Twins Seymone and Shalah Russell have always loved fashion and jewelry and were known for wearing cool outfits and interesting jewelry at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
With time on their hands this summer after graduating from RBHS, they started a business this month to share their creativity and distinct fashion sense with others.
“We’ve always liked making jewelry, and we’ve always loved thrifting,” said Seymone Russell. “People at school would always compliment us.”
Last summer the 18-year-old twins, who live in North Riverside, worked at the Brookfield Zoo and planned to do so again in 2020. But when the zoo shut down this spring, they were out of a job.
They kept busy in June participating in and helping to organize protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. They went to one protest in Oak Park with their friend, Molly Durkin.
During the protest Durkin saw someone wearing hoop earrings that she thought were cool and she turned to the Russells and asked whether they could make earrings like that.
The Russells got to work. They bought some basic silver hoop earrings at the K-Stone Beauty Supply store in North Riverside and then adorned them with beads. They gave Durkin the earrings, along with another set, for free.
Durkin was so pleased with the earrings that she baked chocolate chip cookies for the Russells. Durkin also encouraged the Russells to make earrings for others and gave them $10 for the earrings after the Russells asked for help to get their business going. Durkin also posted about her new earrings and the new endeavor on Instagram.
Thus, a business was born.
Durkin has already placed a couple more orders with the Russells.
“They’re going to make me a necklace soon, because they got a bunch of new charms,” Durkin said. “They also paint designs on jeans so I asked if they could paint a design on my jeans. I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet.”
In addition to making jewelry, the Russells decorate pants and shirts. They call that upcycling. They launched their business, called S n S Fashion (@snsfashi0n on Instagram) in early July and already have about 20 customers and a little more than 200 followers.
“So far, it’s been amazing,” Shalah Russell said.
They buy basic materials from the beauty supply stores or craft stores or big box retailers and then go to work making the ordinary unique. They typically decorate their jewelry — earrings, necklaces, and bracelets — with beads or other materials. They take custom orders and say that they will work with their customers to create unique designs.
“This was just a fun way to rack up a few coins,” Shalah Russell said.
The Russells have always been entrepreneurial. During the summer of 2018 they owned and operated a shop called Snack Shack where they sold candy, soft drinks, chips, snow cones, hot dogs, Italian beef and ice cream next to the Forest Park barbershop their father owns.
They say that if they were working at the Brookfield Zoo this summer, they probably would not have started their business.
“We probably wouldn’t have done it because we wouldn’t have had the time or the inspiration,” Seymone Russell said. “Quarantine has given us the time to do what we truly love.”
They personally deliver their products, usually by bicycle or jogging over. Their sister Sidney, 8, and brother Jeff, 7, also help out with delivery. As of July 20, they’d sold 61 items and cleared about $325 in profit.
Next month, Shalah will enroll at Washington University in Saint Louis where she plans to study environmental science, while Seymone will attend the University of Pittsburgh to major in psychology.
They hope to find the time to keep their business going while they are off at school. They are currently relying on Instagram and word of mouth to build their business, but plan on creating a website for the business.
“We actually hope to keep it going,” Shalah Russell said.