Alumna’s Company Focuses on Messages with Meaning
One day in 2015, Amber Glassman, BE11 was unsatisfied when shopping for jewelry and decided that she could design better pieces herself. Five years later, her jewelry company–Bryan Anthonys, founded with husband Ed–boasts 40 employees, a 25,000-square-foot space, one million unique web visitors a month and north of 300,000 Facebook and Instagram followers.
More than a million pieces of jewelry designed by Glassman carry 140 different messages, all written by her, and ultimately unified by one mega-message: meaningful connections. There is a teepee design on a necklace, ring and bracelet and earrings called “Tribe” that comes with a message about the important people in our lives; a teacher design on jewelry with a long message of thanks for these important mentors; and many more designs and messages tailored to different walks of life.
“All the messages are important to me because they mean so much to others, for all different reasons and different journeys, such as cancer, suicide, domestic violence, infertility,” said Glassman. “Nothing is more powerful or beautiful than to see complete strangers connect through their experiences.”
In 2019, the firm won one of the Blue Hen 17&43 Awards, a collaboration of Horn Entrepreneurship and Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics at UD, which honor the most promising new ventures and fastest-growing companies founded or led by UD students and alumni. Bryan Anthonys, which has tripled its sales annually, was one of the 43 fastest growing. Applications for the 2020 awards are open now.
In 2011, Glassman earned a Bachelor of Arts in sports management, with a minor in business administration, from the University of Delaware. At UD, working in sports operations taught her how to smoothly run game days, which she compared to “making a business dream a reality.” At the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, she was “surrounded by other smart and talented women, which led her to create a business about empowering women with messages.”
She and Ed are serial entrepreneurs. She was living in Russell Hall when they founded a firm that sold shipping materials. All Shipped Out quickly became profitable, but they closed the business to focus on their studies. It did connect them to a web developer who works with Bryan Anthonys.
After graduation, Glassman worked as a project manager at Foundry9 and a digital channel manager at U.S. Bank, and they continued with side hustles, including selling punching bags and fish finders, writing a gluten-free guidebook and running an import/export business.
Then came the day when she was hunting for jewelry and the rest is history. They committed their full time to the jewelry effort, and their nationwide hunt for a community with a great entrepreneurial spirit led them to Austin, Texas, where they continue to live and work.
A great plan, but the “big chunky” pieces Glassman first created weren’t selling well. And so she looked hard for an unfilled jewelry niche, which turned out to be dainty, stylish and meaningful pieces. Her first success was the Soul Sisters friendship necklace, designed for a woman to buy one and gift another. “The messaging took,” Glassman recalled. And the company grew. It’s even outgrown its manufacturing partner. Today, 95 percent of its pieces are made in Rhode Island, the rest abroad.
“I believe the brand is authentic, honest and transparent,” said Jan Makowski, who earned a Master of Fine Arts from UD in 2006 and is director of photography and video at Bryan Anthony.
“Our customers look to engage and connect in positive conversations,” Makowski said. “They can relate to the messages, wanting to share a piece with a loved one, friend or relative. The jewelry’s meaning is so powerful one will want to wear it to symbolize their own strength in overcoming a hardship they may have experienced. My favorite piece at the moment is No Flowers Without Rain necklace. I can relate, and it is a great reminder “Wherever life plants you, trust in your journey and lean into your growth. Do not dwell in your storms, learn to weather them. You need both the light and dark in order to bloom—there are no flowers without the rain.”
Bryan Anthonys is named for the brother that Glassman never knew: He died at age 1 from bacterial meningitis, before she was born. “I have a special place in my heart for him. He lost his life, and I got to have mine shortly after,” she said. That corporate name also offered solace to her mother, Maryann. “She said it’s helped her healing process because she can now say his name out loud.”
When asked for her favorite among all her messages, Glassman selected one that suggests that people, even when struggling, “have the power to overcome.” Or, as the Grit necklace says, “She is just like a pearl—made from grit but full of grace.”