Partners In Shine

Mar 30, 2011 No Comments

With their simple, chic line of easy-to-wear jewelry, Allyson Rieger Papunen and Romi Sarif are guilty of nothing, except for their ability to pull off a successful partnership and begin one great company, Lola James Jewelry (

Allyson started making jewelry five years ago . She was a big costume jewelry shopper. “A friend told me I could make the kind of jewelry I liked myself, and I thought, she’s right,” Allyson explains. “So, I took a class and a company bought my design before the six-week course was over!”lola-james-jewelry

Romi attended GIA school and had a diamond degree. “I started making my own stuff and my friends started buying it, and then I turned my hobby into a business,” says Romi.

The two women staked out the world of jewelry, separately attending different events and selling their products. Then, about a year and a half ago they were invited to a trunk show. At the show, the two creative experts discovered that their jewelry and pricing were almost identical. In order to fight against inventory cost outlaws, Allyson and Romi decided to join forces.

“We used to joke we weren’t friends; just partners,” Allyson says laughing. “Neither one of us really wanted a partner and we initially had no commitment to each other, other than showing up for the trunk shows, but we discovered that we worked well together and brought out a lot in each other we didn’t know we had.” Another strength the dynamic duo discovered was persistence. In order to get customers excited about their organic line of necklaces,  bracelets, and earrings,  Allyson and Romi tapped into every single contact they had.

lola-james-jewelry“We sent emails over and over again,” Allyson said. “We did cold calls over and over again. We just got in our cars and drove store to store. For every yes, we had 20 no’s.” “It seems like you are bothering someone but they get hundreds of emails a day,” Romi adds. “You have to stay on them and be passionate about what you do. It might not be the right time, so follow up with them again in a month.”

The team did whatever it took to get their foot in the door. They sold their jewelry in consignment and begged for event hosts to allow them to attend their bizarres and sell their baubles. It paid off. Now, hosts ask them to display their wares.

Allyson and Romi use their “super powers” to further develop their craft. They soon found other jewelers in the area were making similar designs. “We look for things that are easy to wear and will reflect us,” declares this fearless pair. “We were sick of going to boutiques and bizarres and seeing people had the exact same stuff as us. We finally decided enough is enough. We have to come up with stuff completely original to us.”

Wielding a pen as their sword, they came up with a concept and drew it. Then they went to a graphic designer who creates a three-D digital mock up. A mold maker does the wax mold andlola-james-jewelry then presses the metal. They send the metal to be electroplated and then in most cases, their stones are set by a stone setter. Their easy-style jewelry is made for layering.  To reach their customers, they email line sheets which have photos of their products with pricing. If a customer wants to see an item in person they will bring the pieces to the client.  Some items remain on the line sheets as part of the signature collection. Allyson and Romi design new items seasonally – four times a year, they create something new.

It might seem like the unlikely pair have had an easy road, but there are times when they are confronted with discouragement. “At times both  of us have felt like, ‘how much longer can we do this?’” Allyson says. They use humor to keep their spirits buoyed. “Even though it’s jewelry and we’re not curing cancer, it can be very high pressure and this is how we deal with it. We have a lot of fun,” they say. Just when they get into a lull something amazing happens. Recently, by means of a contact through Romi, Lola James Jewelry was featured on the Today Show.


The women have a vision. In five years, they hope to have a show room where customers are able to come and see their jewelry in person. Their love of their work keeps them going. “I like what I am doing because it brings me back to my roots of fashion and style,” Allyson says. “It keeps me well-rounded and grounded.” For Romi, it’s a creative outlet. “I love the whole process, from selling it to making it. Every part of it is fun and I am doing what I love,” she explains.

No villain could stand up to these jewelers with a cause. Looking for complimentary pieces of jewelry to fit your style and your budget? Then visit Lola James Jewelry. They will save your outfit and your wallet!

Written by: Sherry Liantonio

Edited by: Bridgette


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