By Jim Thompson Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur and military wife Kelly Julian said she came up with her business idea when she was struggling to figure out what to give as a baby gift to fellow military moms. Julian finally hit on the idea of creating personalized pacifier clips and teething rings for the newborns, assembled with alphabet beads spelling out squadron names or other messages.
FORT WALTON BEACH
Sitting at her dining room table surrounded by bins filled with beads, string and an assortment of child-safe silicone whales, ice-cream cones, bears and unicorns, Kelly Julian is the definition of an accidental entrepreneur.
An Air Force wife whose husband leads the Special Operations Command Operations Center at Hurlburt Field, Julian has struggled for the past few years to find work fitting her collegiate training in archaeology.
She's also struggled with the tradition of providing baby gifts for the new arrivals to squadron families where her husband serves.
Julian finally hit on the idea of creating personalized pacifier clips and teething rings for the newborns, assembled with alphabet beads spelling out squadron names or other messages. Soon after she started, her idea expanded to include necklaces and other custom creations for youngsters -- and adults -- marketed under the name Chewsworthy.
"It's just a name I came up with," Julian joked during a recent interview. "It kind of rhymes with 'newsworthy.' " And while it's not exactly work in her field, it is work, and it can be tailored around the schedules and needs of the Julians' two children, 2-year-old Hudson and 4-year-old Amelia.
The youngsters are part of the Chewsworthy enterprise, which Julian calls "my third baby."
Amelia "has her own supply of beads and strings," Julian said, while Hudson "is more of the inspector."
"They're my test subjects, too," she smiled.
All of Julian's Chewsworthy products are made from food-grade silicone.
"It's made for, and designed to be, chewed on," she said. Some of her creations do include wooden pieces, she said, and shouldn't be given to older children whose teeth could chew through the wood.
Safety is a prime concern for Julian, so all of her creations have quick-release connectors to avoid any strangulation risks. For the same reason, Julian knots the string between each bead so that they don't come off and find their way into children's mouths.
"I try to buy the best things that I can," Julian said. "These are things that have my name on them. I wear them and my children wear them."
Julian's products can be found at ReRuns 4 Wee Ones, a child and maternity consignment shop in Valparaiso, and at Hotch Potch, a vendor market in Fort Walton Beach. She's also a regular at crafts fairs around the area.
In addition, anyone interested in a custom order can contact Julian through the Chewsworthy page on Facebook. Most of her creations cost between $10 and $15, she said.
As Chewsworthy has grown, Julian has found an interesting market in addition to the mothers and others who buy them as jewelry. Chewsworthy items have become popular with children with autism, and even with adults dealing with sensory issues who may need something to fidget with or chew on as a distraction.
And while it's not exactly the same kind of therapy, Chewsworthy has worked at least a little bit of magic on Julian.
"I didn't think I would like doing it as much as I do," Julian said. "I just feel like I'm accomplishing something."
Julian routinely spends at least a couple hours a day with Chewsworthy, sometimes restocking the two local places where her creations can be found, and sometimes promoting the business on social media. Much of the work to actually make Chewsworthy products comes in the evenings, she said.
Today, just a year after she started the business, Julian is facing some decisions about how far she wants her entrepreneurial adventure to go.
"It's growing at a pace that I'm comfortable with," she said. "I think if I wanted to expand it more, I could. We're not to a panic level yet."