At the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City earlier this month, Amanda Jaron was at the same time back in her old life and at the start of something new.
She had spent 10 years in New York working as a jewelry designer for major retail brands. On the side, she designed engagement rings and other custom pieces for private clients.
When Jaron quit her corporate job to move to Naples a year ago, she wanted to turn her side work into a full-time business, something she had long dreamed of doing.
So when she walked into the Waldorf carrying suitcases of her own work, it represented a significant moment in her new venture, called Rocks to Buy Baby.
"I truly launched my business," she said. "The lights were on me this time."
The hotel was hosting a bridal show where retailers displayed their wares to the media.
It was a good fit for her company, which seeks to commemorate life's milestones with jewelry such as engagement rings and mother's rings. She runs the business from her Golden Gate Estates home, which gives her the flexibility she wants as a mother.
Jaron, 33, left the glitz and glamour of corporate jewelry design when several events in her life indicated a change was in order. She was a jewelry designer for companies such as Avon Products, Givenchy and Jones Apparel Group.
She and her husband, Stephen, had twins — a boy and a girl, who are now 2 years old. As a mother of young children, New York City became vastly different than it was to a married career woman, especially after Sept. 11, 2001.
"New York is exciting, but suffocating," she said.
Her father recently had passed away and her mother was alone, living nearby. Her mother said that if Jaron and her family moved to Florida, she would, too.
Jaron also had been thinking about how her work schedule was affecting her life. As the design manager for Avon's jewelry division, where she oversaw a $300 million annual business, she worked long days and traveled frequently.
"I decided life is too short to keep working ridiculous hours," she said.
The Jarons chose Naples because they wanted to be within driving distance of Sarasota, where Jaron's mother had settled, and Miami, for her business. Stephen Jaron found a job with Gulfstream Homes.
Rocks for Baby
Jaron started to see the potential for her own business when it began to snowball in New York. The couples for which she made engagement rings started coming back for wedding bands. Not long after, the bride would want jewelry that would look good on all her bridesmaids.
When Jaron became pregnant, she began working on a mother's ring and a grandmother's ring that had the child's birthstone but didn't look old-fashioned.
And when her children were born, she came up with fun ideas for baby jewelry and pieces for a new mom.
"When babies are born, the babies get all the gifts," she said. "People forget that mom just had a baby, and she likes gifts, too."
The most popular Rocks to Buy Baby items are the "Binki Necklace," a tiny charm on a chain that comes in pink or blue and silver or gold, and "Baby Bling Bracelet," a gem-encrusted bracelet made of pink or blue leather.
Jaron said she loves designing jewelry for these occasions because she gets to experience them with her clients.
"To be a part of that is really fun," she said. "I get to experience the excitement of brides over and over again."
Twins, twins and more twins
Jaron's two biggest fans work for her company. They're her longtime friends, Melisa LaTour and Amanda Langston, who both live in New Jersey.
Ironically, Jaron met one of the women through her jewelry and the other while she was searching for a wedding dress.
Jaron and LaTour were serving jury duty when LaTour noticed Jaron making jewelry. LaTour, who loves jewelry, struck up a conversation and soon was buying pieces for her friends.
She eventually hosted a jewelry party with wine and food and displays of Jaron's work. A year later, her friends were calling to find out when the party was going to be held again. The last year they held it, 75 people came.
LaTour, 33, now serves as director of sales and public relations for Rocks to Buy Baby.
Jaron met Langston when she couldn't find a wedding dress.
Jaron went the couture department at Bloomingdale's, and the saleswoman told her that the manager of the department also was looking for a dress. She gave her the manager's phone number.
The next day, the two Amandas drove together to Kleinfelds bridal store, stood in their underwear trying on dresses, and started a longtime friendship.
"The salesperson couldn't believe we just met," Jaron said.
Langston, who has worked in sales for home supplies companies such as Corian and Millwork and in the health care industry, is director of merchandising and marketing for Rocks to Buy Baby. She's working on a catalog for the company and trying to find bridal and baby stores to showcase the jewelry.
Langston said Jaron's designs stand out from other jewelers.
"I love her imagination and ability to look beyond the normal and average jewelry," she said.
Just before they all starting having children, the three women dreamed about quitting their jobs and starting Jaron's company.
They're on their way now, but only after a great coincidence — they all have had twins in the past two years. LaTour's twins are 6 months old, and Langston's are 8 weeks.
Motherhood has affected the pace of the business, but the show at the Waldorf provided a sort of jump start. Every bridal magazine walked through their booth, and the three women are eager to increase the business.
Langston, 41, said she's excited about being able to work independently and to have the flexibility as mothers.
"It's a great opportunity to work together and be as creative as we want," she said.
Rocks to Buy Baby jewelry is sold at www.rockstobuybaby.com and at Sphere in Crayton Cove in Old Naples. Jaron said she wants to have her jewelry in more stores.
She doesn't want a storefront because she can't see herself sitting in one place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
"That's just not in the creative nature of an artist," she said with a laugh.
She would like to throw more home parties as she did in New York. Earlier this month, a friend held her first solo jewelry party in Naples.
The Jarons have become friends with their Realtor and his wife, Rocco and Hanna Roppo. Hanna Roppo and Jaron had a connection because they're both new mothers and Roppo loves jewelry, especially Jaron's.
"It's just different — it's sweet and traditional and trendy all at once," she said.
Roppo, 36, invited about 12 of her friends to her house for Italian food and wine and jewelry shopping. Jaron said the show did very well.
She said she's starting to see her business take off.
"I feel like it's all sort of coming together," she said.
Jaron said her corporate work prepared her for running her own company — combining her creative talent with the structure and discipline necessary for a successful business.
She's thankful for her corporate experience, but thrilled to be on her own with plenty of time for her family.
"I feel like I have fulfilled my dream," she said.