It’s the process of turning something plain into something beautiful. Aiyanna Greene takes those simple, white headphones that she sees slung around people’s necks all the time, and turns them into jewelry by hand-wrapping them in beading wire and attaching a clip-on pendant of her own design. She calls them Alkimees – like alchemy, turning metal into gold.

Alkimee's necklace-inspired earphones

Greene and a prototype of Alkimee’s necklace-inspired earphones

Alkimee’s necklace-inspired earphones are first of its kind

Greene is a graduate of Shanley High School in Fargo and an anthropology student at Amherst College, but she took the past year off to pursue her entrepreneurial endeavors. Her journey was inspired by 2 things: a competition on Shopify that inspired her to pursue an e-commerce idea, and the book The Lean Startup, which she finished reading shortly before kicking this off.

The light bulb moment came when she and her business partner, Justin Warden, were throwing around e-commerce ideas. He looked at her earrings, then at his headphones and said, “what about jewelry style headphones?”

The idea stuck, and according to Greene, there’s nothing else comparable out there. The closest is a company called Frends that offers fashionable headphones for women. But hers are different, Greene said, both in look and in personal inspiration.

“Frends was started by a guy who is an ex-skateboarder who thought of the idea,” she said. “He identified the market opportunity but not the design of the product.”

Alkimee's necklace-inspired earphones

Alkimee’s necklace-inspired earphones

The Making of Alkimees

The inspiration for Alkimee’s designs come from Greene’s own interest in jewelry, and her fascination with Egyptian style. Unintentionally, as she designed the pendants using pieces of her own jewelry, her thoughts kept falling to the infamous queen, Cleopatra.

“It’s something I can imagine her wearing,” she said.

But the process of turning plastic headphones into a piece of jewelry was not easy. It involved a 2 hour Hobby Lobby trip searching for something to use as a necklace chain – they eventually settled on beading wire – and 48 hours of hand wrapping and gold spray painting.

“It was definitely a commitment, but it ended up looking pretty,” Greene said.

They then took their prototype to jewelers and received their opinion on how it could be done professionally and manufactured on a larger scale. They showed it to people at the mall, and students on campus as well. All of which had a positive response, Greene said.

Alkimee's necklace-inspired earphones

Alkimee’s necklace-inspired earphones

“Everyone we talked to was like, yeah I would totally buy that. A lot of people told us we should go on Shark Tank,” she said.

“It really is just re-imagining something that everyone owns and is familiar with using. It appeals to people who are more interested in things matching and not clashing,” she said. “No one really thinks about your earphones because we’re all used to how they are.”

The Dream

This is not Greene’s first business endeavor, she said, calling this one the “third time’s the charm” project. Inspired by her anthropology studies, she decided to take off what would have been her junior year at Amherst to pursue her business ideas. And not for money, Greene said, but for purpose.

“All through middle school I had a goal to get a full ride to college, so when I got there I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “I wanted to find that sense of purpose, and that inspired me to try something totally different.”

Ideally, she said, she’d love to see Alkimee headphones as a prevalent part of fashion.

“I’m very much a dreamer,” she said. “My dream is to look around, and see these earphones everywhere. My goal is build something that people wear and like.”

Alkimee’s Kickstarter launches!

In order to build towards that dream, and to start creating Alkimee’s necklace-inspired earphones out of real materials like sterling silver and gold rather than duct tape and spray paint, Greene launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday. The goal is $20,000 and they have a total of 40 days to reach it. Check it out, here!

Photos courtesy of Alkimee.

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Marisa Jackels