Handmade jewelry can be a real treasure, as well as a treat to look at. At the Unique Designs booth, which pops up at Eastern Michigan University’s Student Center on occasion, you can feast your eyes on an array of one-of-a-kind rings, earrings and necklaces crafted from brass, gold and colorful semiprecious stones.
Detroit native and University of Michigan alum Khalil Peaks is the mind and hands behind Unique Designs, which was established in 1976 and has been displaying and selling merchandise on EMU’s campus for more than five years. Peaks’ son, Adam, is a senior at EMU.
Unique Designs can be found on the lowest level of the Student Center near the food court. While the business isn’t always present, Peaks tries to make an appearance regularly.
“I’ve established a little clientele, so I try to come at least four times a month,” Peaks said.
According to Peaks, his handcrafted earrings are a big hit among his frequent customers.
“I have about five or six students who love my earrings, and they’re always looking for something new and something different,” Peaks said.
In addition to jewelry, Peaks’ business sells a line of imported, alcohol-free oils, shea butter from Ghana and black soap from Nigeria and Ghana.
Peaks’ favorite part about bringing his business to EMU’s campus is the opportunities it gives him to share his wisdom with a younger generation.
“I get a chance to communicate with the students, which I really appreciate because prior to myself getting into business, I was a counselor,” Peaks said. “As a matter of fact, I was a vocational counselor. So since I’ve retired from the counseling business and I’ve devoted my time to being an artist or a craftsman, I still get a chance to communicate with a lot of the younger students, and I’m always trying to give them some advice in reference to staying in school and being in school, and those who want to go into their own business, I try to give them some advice with that too.”
After more than three decades of creating his own merchandise, interacting with customers and growing a business, Peaks has plenty of knowledge to pass on.
“My advice for someone who is going into their own business is do some research on the business you want to go into, and see if it’s going to be lucrative enough for you to devote your time into that business,” Peaks said. “And now with the Internet, students can be more advanced when going into the world of business because they can research everything. So anything that you want to know about, during these times, you can look it up. We didn’t have those things available to us when I was coming up, so we had to learn everything from word-of-mouth or experience.”
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