Rachael Caballero smiles the second I walk through the door. Her warm personality spills out and you can’t help but reciprocate.
Caballero is a Campbell resident, who just three months ago opened up her own jewelry studio in downtown Campbell, across the street from Stacks.
Better known as the owner of Bela Koi designs, Caballero is excited about the direction, and success, her handmade jewelry has taken.
She spills while in her small studio that she’s working on having an event every month. And she’s getting there.
Already on the itinerary is this weekend’s event, then the Thread Show in San Diego on Oct. 9, and in San Francisco on Nov. 20.
The woman with the smile is on a mission: get Bela Koi in boutiques throughout the countries largest cities.
All while tending to a busy household with three children and a very busy husband, pro-skateboarder Steve Caballero.
Campbell Patch sat down to talk shop with Caballero, what it’s like being a woman business owner, jewelry and why she does it all.
Campbell Patch: Tell us about your first piece of jewelry.
Rachael Caballero: My step-dad, his mom was a very classy lady. Lot’s of jewelry. They lived in LA in a big house. As a small child, she used to give me strands of pearls, clasped bracelets. Most were passed down to me. Her name was Gerri Loper and she looked exactly like Katharine Hepburn. Same voice. Kind of a harsh woman.
She had a big impact on me.
Patch: When did you make your first piece of jewelry?
Caballero: I was 12 years old. I used to make earrings.
I got my ears pierced at 12 and decided to make my own earrings because I didn’t have money to buy them. My mom taught me to do for yourself. Anything decorative I had to buy for myself.
I used to buy at the craft store geometrical cutouts and Swarovski crystals and glued them onto earring backs.
It was fun to do what no one else had.
Patch: So when did you decide to launch a business?
Caballero: Aug. 26, 2009. I opened up my Etsy store. it’s been amazing. Etsy is incredible for exposure. I get so much business through there.
I want to open up a store in downtown Campbell. Campbell needs it but it’s a lot of work.
Patch: So where did “Bela Koi” come from?
Caballero: My son’s middle name is “Bela.” It’s a different twist on “Bella.” This is the masculine form.
Like Bela Lugosi, it used to be a popular name. It means “within.”
As for the “Koi” part, I am obsessed with anything Japanese. My husband is ¼ Japanese and I love koi fish.
My friend and I were talking about opening up a store that was fashion-based. She’s a seamstress.
Bela Koi just popped into my head. And it’s one of those life moments that you know this is going to be something. I got the fire under my butt.
It’s a unique, cool name.
But the business didn’t start as jewelry. It started as baby blankets. I wanted a small baby blanket for my daughter and found them online and they were expensive. So I decided to make them instead.
Patch: So what was your first item you made, and sold?
Caballero: It was a simple necklace. It sold immediately. Simple, beaded piece with a silver chain. Had a lock in the side of the chair at the bottom a key and heart. It sold the next day and was the only item listed.
Patch: Tell me about your prices.
Caballero: I don’t do it to make money. I’m in it for my sanity and because I love it. The economy sucks. I make a good profit, but not enough to live on.
I want people to be stoked by my jewelry, be inspired. Almost half are one-offs.
I don’t recreate a whole lot. Mostly, my necklaces are one of a kind. I love making people excited.
I love seeing people’s reactions when they find out the cost. I love finding bargains so I do it to get people excited. I never plan on raising my prices. I don’t plan on marking things up.
Patch: Describe your jewelry.
Caballero: Eclectic. I’m into a lot of different styles. It’s described on the site as Sense and Sensibility meets Cruella Deville.
Love the Victorian-Era to classical French stuff. I admire very edgy things, I love skulls and funk and nautical stuff. I’m obsessed by Alice in Wonderland.
I try and do it all. Have something for everyone.
Patch: Why do you do it?
Caballero: With the jewelry, it’s an opportunity to create what’s in my head, things that people are going to notice. It’s such a blast.
I wanted to make stuff for people that is going to get them noticed.