Ashley Andrews Dodge doesn’t leave her house without wearing accessories from her jewelry company, Steward & James.
“You have to believe in what you sell,” Dodge says. “You have to believe in what you love, so I wear my stuff every single day.”
When it comes to her business, Dodge believes in selling high-quality jewelry at a reasonable price. Every piece in her Steward & James line is made from gold-plated stainless steel and brass, and other natural materials like abalone. Most pieces retail for less than $50.
Dodge keeps a balance between classic styles—like hoop earrings—and trendy designs, such as layered necklaces. Dodge always works in her own stylistic preferences, too.
Although opening up a fashion-related business has always been Dodge’s dream, she didn’t make it a reality until November 2020.
While studying apparel design as an LSU senior, Dodge got her first taste of the fashion world. She designed and showed a 10-piece clothing collection in the 2015 New Orleans Fashion Week’s emerging designers competition. But she soon realized clothing design wasn’t what she wanted to be doing. For her, it was all about jewelry and accessories.
It’s the final touches that change everything, so I completely stepped away from the clothing game,” she says.
It was the pandemic that finally fueled her to launch her own brand. When COVID-19 reached the United States, Dodge had built up five years of experience as a product development designer. While working from home, she started to question what was stopping her from fulfilling her dream of entrepreneurship.
“Honestly, without the pandemic, I don’t think I would have done it,” she says. “I would have just stayed in my job and just kind of kept going, thinking, one day. But this kind of forced me.”
But Dodge’s operation is decidedly a one-woman show. Not only does she design all of her jewelry, but she runs everything from the accounting and shipping to web design and managing relationships with overseas factories, which produce her designs before they’re shipped directly to her.
Dodge describes fashion and jewelry as “one of the most important types of arts we have,” considering it’s something we live in and wear every day. She designs and sells jewelry pieces with the intent of making women feel confident wearing them.
“When I put (jewelry) on, I feel like I can conquer the world,” Dodge says. “It’s my armor. It completely changes the way you feel. I wanted to give that feeling to other people.”
She hopes to one day open a flagship store in Baton Rouge. Just as people recognize brand names like Kendra Scott and Tiffany & Co., Dodge dreams of elevating Steward & James to that level.
“We want to build an empire,” Dodge says. “I want it to be a household name.” stewardandjames.com
This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of 225 magazine.