Running to the Oscars

--Adam Gilson

Amy Peterson '02 never thought she'd go as far as she did. One evening at Kenyon a few years ago, Peterson took a break from her homework and went jogging. She did not consider herself a runner, but she was pleased with how easily the miles passed. Always one to keep running with something new, Peterson ended up competing in the 2003 New York City Marathon.

That pretty well sums up her approach to life. "If I'm going to run," says Peterson, "I'm going to run a marathon."

Peterson's latest run involves jewelry making, a craft she taught herself as a way of helping to finance law school. True to form, she soon found herself in marathon territory, with her jewelry creations gracing the lapels of movie stars at the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony as well as the pages of People magazine.

It all started in the summer of 2004, when Peterson was living in Baltimore between her second and third years at the New England School of Law in Boston. She began making pins, bracelets, necklaces, and other pieces, aiming for some extra income. She visited several Baltimore jewelry stores and set up a Web site, and her new business, which she named Doodle Ink Jewelry, prospered. "It took off on its own," Peterson says. "Word of mouth, I guess."

After she returned to Boston for her final year of law school, she used her spare time to perfect her craft. "I was self-taught for the most part," says Peterson, who grew up in Jamestown, New York, and majored in history at Kenyon. "I started with simple plastic beads, and then I went into real gemstones and semiprecious stones. I use all natural gemstones, silver, and gold."

Her marathon moment in jewelry making came after she saw Hotel Rwanda, the wrenching, inspiring film based on a true story about the ethnic violence in that African country. Peterson simply felt a need to help, and she turned to "some good old Kenyon connections"--Oorlagh George '03 and Soubhik "Ronnie" Saha '02. George's father, Terry George, had directed Hotel Rwanda. Oorlagh and Ronnie were instrumental in founding the International Fund for Rwanda relief organization.

Peterson offered to help the organization in any way possible. It didn't take long for her friends to come up with an idea: Design a pin to raise money for the fund. There was one catch--the pin needed to be available for stars to wear at the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony, which was only two weeks away.

Peterson got to work. Along with Soni Kayinamura, a Rwandan art specialist, she designed a gold circular pin emblazoned with Swarovski crystals in Rwanda's colors, green and blue.

Even though she was in the midst of "full-blown law school," Peterson quickly produced a number of pins. "I pulled some all-nighters," she says. "Once they were approved, we over-nighted them to Los Angeles."

And the rest is history, at least a small chapter in the history not only of the Academy Awards but also, more importantly, of Rwandan relief efforts. Peterson's pins were worn by several Oscar-night attendees, including Hotel Rwanda stars Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo. The pin was also featured in People magazine, in an article that also provided links to Peterson's online store. Sales of the pin raised more than $3,000 for the Rwandan relief effort, and orders for it continue to be sent.

With the exposure from the Rwanda pin, Peterson's business took off. Inspired by its success, Peterson created two necklaces to benefit special causes. One, which she calls Sparkle of Hope, benefits relief efforts for victims of the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Sales of the other necklace, which features a miniature baseball pendant made from a pearl and silver wire, benefit the Jimmy Fund, a cancer-research charity that receives substantial support from the Boston Red Sox.

The baseball necklace speaks to Peterson's love of the game, which she inherited from her father and grandfather. One of her lifelong dreams has been to become the president of a major league baseball team. "I grew up in a sports-loving family. Since I was little, that's been my dream."

Her law-school education was designed to help facilitate such a career. Now, with the success of Doodle Ink, Peterson has begun to explore another path. She began an MBA program at Boston's Suffolk University in September, partly out of an interest in pursuing her jewelry-making business full-time.

Or she might simply keep the business as a supplement. "I'm interested to see where it takes me," she says. "There's a new opportunity that I never in a million years would have considered. And who knows? It could completely go bust tomorrow, or I could end up doing it the rest of my life."

She smiles. "When a door opens in front of you, you should at least take a peek inside."

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