Local designers and artists open small businesses all the time, but it is a rare thing when the business revolves around such a unique, high demand product that the business flourishes immediately and is able to sustain its start-up momentum. This is exactly what happened for Tif Blue, the owner of Peach Treats, a Salt Lake City company that creates hand-made gauges and ear jewelry as well as customized pieces.
Tif was studying to be an art teacher when she started working as a receptionist at a corporate payroll company at the age of eighteen. Soon she realized that she earned more as a receptionist than she would as a teacher. Her supervisor urged her to pursue a degree in human resources instead. She switched majors and secured her place as the Human Resource Manager. But once an artist, always an artist, and Tif’s passion for creating would not lie dormant for long.
It started as a creative outlet and problem solving experiment. Tif was having a hard time finding affordable, beautiful ear gauges for herself. For most of her life she had used polymer clay to make trinkets and crafts with her mother. That sparked her idea to make imitation wood gauges out of polymer clay. After researching toxicity levels of polymer clay (it is a certified non-toxic material), Tif began making jewelry for herself and her friends.
When she opened her Etsy shop in November of 2009 with only 10 units, she expected it to be a creative side outlet while she moved forward in her corporate career. Soon, however, she went from selling 8 units in her first month to 100 units her second month. She found herself selling so many pairs of hand-made gauges that she had to apply for a business license. Eight hours at the office were followed by eight more hours of work at home. Six months after launching Peach Treats on Etsy, Tif made the monumental decision to quit her day job and pursue her business exclusively. She looks back on her time as a human resource manager as an important part of Peach Treats’ founding, explaining that it allowed her to balance her artist mind with a sound, business savvy mind.
Peach Treats didn’t have much trouble finding an audience, but Tif did experience other, less common business start-up challenges. When she looked into general liability insurance, she found it difficult to classify her business, so she had to have a policy custom written to fit her insurance needs. She had a similar problem with business classification when she applied for a booth at the Utah Arts Festival last summer. The jewelry category was already full, but because Peach Treats was recognized as a business so distinct from the other jewelry artisans, the UAF created a brand new category to accommodate her: Wearable Art.
In its third year, Peach Treats can be found in several local SLC businesses including Iris, a piercing studio and jewelry shop. Tif says her relationship with owner Dustin Robbins has been incredibly beneficial, noting that being associated with Iris as a business “validates” her jewelry to customers who are otherwise somewhat skeptical of the material she’s working with. Since Peach Treats continues to grow, Tif has been stretching into the realms of new materials such as copper, chain mail, wood, brass, and steel. She collaborates with her mother who makes chain mail dangles and does wire wrapping, and her cousin who is a cabinetmaker by trade. Tif also has a patent pending for the unique design of her “fakers,” earrings which look like gauges but are designed to be worn by those with traditional, small-gauged ears. Though she has considered sending her designs to manufacturers to mass-produce, she has decided she wants to keep Peach Treats a more intimate art, hand-crafting each piece or having other local artists help her make them.