are referring to Sabrina Thompson.
This former television producer, turned school teacher, turned philanthropist and jewelry designer is proving that you can have a million things going on and be good at every one of them - as long as you have passion and good time management.
From her appearance on the hit show Survivor, to her involvement as vice-chair of WEEN (Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network), Ms. Thompson dished to GlobalGrind on how all of these career hats tie into her jewelry business, beanpYe, that has every NYC girl wondering how they can get their hands on her unique collection.
GlobalGrind: You are a jewelry designer, former television producer and teacher; can you tell me one commonality of all these careers?
Sabrina Thompson: Oh sure! First of all, they are all things that I love and at the end of the day they all deal with serving people. With jewelry, definitely serving my customers. Women love to feel like they are extra pretty in a piece of jewelry. You will be amazed at what that can do. As a photographer serving people again, especially when I take pictures of women maybe that have lost a lot of weight and don’t realize how pretty they are, or photos of children and their parents start crying when they see the pictures and are like, “Oh my God my child is growing up.” It’s kind of serving the needs of others and also with WEEN, it’s just about giving back. I didn’t have a program like this when I was younger. I grew up with a really strong background in the church and my parents always told me you are here on this earth to serve others.
I just do it all at one time and I had no idea they were all going to come together. Sort of like you know seven years ago I started beanpYe the jewelry company. WEEN was started about 4 and half/5 years ago. Teaching was 5 years ago and I had no idea they were going to all come together. You find time for what you love to do. I think often times people say “Oh my God you do so much stuff.” I feel like if you don’t feel like you are good at all of them, no one else will and it’s just a matter of pacing yourself. Some days when I am tired of jewelry I put that down for a week and make enough so that my inventory is stocked up. Photography is around the clock. WEEN is more seasonal sometimes so you are always working on the different projects but then the summer is our really big season because of the WEEN academy. So everything has its moments and times.
You started experimenting with jewelry making during your junior year of college, correct?
Yes! I’m a Tarheel. I went to school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And although I was on a full track and field scholarship there is a conception like, “Aww athletes don’t have to do any work. You guys are on a full scholarship.” Bump that, we are still broke people just like the average college student. You know you want to go to the movies. You want to go out to eat and things of that nature. So I said you know what instead of throwing all this stuff out, like old jean skirts and old necklaces you don’t wear, I would tear apart some clothing and revamp it.
So how exactly did you get into jewelry designing and is it ultimately something that you always saw yourself doing?
How I started really was I went to like Target or Walmart one day and got you know the $5 flip-flops and stretched the bottom and kicked them out and sold them to these rich sorority girls for like $20 each. You sell 5 pair of those that’s $100, which is a lot for a college kid. I just kind of started making handcrafted stuff and just concentrated on jewelry and it kind of took off. When you have friends that are stylists that work with celebrities and publications you know you call them up and either the answer is going to be yes or no. Like “Hey I have this wonderful piece take it with you if you can throw it on this person throw it on them.” Not only will I get magazine credit but I will also get the credit like “Hey India Arie wore it.” So you just have to use your resources. You don’t have to have a ton of money to start a company you just have to know what you already have and just really pound it out.
What sources of inspiration do you use when you go sit down to design a bracelet, or earring or necklace?
I’m very intrigued by rugs and fabrics from around the world. It doesn’t have to be new or anything. I love hand-woven stuff. The time that some old man or women sat down and literally pieced together from scratch some fabric and different patterns. A lot of people are afraid of color or putting polka dots with stripes. So I would just say world travel, rugs, fabrics and really funky music. That gets me going.
What are three words that describe your jewelry collection?
FUNKY, AUTHENTIC and BOLD. It’s not for the people that like the little diamond pendant. I’m very anti-diamond. It’s for the girl that’s going to go out and wear a tank top and jeans and wants that big piece. It’s a conversation piece.
Are there any lessons that you took from your appearance on “Survivor” that you find valuable in your business?
I think the number one lesson I learned is to observe people. People tell you exactly who they are by you observing them. So observing the client and your demographics and knowing exactly what they want. And although the industry may be going one way, what are your clients saying.
And listening to people stories. “Survivor” is all about a bunch of strangers coming together and we are sharing our stories and some are deceiving to get the million dollars, which is part of the game. A lot of times when I’m designing custom pieces you just sit there and listen to their story. Sort of like a songwriter that goes into the studio with an artist and you sit there and you listen and craft the song. You want to put in your creativity but you also want the person to feel comfortable and love the piece when they put it on. I think it’s amazing when people wear the piece and are like “Oh my God all these people are tackling me in the streets asking me all these questions.” It’s just the stories and observing people and taking and making something out of a story.
Where do you see beanpYe five years from now?
Honestly, I’m not really big on the math production but I get it, I understand you do make a lot of money on it. But, honey I’m trying to get on QVC and HSN. People do have access to it on the internet, especially here in NY, but it’s a lot more visibility. The lady that is maybe at home in the middle of can goods can click on it and it’s just a bigger audience. I would get some pieces mass produced and go from there. So I would say mass production on earrings more than anything. Although I love making bracelets, earrings are my biggest seller.
Check the gallery above for a peek of unique pieces from Sabrina Thompson’s jewelry collection and head to beanpYe to learn more about her line and how you can make your purchase on that statement necklace or bracelet you'v been desiring.