Designers / Industry

How I Got Here: Kaitlyn O’Neill Turns Viral Videos Into Brand Success


Kaitlyn O’Neill describes herself as driven from a young age—the kind of kid who made everything, from duct-tape wallets to lemonade stands to jewelry, knowing that someday she would have a business empire.

Fast-forward through a Waldorf primary and secondary education and a Pepperdine University degree in marketing, and O’Neill has reached her goal in record time. She took the business plan she wrote the summer after high school in 2019 and founded Honey by Kait, a Malibu-based demi-fine jewelry company she is expanding rapidly thanks to social media and her personal brand.

She may be only 23, but O’Neill is prepped to build her jewelry empire. She recently completed a diamond-grading class at GIA, part of her plan to develop Honey by Kait’s first fine jewelry line in the near future.

Honey by Kait
Though she got her first smartphone only a few years ago, Kaitlyn O’Neill has parlayed her social media skills into a following for Honey by Kait.

O’Neill says Honey by Kait provides jewelry staples for women who love fashion but may not be able to afford the fine pieces their favorite celebrities and influencers are wearing. She calls her fan base “the Hive,” and its “honeybabes” make her jewelry sell out on a regular basis.

O’Neill says she hopes other young women will take inspiration from how she made her business idea a reality.

“I’m very interactive with my clients. I want them to know they can do anything. I started off so small, and I saw my dream unfold in front of my eyes,” she says.

O’Neill credits her parents and her education for giving her a solid start. She grew up in a family where creativity was emphasized, attending a Waldorf school from kindergarten through 12th grade that promoted art and hands-on experiences.

Honey bow earrings
Honey by Kait builds community through its “hive” of customers who love the demi-fine brand’s everyday essentials, like these Bow earrings ($98).

“College was the first time I had a normal textbook or standardized testing,” O’Neill says. “In my [Waldorf] school, we played musical instruments and made our own textbooks by hand. I can do every type of manual skill you can think of—knitting, painting, woodworking,”

Her parents backed up that attention to self-discovery. “Growing up, they didn’t let us watch television, and I didn’t have a smartphone until I was 15,” O’Neill says.

O’Neill’s interest in jewelry developed in middle school, where she was required to do an apprenticeship. O’Neill picked jewelry-making, but the school suggested photography instead. While she enjoyed the photography work and learned a lot that would later help her on social media, jewelry became a new hobby.

That interest ramped up during her time at Pepperdine. Six months into college, the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down, and O’Neill was sent home. TikTok was still fairly new, and O’Neill was intrigued with the social media site. One of her first posts was about a pair of earrings she made for singer Madison Beer. To O’Neill’s surprise, it went viral.

Honey jewelry
O’Neill focuses now on costume and demi-fine and costume jewelry, such as the pearl bracelet ($42), but she is interested in moving toward fine jewelry.

“Within minutes, it hit more than 1 million views. I was shocked because I had no idea that would happen. I almost didn’t post it. But I had a feeling I should, and I’m so glad I did,” O’Neill says. “It moved the needle on my entire life.”

In another post, she showed jewelry she made for influencer Charli D’Amelio, and D’Amelio’s mom filmed her receiving it. That video took off as well. O’Neill says she thinks her content did so well because her intent was genuine.

“It was authentic—I believed the person I made the jewelry for would look so good in it, or they were having a tough time in life and I thought they could use some love,” she says.

Love also inspired O’Neill to create her travel collections: She started in 2020 with beach-themed jewelry and then added pieces in honor of London, France, and Italy. She hints her next travel-related jewelry will be linked to somewhere fun, but says her fans will have to wait to see where.

“I pick a different destination each time, and I try to bring everyone along with me,” O’Neill says. “Everything I launch are things I want to add to my personal collection that I think everyone else will love.”

Top: Kaitlyn O’Neill created Honey by Kait in 2019, and it has taken off thanks to social media and celebrity endorsements. (Photos courtesy of Honey by Kait)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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