Dana Lande was an MBA candidate at the University of Maryland College Park, trying to figure out a way to break into the saturated world of jewelry design. She was a semester behind on her entrepreneurial tract, while most of her fellow classmates were graduating in the spring.
So, she might have jealously grumbled when a graduate-to-be asked Lande to make her some classy, but fun jewelry to wear at the May 2004 graduation ceremonies. Instead, Lande showed up in class with four bracelets and a few pairs of earrings she had made out of natural stones in the university's colors and dangling with silver turtles - the campus mascot.
"People loved them," says Lande, now the founder of Dayna Designs, a local jewelry design and production company. Lande didn't know it, but she had just scored a slam dunk toward finding her niche.
Today, Lande, who also makes a line of mid-priced all-occasion jewelry, sells about two dozen different designs of custom university jewelry under a brand she calls Dayna U.
The collection of Terps necklaces, bracelets, earrings, toe rings and key rings are hand-crafted from sterling silver and natural gemstones, such as black onyx, red coral and garnets.
"What I found was there's really a dearth of mascot jewelry that is fun, but nice," said Lande, 31, who graduated in December. "You either have really cheesy, rhinestone, $5 stuff - which has its place - or you have a $300 gold Terps pendant that just says 'Terps,' which is OK, but not fun."
Lande's red, black and silver jewelry fills in that gap. At a mid-range price level, students, alumni and jewelry lovers can buy custom, quality jewelry that can be worn to games, meetings, conventions, parties, reunions - just about anywhere.
Most of her designs cost between $10 and $70.
Lande, ofBeltsville, started in July selling her designs to the University of Maryland Alumni Association.
From there, she moved more of her wares to the campus bookstore.
"They sold out two or three times before Christmas," Lande says.
Last month, Lande expanded to the university's Comcast Center basketball arena and the off-campus bookstore, Maryland Book Exchange.
Lande has gotten such a good reception about the Terps jewelry, she's started designing a line for Penn State, and hopes one day to design similar jewelry for other big colleges and universities.
"I think that, especially at a really large school, people want to be connected," Lande says. "It gives people pride in the school and helps them identify with the best parts of their school. And it's fun."
Fear the sterling silver turtle!
You can see more Dayna U Terps jewelry at www.daynau.com.