While a high school student at Greenwhich Academy in Connecticut, Emma Mittelstadt began designing jewelry as a hobby.
Like many hobbies, it became less important to her during her college years, but the economic recession has forced her to pick it up again.
"I've had difficulty finding a job since graduation, so I've redirected my focus into the jewelry stuff -- at least for now," said the 22-year-old graduate from the University of the South.
Ms. Mittelstadt graduated in May with a degree in English and a minor in political science. She had hoped to get a job in publishing, but she found she was one of hundreds applying for the same job. She has turned to plan B.
She has started her own business, Unique by Emma, and sells her jewelry as a means to supplement her income.
"It's not just an attempt to take control over an uncertain career future," Ms. Mittelstadt said. "I also believe that college graduates like me should see a bad job market as an opportunity to take risks and start something for ourselves."
John Riddell, director for the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth in Chattanooga, said Ms. Mittelstadt is not unlike many recent college graduates who turn to entrepreneurship in a sour economy.
"In the past, many who have been laid off or recently graduated from college thought that if they keep beating the bushes they will eventually find something, but that's not the case," he said. "The economy isn't creating jobs now, so if the jobs aren't there and you have to work, that's the only option."
To get started, Ms. Mittelstadt, who lives in Hixson with her parents, invested $100 to $200 for supplies.
"That's really the only cost I have right now," she said.
Ms. Mittelstadt admits that her profit margin has been relatively small, but she is astute enough to know that is expected this early in her venture.
Most of her sales come from in-home jewelry parties or via her Web site, www.uniquebyemma.com.
"Those have been extremely successful," she said of the in-home parties, much like the Tupperware parties of old.
She said she tries to keep the prices as low as possible, with earrings starting at about $7 and necklaces that go up to about $45 or more for custom-designed pieces, which she is happy to do.
"I like to keep to prices in a reasonable range," she said. "I don't want to make them too expensive ever."
What began as something to get her by until the economy improves could turn into a life's work, and she is fine with that.
"I still have an interest in publishing and pursuing that, but my hope is that his will become profitable enough that I won't have to do anything else," she said. "I really enjoy knowing that my results are directly linked with how much work I put into it."