No matter what we do, what we do matters.
Meet Kelly Neville. Kelly is a young woman who has taken her passion for jewelry and fashion, and turned it into a business that she runs with her business partner and Mom, Karen. Kelly not only pours her heart into making beautiful jewelry for others to enjoy, but she is a speaker and advocate for Down Syndrome, as well as works part-time at a local pediatric dental office.
G: I am so interested in what you do. You are making beautiful jewelry and then helping people to feel good about themselves by wearing pretty things. How long have you been into jewelry?
Kelly: I have loved jewelry since I was 20. It is just something that I love and inspires me. I have a love and a passion for fashion.
G: So you knew when you were 20 that you liked jewelry and that you wanted to make it for other people. How did you decide to start a business?
Kelly: My neighbor gave me a ring when I was in high school and I loved it. I just liked wearing it and talking to people about it.
Karen: She really loved that ring. It was a big sparkly ring, and she used to wear it a lot and it got noticed a lot. Kelly would joke a lot at the time that she wanted to start a jewelry company and call it “In Your Face Jewelry” because she loved big sparkly things.
Kelly: So when I was 20, I was looking for a job when I finished school. I needed a job because I wanted to do something I had a love for.
G: And what do you love about jewelry?
Kelly: I get jewelry for gifts each year. I love the way it feels on me. I would say that jewelry makes me feel “glitzy”. I like the big, statement pieces.
G: Go big or go home right?
Kelly: I like to say go big and dream harder.
G: You knew you wanted to get a job at 20. Did you jump right in to starting your own company? What inspired you to do that?
Karen: Kelly did get a job as a dental assistant, and she does a great job there two days a week and loves it. We knew we wanted to work around that job, and find something else that she likes to do, and together we decided that she had more hours of work to give during the week. Kelly is a “girly girl”, and we talked about how she would need a paycheck in order to do the things she wanted to do and to spend money on things that she liked.
G: What kinds of things do you like to do with the money you earn, Kelly?
Kelly: I like movies, music, and getting my nails done.
Karen: So at first we just came up with the idea that since she loves jewelry, maybe we could try that. It was a huge learning thing. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we just decided to figure it out. When we first went to start the business, it wasn’t about making money. It was about how she feels about herself when she wakes up in the morning. It’s about being able to make a product and turn it over. It was meant to be something that she could wake up and look forward to on days that she wasn’t working at the dental office.
G: You are a very busy young woman. You started your own company, and work in a dental office. I understand you are also an advocate for Down Syndrome.
Kelly: I am a speaker for NADS, the National Association for Down Syndrome. We talk to nurses. I talk at the police station and the fire station. I also talk at schools and at genetics counseling offices. I also went to Washington DC to talk about people with Down Syndrome.
Karen: We took that trip to talk to Senators and Congressmen to advocate for more hiring of people with Down Syndrome around the country.
G: What kinds of jobs do you do in your work at the dental office?
Kelly: I take out the garbage and clean and bag the instruments. I restock the drawers. I meet new people. I like that part a lot.
G: Tell me more about Special Sparkle.
Kelly: We call it Special Sparkle because it’s a team effort. My Mom and I are soulmates. I am the Sparkle. I call it Special because my Mom is special to me.
Karen: She would put that together and say I was “Special” and she was “Sparkle”. It has a catchy name, but the name is significant. Because truly, everybody is different in the world. Kelly is definitely a special sparkle that on the outside sometimes people don’t see. We have a new bracelet that is coming out called “The Lucky Bracelet”, because having a person with Down Syndrome in your family, you realize the blessing and how lucky you are. At the onset, you don’t think about that, though. The first time I heard the diagnosis, I was frightened because I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know anyone with Down Syndrome. Now I can see that we have friends with all kinds of challenges, and it doesn’t really matter. We just consider it lucky and special. As she has gotten involved as a public speaker with NADS, I see pride in her now in how she advocates for herself and in what she does here.
G: Kelly, you are amazing. You have been interviewed on the local news, as well as for a program called Special Books by Special Kids. What was that like when news of what you are doing hit the airwaves?
Kelly: I was at camp and orders were coming in from all over the country!
Karen: Our website just blew up. It was like the shot that rang out throughout the world. She makes all of the jewelry herself, and all of a sudden we had like 350 orders. I had to shut the website down just so we could catch up. We had no idea of the impact it would have. We had to figure out how to take international orders. They were coming in from Belgium and Australia. We have had to learn a lot of things about running the business, from taking the pictures for the website to fulfilling these orders now from all over the country and the world. It was a game changer to have that experience. We are actually in the process of trying to hire someone to help us have more of an online presence. We are looking for the right person who can further the mission in showing the world what people can do. It has all just so naturally evolved. I never saw myself as being a business person. And we just have such a special bond.
G: Wow. This business has really grown. Kelly, what’s it like working with your Mom as a team?
Kelly: She is more than just a Mom to me. She was everything I hoped for since I was a baby. She Is my best friend, my soul mate. My everything. She has given me a lot of hope, with a good, open heart. She really has made me the happiest person in the whole world.
Karen: We just love what we do. We have gotten really involved with getting out there and speaking and helping people with our story. There’s just so much happening out there right now. There needs to be hope. We just love getting involved with NADs and educating people. It’s interesting how much we all have in common. We are all so much more alike than we are different. Even though sometimes there is a difference there.
G: Karen, what do you want people to know about Kelly and what you see her do in the world with Special Sparkle and beyond?
Karen: Well, with Special Sparkle, she is having fun. She has learned about design and patterns. We go to gem shows together and she is learning a lot. As long as she is doing what she loves and it is giving her a purpose I will support it. When we go to craft fairs and shows now, I make sure to bring projects that she is working on so that others will see that she is truly doing this all herself. One of my goals is that people stop putting a lid on what these kids can do, and keep an open mind. There has never been a better time than now to have a baby with Down Syndrome. There are more opportunities now in colleges, jobs and programs. These kids are out in the workforce now and things are hopefully going to change. I am just committed to picking up the torch and carrying it on for things to keep changing. We haven’t found anything yet that we haven’t been able to overcome. There have been obstacles, but she just keeps blossoming.
G: And Kelly, what inspires you to keep moving forward, so that you can be a role model, not just for kids with Down Syndrome, but for all of us?
Kelly: I want to make a difference in the world for everyone out there just like me. I have a bright life with a bright personality. I have high expectations for myself.
For more information about Kelly and her jewelry, visit specialsparkle.com
For more information about Down Syndrome, visit nads.org