Business grad expands online shop to brick-and-mortar store

Following success online, Greenville native Ashley Nolan ’20 has expanded her copper jewelry and crystal business to a storefront in Arlington Village in Greenville.

Ashley Nolan sells her unique jewelry and other items.

Shoppers can now find the whimsical, handcrafted jewelry and other treasures of Copper Ashes on display inside Hart & Home Décor at 686 Arlington Blvd. The store opened in March.

Nolan has been making jewelry since she was 10. Her current process, known as electroforming, uses electricity to grow metals onto a medium to produce dazzling compositions. She says she discovered the copper-plating process online and watched videos and studied the process until she got it just right.

She uses ethically sourced elements from nature such as butterfly wings, bones, shells and leaves to produce what she calls “wearable art.” She has also added crystals to her collection.

“It’s fun bringing something a little different to the area,” she said. Opening her storefront, she said, was “definitely one of the most terrifying decisions, but it’s also very exciting.”

Early on, Nolan sold her products on Etsy. After connecting with some digital influencers, sales grew and she started taking custom orders. She then launched an online store outside of Etsy and soon was selling in all 50 states and several countries. But nearing graduation she was unsure if her hobby could be a career.

One day in an entrepreneurship class, she learned of an internship opportunity at ECU, RISE29, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation. It connects local businesses with undergraduates for student-led consulting projects that help create and retain jobs in eastern North Carolina.

“As a native of the region with an entrepreneurial mind and a validated business idea, Ashley was in prime position for RISE29 leadership to take a chance on her,” said Tristyn Daughtry, RISE29 program manager. “To watch the growth of Copper Ashes from what was deemed as a hobby to growing as an e-commerce brand and now to having a storefront location, I think in hindsight we were right.”

Said Nolan: “When I showed them what I had done and my projections, they said, ‘Wow, that’s very impressive. You have something here.’ They weren’t friends and family telling me that. These were people in the business profession. They saw potential. And I thought, ‘This isn’t just a side hustle anymore.’”

Following the internship, Nolan’s sales tripled.

“It was a confidence boost, and it pushed me to do what I always wanted to do. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without that internship,” said Nolan.