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MU entrepreneur combines love of space and crafts to launch business

Bea Doheny, an MU junior, starts AstronoBEAds, a space-themed jewelry line

Photo Credit: The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA — Bea Doheny wants her customers to carry a piece of the cosmos with them at all times.

Doheny, an MU junior, combined her passions for astronomy and art to launch AstronoBEAds, a space-themed jewelry line, on Earth Day this year. Since then, through networking and social media, she has expanded the hobby into a successful business. 

"I know it's kind of different," Doheny said. "Not many people like wearing nerdy stuff, but I think it's scientific and stylish at the same time."

Doheny grew up inquisitive about the universe. She realized the depth of her cosmic curiosity after taking astronomy in high school, and she used her creativity to create a bracelet that would be a reminder of her love for the mysteries of space.

"I decided to make a handful more and give them out to my friends as graduation gifts as we all set out to start our new chapters," Doheny said. "I would include a note that said, 'Whenever you look down at your solar system bracelet, remember you are out of this world.'"

She put the project on hold when she began studying as a marketing major in MU's Trulaske College of Business. After taking Astronomy 1010 in the spring of her freshman year and learning from professor Linda Godwin, who has been to space four times, she was re-inspired.

Doheny's younger brother combined "astronomy," "beads" and her name to come up with "AstronoBEAds," and her older brother, who goes to school in San Diego, predicted her product would be popular across the country.

"During winter break my sophomore year, I went hardcore planet hunting to find the beads I use today, which look really similar to what the planets look like," Doheny said. "From there, I just started adding to the jewelry line."

After committing herself to launching the business, Doheny set out to find campus resources that would help. A simple Google search led her to Greg Bier, an associate teaching professor for operations management and experiential entrepreneurship in the College of Business. The two met in February.

"AstronoBEAds was started by an energetic young lady that applied her passion for astronomy to her interest in entrepreneurship," Bier said in an email. "Bea Doheny is a surprisingly well-grounded student-entrepreneur. A key to her company's quick success is Bea's ability to engage customers and audiences and inspire them to appreciate the story behind her jewelry products. She turns listeners into AstronoBEAds customers."

After their first meeting, Bier ordered five bracelets to put in gift baskets for speakers who visit MU. 

"I just thought, 'Wow,'" Doheny said. "If I can just unexpectedly sell bracelets to someone that's not even in my target market, this could be something."

Bier advised Doheny to make connections with other entrepreneurs. He also gave her resources for launching a website and set her up with her mentor, Sarah Crawford, a former MU marketing major.

"Bea not only has a brilliant idea fueled by passion, she has a work ethic and the ambition to actually succeed," Crawford said. "She is wise beyond her years, and I hope she remembers me when she's famous." 

From February to April this year, Doheny said she kicked it into high gear, gathering supplies and establishing a website to sell products online.

On Earth Day, AstronoBEAds debuted with three different designs: the solar system bracelet, the pale blue dot necklace, and individual earth, moon and sun friendship bracelets.

The solar system bracelet is a wrap that can be pulled apart to resemble all of the planets and the sun. The pale blue dot necklace is inspired by a Carl Sagan quote about Earth and the cosmic perspective. The individual earth, moon and sun bracelets are intended as friendship bracelets to wear all at once or individually.