The career path from research engineer to jewelry designer sounds unlikely, but that’s what it took for Jersey City’s Jackie Burke to solve a problem. Jackie, like many other people with pierced ears, has skin allergies and couldn’t find earrings that wouldn’t irritate her skin. She was working full-time as an engineer when she set out to solve the problem by making her own jewelry line. Now, five years later, Jackie’s company Tini Lux is the local leader in allergy-safe earrings. The Hoboken Girl recently visited Jackie at Tini Lux’s studio in Jersey City to learn more about her story. Read on to learn more about Jackie + Tini Lux.
About The Founder
Jersey City resident Jackie Burke grew up outside of Bangor, Maine, and went to college at Rennessaler Polytechnic Institute. Her undergraduate degree is in engineering and after college, she worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab doing research. She started Tini Lux as a side hustle in 2017 to solve a problem: she couldn’t wear earrings. “Starting in college, all earrings irritated my ears,” she said. “I’d either wait until just before going out to put on earrings or get so frustrated and skip them altogether. I finally gave up completely because I couldn’t find anything that worked for me.” It wasn’t just that Jackie had sensitive skin, she had skin allergies to metals commonly found in jewelry.
“There was an influencer I liked who had these earrings I wanted to get, but I just knew they wouldn’t work for me. I started looking around online thinking that there had to be someone out there who had solved the problem of having sensitive ears. I realized no one had,” she said. Jackie started researching ways to make earrings more wearable for people like her with sensitive skin or skin allergies. “I stumbled upon a dental implant manufacturer talking about titanium and how it works with the human body. It was like a lightbulb went off,’ she said. “I thought, if it’s good enough for medical implants, it’s got to be good enough for earrings.”
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The Tini Lux earrings are made with medical-grade titanium, which is commonly used in medical and dental implants. The items at the heart of the collection are simple, classic pieces like studs and hoops. More trendy styles are cycled in and out each season. Several earrings are sold individually, and some have flat backs, making them great choices for helix piercings.
Jackie and her husband moved back to her husband’s native New Jersey in 2017, and the two moved to Jersey City shortly thereafter. Jackie says that the early stages of the brand involved a lot of trial and error and a lot of researching things on her own. “I was working full-time as an engineer. I had no experience in business or jewelry so I didn’t feel comfortable diving in full-time,” she said. While the brand started in 2017, Jackie didn’t commit to it full-time until mid-2020. “It had finally grown enough that I felt comfortable enough to take the leap and leave engineering.” Since then, she’s hired more people and now has a staff of five and a Jersey City workspace and showroom.
In terms of being someone with an engineering background in a creative field, Jackie said that “In the Venn diagram of skills that it takes to be an entrepreneur and the skills that it takes to be an engineer there’s no overlap, so that’s definitely a challenge for me. But engineering gave me a really good foundation for organization and analytical skills which is important to running a business. I probably always had a creative side and just didn’t nurture it that much because I didn’t need it in my previous life. It’s important to give myself time and space to be creative.”
About the Brand
There’s nothing clinical or dull about Tini Lux’s designs. The brand offers earrings, necklaces, and bracelets for men, women, and kids. This is a far cry from the original line that Jackie designed which had just a few earrings geared toward women in their 20s and 30s. “I originally wanted to do something really different,” she said. “I started with one pair of really basic studs and 12 different statement earring styles. We still sell those studs today, and I quickly realized that basics are basics for a reason. People always want them.”
The current collection is about 80% made up of basic studs and hoops. “The original studs that I first sold are still one of our best sellers,” Jackie said. “A lot of people start with our studs because we recommend them for healing ears. Then every time we release a new collection we try to have a mix of staple styles and statement styles. The statement styles are often limited in number.” In addition to the core collection, Tini Lux also has a bridal line, and one of the current collections is all about birthstones.
The children’s line, Little Lux, was launched in December 2021. “We realized that a lot of the purchases were parents buying earrings for their children that had sensitive skin,” Jackie said. “We decided to try making a line with a more petite scale and with designs that were more geared toward children.” The styles include designs like colorful hearts, flowers, and stars in addition to classic hoop and stud styles.
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Tini Lux finds most of its customers through search engine optimization. “People are trying to find answers about why their ears are so sensitive,” Jackie said. “They also want to get a solution so when they come to our site they’re ready for something that will solve their problem. We also get a lot of parents searching for solutions for their child’s sensitive ears.”
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Jackie went on to say that this solution-oriented product has had a big impact on customer relationships. “Our customer service manager will recognize names of customers because they place repeat orders, or she’ll know that a certain customer is always going to buy something when there’s a sale,” she said. “Our product is about efficacy and if it didn’t work, people wouldn’t keep buying. Every time I see someone make a repeat purchase I breathe a sigh of relief because it means it’s working.”
Some of Jackie’s favorite products the simple gold hoop earrings. Launching the kid’s line Little Lux was a big accomplishment because it involved reaching a new customer base, new branding, and a whole new demographic. “Marketing toward parents buying for children is a big shift,” she said. “Aside from our original launch, that was the biggest launch of a product line we’ve done.”
Rapid Fire Q+A with Jackie:
A dream celeb to wear Tini Lux
Someone like Jessica Alba. Her company, Honest Company, was started because of skin allergies. With someone like her, there would be a lot of synergy. That would be a dream partnership.”
Favorites restaurants in JC
We love going out to eat. Our favorites are Orale, Satis Bistro. Chickie’s in Hamilton Park.
Favorite thing about living in the area
I do a lot of walking around the city, especially when I want to clear my head or think through a problem. I love to walk on the waterfront.
Favorite coffee shop
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