Ashley Williams’s friends know her as a jewelry fanatic, a woman who loves to accessorize. She’s always had a love for jewelry and accessories, dating back to high school when she would accessorize her school uniform, despite the trouble she would sometimes get into. She loved looking for trinkets from the places she visited while traveling as a clinical research consultant at Paradigm Associates for 15 years.
So when her friends commented about the trinkets that she brought home from her travels, Williams took it as a sign that she needed to turn her treasure trove into a business.
House of Bobbi, which was launched online in December 2016, features a wide range of affordable, funky jewelry and handbags. Most of House of Bobbi’s jewelry ranges from $20 to $30, while more elaborate pieces can cost upwards of $40. The boutique represents the aura of a confident, charismatic woman with eccentric vibes and an eclectic fashion taste, Williams says. Each piece is carefully curated, which can transform any outfit.
“When someone looks for a jewel at House of Bobbi, they are looking for a piece to help tell their story,” says Williams. “They bought a pair of earrings for their engagement, their birthday, Valentine’s Day, for their wedding, for the divorce court, you name it.”
In 2018 Williams opened her first brick-and-mortar store in River Oaks, but like many small businesses, she had to close the shop when Covid-19 hit last year. Since then Williams has been pursuing new business ventures for her brand.
One of Williams’s current projects is jewelry vending machines, which she launched in several local malls, like Katy Mills, earlier this year.
Called Gem Machines, they’re not like the vending machines dispensing candy and snacks that you see everywhere else. These machines house all types of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and cute masks that can be worn in the office, to a dinner, and even to a special event or wedding.
Williams says she researched vending machines for a long time as a way to continue her hustle, and hopes to open in two more malls this spring. She considers the vending machines to be one of her smartest ideas.
“I still wanted to have a presence. The vending machines allowed me to still have that presence as a boutique but in a vending fashion,” Williams says.
Another venture is called the K.I.S.S. Box, or the Keep it Stunning Subscription Box. Customers fill out a form with their personal jewelry preferences, with earrings, ring bracelet combos, or necklace set options available. There’s also the ability to choose the level of drama (“I like it Nice and Simple,” “Sass with a little Class,” or “Give Me Drama!”) you want to flaunt. The $40 K.I.S.S. box is then shipped to you once a month.
“It’s just one of the projects that I absolutely love because I love picking out items for people,” Williams says.
For now, if you still want to shop House of Bobbi in person (Williams says she prefers walking into a store and feeling the products herself), you can find the boutique in the Silos at Sawyer Yards. Williams has a studio that’s open to the public every second Saturday. Guests are treated to special cocktails, mimosa bars, sales, and door-busters.
As for the future, Williams hopes to expand House of Bobbi, for instance by placing Gem Machines in various malls and multi-use developments for retail and entertainment. “I wanted to start off reaching the community that I lived in, which is Houston, and then flourishing out from Texas, and eventually the whole US,” Williams says.
But no matter what, Williams believes she has something to share with the world.
“On a personal level I feel like this is the life experience that I have, the cards that I’ve been dealt,” Williams says, “which led me to have an awesome work ethic and be the true female hustler that I am, because at the end of the day, this is the rock star life that I wanted to create.”