When Morgan Carroll was preparing for her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Kentucky Wesleyan College, the timing wasn’t exactly on her side.
“In March 2020 — of course — the world kind of shut down with COVID, and I was actually about to graduate college,” said Carroll, 21. “It was a horrible time looking for a job; I had just finished an internship and thought, “What can I do from home?” ”
Refining her craftsmanship and love of jewelry, Carroll started her own business, Carroll Trading Co., which focused on what she describes as “fun, lightweight earrings” and more, out of an office in her Rumsey home.
Carroll said she’s always had a creative side.
“I’ve always loved to paint, and I’m just a smart person,” she said. “Even when I was younger I remember having scrapbooks when that was cool and stuff like that.”
Initially, Carroll wasn’t into jewelry making, but it was an area she eventually branched out into.
“It was just another medium to work with, just something different that I could continue to make beautiful things with but in a different way,” Carroll said.
The business originally started as a private Facebook group for Carroll’s friends and family, along with some McLean County locals, with the assumption that it would have been a “little thing” while she was looking for a full-time job.
While she recently found employment as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens in Calhoun, Carroll’s business experienced unexpected growth, moving from the private group to a public corporate site and setting up an Etsy site – the latter moving Carroll Trading Co. to the right.
“That’s when it really took off because it opened up a whole new audience for me,” said Carroll. “And then I started an Instagram, and I really just started to get the whole thing started.”
Carroll said the business got attention from people across Kentucky before it crossed state lines and even made a few splashes overseas.
“To date I’ve sold in 29 states and three countries, all through Etsy,” Carroll said. “There are people in Texas who wear earrings made in McLean County, Kentucky. like what? That’s crazy. There are people in Sweden; I mean, it’s incredible for me.”
And just last month, the company celebrated its second anniversary, a milestone Carroll could not have foreseen.
“It’s still very surreal to me,” she said. “I don’t think I ever dreamed it would be this big. I mean, of course there’s so much more room to grow and so much more to do, but I just figured it would be kind of a little hobby (or) side hustle.”
One of the hallmarks of Carroll’s offerings is the variety of designs she manufactures from different locations.
“I like playing around with different textures – it’s my favorite thing to do. But there are so many shapes, so many different patterns,” she said. “It’s just things… I find pretty, like any faux leather, any cork wood, lightweight materials. That’s the whole thing about Carroll Trading Co. I wanted to be lightweight and I wanted it to be affordable.”
Carroll believes that affordability has helped the company’s longevity, such as selling a pair of his earrings for $6.
“I think a lot of times other small businesses or boutiques expect you to pay more because you’re buying locally and it’s handmade by one person,” Carroll said. “But I didn’t want that to be a problem. I never wanted price to be an issue. I have always prided myself on being as affordable as possible.”
The process of preparing products to sell to potential customers takes time and patience.
“There’s more in it than you could ever dream of,” she said.
Carroll also focuses on getting feedback from her clients through a personal approach.
“Something I always do is I send handwritten thank you notes to every order and at the end I politely ask them ‘Hey, if you don’t mind – leave me an Etsy review’ because it really helps my little business grow” , she said. “I want an honest (and) candid review; and I say honestly because … I want to hear the honest truth.”
She has also moved beyond selling online and has participated in a number of vendor sales, allowing the company to continue to attract attention from the local community and reach new audiences.
While Carroll said that working with the business full-time doesn’t seem realistic, it has crossed her mind a few times. But she doesn’t want to lose the purpose of why she started the business.
“A lot of people have said to me, ‘Oh my god, you can ask for so much more for a pair of earrings;’ and I could, but I don’t want to,” Carroll said. “I don’t just want to make a profit. I essentially make them as my creative outlet.”
She is also satisfied when she can see the expression on a customer’s face.
“I love it when people buy from me and then tag me in selfies over the next few days and I’m like, ‘I made a woman feel beautiful. She loves her new earrings and she’s smiling for all of Facebook to see,'” Carroll said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Carroll has expanded her product line beyond earrings to include bracelets, DIY bracelet sets and gifts, as well as custom gift baskets.
The bracelet kits are popular with mothers and daughters, who Carroll believes being able to do things together can create memories that will last.
“It’s more than just earrings,” laughed Carroll.
While running a business can be difficult, Carroll focuses on the positives.
“It’s just really fun,” she said. “From being able to use it as my creative outlet, making others happy, meeting people at trade shows, seeing pictures of people wearing their Carroll Trading Co. everything. The whole experience is just so surreal (and) something I never thought would happen to me.”
In the near future, Carroll plans to launch a dedicated website for the company in order to branch out more and have more control over her advertising and to personalize the experience for potential customers, while also attempting to sell her items in small stores to sell.
But for now, Carroll is embracing the ride she’s been on and excited for what’s to come.
“(It was a) success; It’s like why stop now? If people like what I’m doing, why would I stop?” she said. “It’s a whole experience and it brings me so much joy. It’s really just a good part of my life that I really don’t want to let go of.”