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How a Life-Changing Surgery Helped Me Flourish at the Ross School of Business

Photo of a handmade jewelry created by Michigan Ross business student, Trinity Brown

Trinity Barbara is a jewelry brand that exclusively uses ethically sourced fine metals and gemstones to create versatile and durable luxury jewelry. With a strong focus on sustainability, each piece is created to fit and complement any style or aesthetic. Originating in Detroit, Trinity Barbara also creates a safe space on social media platforms to discuss meaningful topics, transparency, and social impact through the lens of concept creation and sculptural metal design. 

I was only 12 years old when I underwent a life-changing scoliosis correction surgery, abruptly halting my aspirations for a competitive dance career. Faced with this devastating reality, my younger self recognized the need for a creative outlet during the year-long recovery that was ahead of me. Previously immersed in the dance world, where I spent the majority of my week in the studio, I had to adapt to the drastic changes unfolding around me. Driven by the necessity for distraction, I embarked on a journey that began as a simple, enjoyable pastime during a challenging period. Little did I know that this pursuit would evolve into a flourishing luxury jewelry brand.

Aluminum and copper crafting transitioned into sterling and 14k gold collections, and high school craft shows transformed into weekend-long art fairs with some of the most talented artists in the country. One of my personal favorites, the Ann Arbor State Street Art Fair, provided me the opportunity to set up my own miniature storefront on the streets of Ann Arbor, where now, some of my most frequent customers, peers, and professors look for me each year on North University Street.

In 2020, like many other small business owners, I faced a major decision. Would I continue into unprecedented territory as an art-fair jeweler with no access to in-person shows and events? Ready to move on to my next venture, I created one final collection to debut on my social media platforms that, at the time, had little to no traction and was driving no online sales. My AstroSuns, a highly customizable sun pendant, went viral on Twitter, allowing me to amass 2,600 new followers in three months. This unexpected success not only inspired me but also expanded my vision for the brand, envisioning multiple sales channels and connections with online customers. Over time, thousands of pieces from my collections sold and shipped to customers spanning 40 states and five countries, turning what was initially a coping mechanism into a successful entrepreneurial venture.

I am part of a small community within Michigan Ross that focuses on implementing coursework and learnings into a creative career. While it took time for me to find this community, I credit choosing Ross for my undergraduate degree as one of the best decisions I have made for my jewelry brand. Engaging with entrepreneurial programs like optiMize and the Zell Lurie Institute provided invaluable insights. By September 2023, I secured a contract as an emerging jewelry designer with major retailers like Macy’s, JCPenney’s, and Kay Jewelers. As I await the status of my retail placement as a result of this contract, I am eager to see my brand’s growth as I partner with these companies. Additionally, I participated in Flying Solo's New York Fashion Week in February 2023, unveiling my collection RENASCI—an homage to my brand's rebirth and transformation during our 2022 rebrand.

My journey is a testament to turning lemons into lemonade. Reflecting on how far I've come as a designer and founder, I attribute much of my success to the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Ross, emphasizing the importance of trusting one's instincts. For those with ideas or passion projects, Ross provides the perfect environment for garnering the support and resources needed to propel your business forward.