Jewelry designer Amy Rodbell’s creative style pays off, in design and business.
Bold is the name of the game for Buckhead-based jewelry designer Amy Rodbell. As founder and creative director of Swell Caroline, the former Ralph Lauren stylist and Capitol Hill staffer (for Georgia congressman, the late Hon. Charles Norwood) started the fashion-forward, affordable line out of her home in 2010. Since, it’s grown to placements in more than 200 boutiques, including Buckhead’s Swan Coach House shop, Swoozies, Izzy Maternity and Boxwoods. Here, we get the scoop on the striking style, strategic risks and daring choices that have put her on the path to success.
How did you find yourself in the jewelry business? Was it a goal or a happy accident?
Swell Caroline was absolutely a happy accident. I retired from my career in commercial real estate to stay home and raise my children. After my second child was born, I found I was still pulled to work, but I did not want to go back to a full-time career immediately. Partnering with two other creative women, I launched Swell Caroline as an Internet retailer specializing in bright, preppy jewelry styles. Creative entrepreneurs Stephanie Fornash (Fornash, Inc.) and Kelly Shatat (Moon & Lola) partnered with us to source their jewelry on a per-order basis. As we grew, I began to design and manufacture our own private label, the Swell Caroline Collection.
Both of my grandmothers inspired Swell Caroline, and I wanted this company to exude their joy and Southern charm. The name was derived from my grandmother, Carolyn, and the Swell was added as a nod to classic, stylish, socially prominent women of days gone by. Around the office, we refer to her as our girl about town.
Has there been anything surprising about the company’s success?
Everything! I am surprised by the dedication and loyalty of both our staff and customers. I was also really surprised by the success of our monogrammed styles. E-commerce is big for you.
What are some of the farthest-flung places you receive orders from?
Initially, our focus was e-commerce, and we have fulfilled more than 15,000 orders over the last five years! From Japan to Australia, we’ve shipped just about everywhere. Describe the Swell Caroline design ethos in five words. Bright, joyful, fancy, bold and swell!
Do you have any noteworthy fans?
I love this question! There is no better feeling than to bring a bright spot to someone’s life. We received the sweetest email from actress Lauren Potter’s (“Glee”) mother. Lauren gifted one of our pink Cherry Blossom necklaces to her mother, who had just finished going through treatment for breast cancer. She said that the necklace Lauren gave her reminded her of pink ribbons. It brought tears to my eyes and made me so happy!
Do you have any words of wisdom for a new designer or would-be entrepreneur?
It sounds cliché, but just do it! Getting input from friends and family is valuable, but if you wait around to craft the perfect venture, you may never actually launch it. Buckhead is Atlanta’s fashion destination.
Where are some of your favorite places?
Buckhead has changed so much over the years, but I am so happy that some of my favorite retailers are thriving here. I adore the Lilly Pulitzer shop, Mint Julep: Woo Skincare & Cosmetics is a favorite. I love blowouts at GlowDry at Powers Ferry Square; my darling hairdresser, Carter Vu; and, of course, Tootsies for fancy dresses!
STORY: Jennifer Bradley Franklin