Mallory Estopinal and Zoe Ganch are full-time LSU students in their final year of architecture school. They're completing projects, looking for jobs in industrial product design and, in their spare time, running a jewelry business, ETCH Studio
The best friends started ETCH on whim in January 2014. Since then, the business has racked up more than 900 orders, 10,000+ Instagram followers and a $4,500 prize from the the Louisiana Business & Technology Center’s Venture Challenge, as well as its Audience Choice award.
"This semester has been hectic and crazy, but we've managed to work it out," says Estopinal, a New Orleans native. "I'll go check on the website or work on production while I'm taking a break from my studies. ETCH doesn't seem like work."
ETCH was born when Estopinal used the school's laser cutter to make Ganch a necklace for her birthday. Crafted of basswood, the clean, modern design drew compliments. People wanted to know where they could buy their own. Estopinal and Ganch were familiar with Instagram's online shops, where vintage boutiques and other retailers post pictures of their merchandise and followers make purchases using Paypal.
"We said, 'Why don't we do an Instagram and sell these designs?'" Estopinal says. "Turnout was great. ... It really appealed to our target audience and age range."
In April, ETCH was a finalist in LSU's venture challenge, "a Shark Tank
-type competition," Estopinal says. With their winnings and additional funding from a successful crowdfunding campaign, the duo invested in a laser cutter and website.
"We bought our machine over the summer and took it to the next level then," Estopinal says. "ETCH got a logo, traffic on our website, could advertise in different places and we were putting the product out there, rather than posting on Instagram whenever we felt like selling a couple pieces."
The newly launched Alice collection features bold, bright colors, metallics and is made mostly of maple wood and leather. "We take everything we learn in architecture school and apply it to our designs," Estopinal says.
ETCH pieces are for sale in Mod Salon
in Baton Rouge and Ferme a Papier
in San Francisco, and Estopinal and Ganch are looking into wholesaling their designs. They will sell their handmade pieces at Southern Design Week
's market on Wednesday, March 18. After graduation, the pair plans to bring their laser cutter to New York and put together a fall collection while seeking work in their industry.
"We'll hopefully get cool jobs and keep ETCH going in New York, while keeping all the connections here, because Louisiana has been great," Estopinal says.