Jessica Klein is leaving her mark on the New York fashion scene.
The 2015 Sport Management graduate has turned her jewelry-making passion into a business, Bondeye Jewelry, that is attracting the attention of A-list celebrities including Taylor Swift, Dwyane Wade, Gwen Stefani, Emilia Clarke, Salma Hayek, Zendaya, and more.
Bondeye Jewelry is a New York City-based fine jewelry brand featuring rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces made of 14-karat gold with precious and semiprecious stones. Klein’s mission is for individuals to connect with the jewelry she designs and wear those pieces as an expression of themselves.
Klein calls jewelry her “first love;” she began to accessorize herself with earrings and rings around the age of nine. “I looked forward to the next piece, whether it was picking it out, designing it, or helping my friends style and find the piece they’re looking for,” she explained. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve marked each milestone or occasion in my life with jewelry. It’s always been a true passion of mine.”
Klein started designing Bondeye Jewelry while studying abroad in Australia during her junior year at U-M, using that time to reflect on her future. She called her experience in Australia “eye-opening” and realized she could build her brand by applying her knowledge from her degree in Sport Management.
“At the time, I felt there was not an accessible e-commerce, all-in-one-location shop for students on a budget, like myself, who wanted to connect, style, and feel all the joy a new piece of jewelry can bring you. I wanted to make that attainable for anyone,” Klein said.
She called her first collections Classic and Bold because, according to Klein, they focused on the duality of women. Some pieces were asymmetrical, some were classic and dainty, while others were strong and powerful with stone-heavy esthetic.
Klein was working for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks as a marketing coordinator while building Bondeye Jewelry. When her brand started gaining momentum and in 2019, she reached an inflection point: was it time to go “full-time”?
Her roles and experience during her time in Milwaukee allowed her to learn a variety of marketing and organizational skills, finances/budgeting, event planning, and monetizing brand assets. “As exciting as it was to have multiple responsibilities, I felt narrowing my focus and specialty would be more productive for my career growth,” Klein said. “What I have learned, as an entrepreneur, is that my multifaceted experience with the Bucks influenced my desire to learn as much as I can about the industry and business that I am passionate about.”
Klein also had roles on the Bucks broadcast, marketing, and arena operations team, which was in the processing of building a new entertainment district, training facility, and arena to help revitalize downtown Milwaukee. She was able to play a part in major projects such as the grand opening of the arena, MECCA game, Bucks G League Team, and more
It was the ability to take that business knowledge I was learning in sports and go into another industry and apply it. I can pick different aspects of my business and see where I use my knowledge from Michigan.
According to Klein, her time in Milwaukee truly impacted her ability to run Bondeye Jewelry, shaping her professionalism, business etiquette, and ability to communicate.
“The amount I’ve learned and grown from my experiences in the sport industry is something I could never have predicted or known would empower me and prepare me so much for such a different industry,” Klein said.
One of the biggest lessons she learned through this endeavor was to surround herself with those who share the same ethos, values, and work ethic as herself, in addition to those who have different backgrounds and strengths than she does.
Klein also credits her sport organization class with Kathy Babiak, associate professor of Sport Management, for teaching her how a company’s core values and mission statement come to fruition and help shape the values of its owner and employees.
“The core values I started with five, six years ago are still the same I have today, and every decision I make, who we partner with, who represents the brand, those come back to what I learned in that class,” she said.
For Klein, the biggest takeaway from her time in Sport Management was the emphasis on business from a sport perspective. “It was the ability to take that business knowledge I was learning in sports and go into another industry and apply it,” she said. “I can pick different aspects of my business and see where I use my knowledge from Michigan.”
Klein never felt like she was alone during her time in Sport Management, emphasizing that she always felt a part of a team, whether it be on a group project or working one-on-one with professors.
A global pandemic hasn’t slowed her down either. Instead of sitting still, Klein expanded and launched in six new retailers, including Neiman Marcus. “We took that time to learn from the past year, analyze what’s been working, where we want to go, what we need to do to get there and we ran with it. The business has grown tremendously in the last six or seven months, it is surreal and I am so grateful,” she said.
Klein’s work can be found in-store at Neiman Marcus, Goop, Marissa Collections, Broken English, and other specialty stores. It can also be purchased online at bondeyejewelry.com.
“Connection to the clients and friends I’ve made through Bondeye Jewelry has been surreal. Women, men, kids, girls, teens, mothers, grandmothers, babies, all ages, different backgrounds, each with a story, sentiment, passion or feeling for one of my designs, is more than I could have ever hoped for,” Klein said.