Post Featured Image

No one saw the future of Kara Grayson’s business idea. As a matter of fact, more than one person told her she was wasting her time as she set up a workspace in a basement closet of her home and began to design jewelry. It was 2014 and Kara was scanning Pinterest to fuel her creativity in hopes of formulating her own original designs. “I was looking for a way to make some extra money to pay for a vacation and the jewelry was just a hobby that I enjoyed,” stated Grayson. Being a self–proclaimed travel junkie, Kara was motivated to create a side hustle that would give her a chance to occasionally put her toes in the sand.

At that time, Kara was the business manager at the South Dakota Truck Center, which she and her husband, Mike, operate in Brookings, SD. “I admit I didn’t have the vision Kara had and I’m not big on travel, so I didn’t get too involved in the idea in the beginning,” shared Mike. It wasn’t long before Kara took her basement creations to the world wide web and her online sales quickly took hold. Within a couple of years, Mike became Kara’s number one handyman and biggest supporter as he expanded space at the auto shop to accommodate the growing business. The Grayson duo comically claim she is the brains, and he is the brawn behind their success.

Formally named, Designs by Kara Marie, the business initially debuted on Etsy, but soon expanded to online sites such as and Kara’s unique handmade styles included rings, necklaces, bracelets and more. She found a niche market for customized fingerprint and handwriting pieces, which were embraced by those who wanted to honor or remember loved ones. “I truly enjoy customizing jewelry. So much so that I spend 70% of my time designing signature pieces for my customers,” declared Kara. Staying focused on design work and growing the business, Grayson is grateful for the family support she has received from her sister–in–law, Michelle, filling orders and from her husband, Mike, getting product shipped out the door. Even though her 16 year old son, Ryan, and seven year old son, Easton, have busy lives, they can both be found helping out with the family business.

To take some of the pressure off family and the Brookings location, Kara utilizes two warehouse locations in Ohio and Nevada. Product is sent and stored there until they are shipped, which has proven to be more efficient and maintains Kara’s one to three day turn around on her orders. 

Kara also discovered early on, she was not completely happy with the outside vendors supplying her business, so she set up her own online supply shop created to sell parts and pieces to other jewelry makers.

By 2019, Designs by Kara Marie had outgrown their space at the truck center. The Graysons turned to their local Dakotaland Federal Credit Union for assistance with a large construction project. “I became a credit union member when I was 14 years old, and Mike had utilized Dakotaland for the ongoing needs of the auto business. We were confident in bringing this new venture to the credit union,” shared Kara. The new facility was designed to create an expanded warehouse space for the jewelry business, but also provided an opportunity to rollout a home décor line and boutique clothing line catering to walk–in traffic of all ages, called Dakota Soul. “The boutique fills a shopping need in the community of Brookings, as well as provides a local outlet for my other creations,” claims Kara.

What’s next for the Graysons? Well, Kara continually looks for ways to automate her processes, while still maintaining the personal touch she is so proud of. In addition, she is diligently working on her very own handmade scented candles, which compliment her existing business lines. When asked if she could share some words of wisdom when starting a business from scratch, she replied, “Even when no one else believes in your idea, don’t give up. Persistence does pay.” Kara also takes time to remind herself why she started the business in the first place and books a trip to the Caribbean to put her toes in the sand.