Stephanie Prewitt was trying to buy earrings, not starting a jewelry business.

The east side resident spent her days answering customer service calls for Madison financial services company TASC, and evenings cheering from the stands at La Follette High School girls basketball games, where her husband coached and her daughter played.

So she was confused when, after she placed an order for a pair of wooden earrings cut in the shape of the word “Queen,” the online seller mentioned that she could order the same earrings wholesale.

“I was like, ‘Why would I want to buy a whole bunch of earrings?’” Prewitt recalls.

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A bin of engraved wood jewelry pieces sits in the Queen P’s Throne studio.

Prewitt could buy a variety of simple wooden styles, paint them and sell them herself, the seller explained.

Three years later, Prewitt looks back on that as the moment that turned him from an earring enthusiast into an earring entrepreneur.

She started with an order of 50 pairs. At first, Prewitt sold just the natural wood jewelry unpainted, and when those sold well, he asked the seller for tips on painting. She bought a set of tiny brushes and watched a YouTube video.

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Biscuit the dog peeks around a portable display case of statement earrings.

“I painted my first partner and it has been absolutely amazing,” says Prewitt, who sells her work on her website and at pop-up events around town through her business, Queen P’s Throne, named for the nickname her husband gave her years ago .

Today, Prewitt runs the business from the bedroom her daughter left when she went to college. She works her day job from 7 am to 3:30 pm at a desk in one corner of the room, then rolls across the room to a work table surrounded by paints, brushes, packing supplies and a jewelry mannequin.

There, on a slender laptop covered in Black pride stickers, she creates graphics to send to her Glowforge 3D laser printer to slice and engrave into sheets of wood and acrylic. Instead of buying pre-made earrings, she now uses the machine to cut her own.

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Prewitt works in her home studio on Madison’s east side.

On a recent afternoon, she fired up the machine to demonstrate. A plume of smoke billowed behind the glass as the machine’s head moved across a sheet of wood. A couple of minutes later, the words complete, she lifted out the sheet and poked out the word: “Queen.” Several inches wide, it was just big enough to make a hard-to-miss earring.

It’s a fitting venture for Prewitt, who chooses her outfit based on the earrings she wants to wear and who says that when she meets someone, she looks at their earrings before she looks at their eyes.

With her business, Prewitt aims to give other earring lovers options they wouldn’t find elsewhere, options that let them show their personality or their mood. There’s a big black and red question mark for one ear paired with an exclamation point for the other. There’s a pair of wooden disks that read “Black culture is not a fashion trend.” There’s even a pair made to look like Scrabble tiles of the letters F and U, for those looking to make an edgier statement.

“I just really want to provide people with a really dope pair of earrings,” Prewitt said. “You can go and get you some diamonds and pearls for those (fancy) occasions, but I like my earrings to have a statement.”

Who are you wearing?

Prewitt is turning out new inventory for a handful of upcoming events, including Urban Triage’s Kickback Saturday and the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce’s Food Taste Jamboree on Aug. 20.

Though she’s best known for her earrings, Prewitt now uses the same tools to engrave designs into a variety of other merchandise, including door signs, leather passport covers, Apple Watch bands, nightlights and more.

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Prewitt paints what she calls “dope” earrings for her business, Queen P’s Throne.

Particularly important to Prewitt is her custom work, allowing customers to choose their own colors, names or phrases to put on a product. For those with the sort of names that never appear on racks of novelty license plates or other off-the-shelf monogrammed merchandise, it’s a chance to finally find themself.

From her home studio, Prewitt has shipped orders to 31 states and counting, an accomplishment she tracks on a red and black US map she cut with her own laser printer. Each time she gets an order from a new state, she reaches into a small plastic bag of wooden states and glues a new one to the map.

“The goal is for each state to have a pair of my earrings,” Prewitt said.

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Prewitt tracks the states she’s shipped orders to with a handmade map on display in her home studio.

When she does, she jokes, she’ll need to make a map of the rest of the globe. To print it, she’ll need a bigger laser printer, but that’s in her plans too, as is learning how to ship internationally.

But she also loves seeing her work hanging from her ears here in town and complimenting the wearers, who often start raving about the artist, not knowing they’re talking to her.

“I just sat there smiling, and then I finally told them, ‘Oh, well that’s me,’” Prewitt said with a laugh.

It’s fun, she said, after years of cheering loudly from the stands for her two kids, years of bragging about her kids’ successes, to hear her customers cheering for her.

“I’m very proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone,” Prewitt said. “I think Madison always just knew me as Dionte Prewitt’s wife because my husband coaches, or, (because) my daughter and my son play basketball, I just always was known as their mom.”

Now, sometimes she’s the famous one. “They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re Queen P’s daughter!’” Prewitt said. “That’s so exciting.”

The four questions

What are the most important values ​​driving your work?

I want to make sure that I provide people with a great quality earring. I don’t want them to second-guess supporting me, so if it takes me a little bit longer to paint and put more details into their product (that’s OK). Quality over quantity. I also want to make sure that I keep providing people with custom earrings. If I could have 50 of my earrings out at one event, but each of them has a different design or different color or different glitter, I want to be able to do that. Everyone has different likes and needs.

How are you creating the kind of community that you want to live in?

I want people to walk around with my earrings at whatever event they have going on. And I also try to make sure that I volunteer or donate. If I know an organization is having (an event), I may donate a couple of pairs of earrings to help. I’m not rich, but if I can give back with a pair of earrings or donate for a raffle, I try to make sure that I do that.

What advice do you have for other would-be entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid. Just do it. You don’t want to regret not doing it. You can always tweak or go back and relearn what you need to improve on. But just do it.

Are you hiring?

I am currently not hiring. But I volunteer with (the non-profit) Black Girl Magic, and when things start to pick up and I have larger events, I do plan on (hiring) some of the young ladies connected with Black Girl Magic to assist at events.

By ting