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“Erica Sara Designs was born out of a dream to help others wear theirs.”

This quote in jeweler Erica Sara’s bio grabbed my attention as I browsed through her website, which is filled with pictures of her beautiful, handcrafted jewelry for sale. I was introduced to Erica Sara Designs on Twitter thanks to the enthusiastic tweets of her fans and friends, who (like me) are big runners here in New York City. I was immediately drawn to the simplicity of the company’s mission: Take people’s goals, dreams, and the mantras or ideas that inspire them, and engrave them on a piece of jewelry. From this basic concept has emerged a fully functional business adored by fans the world over.

Finding Herself — and Her Business

Sara used to work in the corporate fashion world, but eventually became dissatisfied with the field and left to study nutrition. She soon realized a nutrition degree also wasn’t for her, and (while simultaneously going through a divorce) began training for a half-marathon. Because she was going through big changes and challenges, she needed a big goal to focus on: “If I could get through training, I could get through anything,” she recalls telling herself.

At the same time, many of her friends were starting to have children and were wearing charms for them (a trend that’s been booming for a few years). Sara wasn’t a mom; her baby was her half-marathon. And she wanted a charm for it. “While I was training for races and rebuilding my life, many of my friends were building their own lives and families,” she says. “I recall them telling me about their pregnancies or their newborns… and I was telling them about my training and my races. That’s when I realized I wanted to celebrate each of my races, or my accomplishments in general, with my jewelry.

So in September 2010, Erica Sara Designs was born. What began as a few simple charms with the numbers “13.1” (representing a half-marathon) and “26.2” (representing a marathon) engraved on them soon turned into a whole line of race bling. Her jewelry has expanded beyond running, too. Her lines include ribbon charms for charities, love notes for couples, mantras, Hebrew charms, yoga-themed necklaces, and more. The demand for these products has been high, and her business has grown right along with it.

With a Little Help From Her Friends

What was the tipping point that turned a few simple charms into a blossoming business? Insert the online running community. Sara’s an active runner here in New York City, where she meets up with people for weekend long runs, Instagrams her post-workout fuel, and tweets back and forth with other fitness friends. “The running community was an enormous part of [Erica Sara Designs’] growth,” says Sara. “I have never met such an amazing, happy, and supportive group of people.

From my own experience, she’s right. When I slowly tiptoed into the world of training for a marathon, I almost instantly found a support system online. I quickly learned who the runners were in New York City and all it took to create relationships was a Twitter follow plus a quick message of, “Hey, I also run.” What’s unique about many of these online communities is that people are eager to meet offline, too. “I will go on runs with people I talk to on Twitter but haven’t met in real life” says Sara. “And it’s usually awesome.”

Meeting a fellow tweeter in real life helped ignite Erica Sara Design’s fire. Sara met Ali (who writes at Ali On The Run) at a trunk show (a special sale where vendors present merchandise directly to the consumer), and Ali bought a piece of her jewelry and blogged about it. Soon after, FITNESS magazine saw the post and the editors contacted Sara to feature her You Can Do It! mantra necklace in the magazine. From there, the fire spread: Sara is now designing the official necklace at the Moor Fitness Half Marathon in Central Park.

“That’s just what [the tipping point was] — social media and finding a community that was supportive. We all just want to help each other grow in an amazing way,

says Sara.

Unexpected Inspiration

There’s something for pretty much anyone at Erica Sara Designs, and these pieces don’t only inspire the people who wear them. When Sara’s working away in her cozy one-bedroom apartment, she finds that she gets motivated to focus on her own health and fitness goals, too. While busy engraving “it’s just another mile” or “relentless forward motion” on a charm, Sara is inspired to lace up her sneakers whenever she has a moment to spare: “When I’m designing all these motivational pieces, I tell myself, ‘Now I need to go on a run!’”

Sara runs most of the business — a full-time gig and then some — by herself. When we met at a Starbucks one cold January morning, she had already made 10 rings. And she had 34 more to go.

“Thank you for forcing me out of my yoga pants,” she giggled. We had only been chatting for an hour, but I could already tell that Sara — cute, quirky, and a little dorky — was full of passion and heart.

“In a way, I’m helping people fulfill their goals, and that’s so cool. And I’ve noticed they all are looking for the same type of encouragement. The simple, ‘I can do it.’

To end our conversation, I asked Sara if she has a favorite piece of jewelry. She hesitated for a moment, then reached for a charm wrapped around her neck. It was her “26.2” marathon necklace that she’d made when she first started her business. She’s since run the Philly Marathon (in 2011), and is running the New York City Marathon later this year. “This has to be my favorite since it reminds myself I can do it, and I will. And I don’t just mean the marathon.”

What communities have helped you reach your goals? Does jewelry encourage you to go after your dreams? Tell us in the comments below or tweet the author @lschwech.