In 2010, Holly Daniels Christensen celebrated her September 28th birthday in a non-traditional way. Rather than simply blowing out candles, the then-35-year-old launched Dune JewelryTM, so as to always remember the date her brand came into the world.
The company sources sand and other natural elements from all seven continents to create handmade earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and other accessories. Prior to starting Dune, Chistensen had little experience in the jewelry industry. Yet, as evidenced by her eclectic work history — which includes a form of rural zookeeping, as well as real estate — she’s not one to shy away from new pursuits.
The idea for Dune came about as Christensen was helping her childhood best friend grow her own business. “[My friend] had this small kitchen table business making ornaments out of sand from different beaches on Cape Cod,” the 44-year-old recalls. “I would see the reaction [customers] had to the beach and travel, and the excitement they would have.” Inspired, she took a few jewelry-making classes, then went on to start Dune at her own kitchen table in Boston, making beach-sand jewelry for friends and family. Her team has since grown to include 28 employees, and now the jewelry doesn’t always just feature sand — customers can supply their own elements, too. Dune has infused jewelry with crushed granite from the Rocky Mountains, sand from the Grand Canyon, and dried flower petals from weddings, for example.
“We're creating tangible reminders of those moments that people can wear forever,” says the breezy blonde Cape Cod native. Her tone is calm, collected, and reflective of her overall demeanor. (She’s also helpful; she even offered some personal real estate advice on the call.)
In addition to her role as a creative jeweler and CEO, Christensen is also a mother to two daughters. “I have taught them that being unique is beautiful, which is hard,” Christensen shares. “It’s an uphill battle these days, because there's so much media out there — even for little girls as young as six and eight.” Christensen says her daughters have taught her quite a few things about beauty, too, including the value of effortlessness and being “a little bit silly” with makeup.
Keep reading for more of Christensen’s advice on parenting young girls amid personal and external pressures, pursuing creative passions, and making time for skincare and aesthetics routines on top of it all.
Spotlyte: You’ve had a few different careers — is it true that includes a stint in zookeeping
Holly Daniels Christensen: From when I was 11 years old until I was 18, I worked every single summer and after school at a place called Bassett's Wild Animal Farm in Brewster on Cape Cod, which is no longer there. I used to work with monkeys and tigers, and mama and papa bear, and give hay rides and pony rides. Back in the day, they would let 11-year-olds feed tigers.
Spotlyte: Since your teenage years, what's the best career advice that you've received, and who gave it to you?
HDC: I've had a business mentor since 2012. He is a gentleman named Rick Blank. I actually found him through a nationwide service called Score®. It's powered by the Small Business Administration. He told me that no matter what you're doing, you have to let go of any type of ego, and if you want to scale your business, you have to be able to surround yourself with people who are more knowledgeable than you are. You never want to be the smartest person in a room, because if you are, you're not learning, you're not evolving, and you're not growing, and that's going to ultimately put a damper on your business.
Spotlyte: What advice do you have for people who are looking to become entrepreneurs or break into the jewelry industry?
HDC: If you're going to sign up to be an entrepreneur, you have to know that it's going to consume you 24/7. For the first few years of entrepreneurship, you're consumed seven days a week, 24 hours a day. You have to live and breathe it if you want to succeed.
Spotlyte: Who's been your biggest cheerleader throughout your jewelry career and beyond?
HDC: My husband has absolutely been my biggest cheerleader. He's a Boston guy, kind of rough around the edges. I don't know how else to explain it.
I was working in a very successful real estate career for three years before I launched Dune. [When I shifted gears], I was always scared that I wouldn't be able to teach people how to craft the jewelry as delicately and as artistically as I did. My husband was like, "Listen, people teach other people to perform brain surgery — and you can't teach someone to make jewelry?" The way he said it was kind of rude, but it clicked in my head that he was right. About two weeks later, I hired my first employee. Now, I have 28 full-time employees.
Spotlyte: Speaking of family, what do you teach your two daughters about beauty?
HDC: I have taught them the basics. They moisturize with me at night. Really nothing too rich — stuff with very few ingredients, very light moisturizers. I put Aquaphor® on my lips and my girls' lips every night.
My six year old, Lyla, said to me one day, “Mama, I'm fat.” I said, “We don't use that word in this house. It's not about being fat or thin. It's about being healthy. It's about putting the right things in your body. It's drinking lots of water, and it's about caring for yourself and your sister,” because the conversation kind of revolved around her and her sister. That was really hard to hear when you know it's coming from a totally outside experience. You wonder what the heck is going on out there at school, or between friends, or maybe it was a YouTube® video she saw and I didn't monitor it. You've got to be vigilant.
Spotlyte: What have your girls taught you about beauty?
HDC: Lexa has taught me effortless beauty. She rolls out of bed and she just looks unbelievable.
You should see Lyla when she puts on her makeup — we let her put on makeup on the weekends, and it's interesting. It's all about not taking it too seriously. Beauty should not be a serious thing. It should come from within. It should be a little bit silly, it should be creative, it should be fun.
Spotlyte: How has your beauty routine changed over the years?
HDC: For so many years I was a Dove® girl — Dove soap on my face for probably 32 years. I would just use a really light Cetaphil® moisturizer and call it a day.
Spotlyte: What’s your morning skincare routine these days?
HDC: Ages ago, I read that Jennifer Aniston splashes her face with cold water 25 times every morning. I do that too, right when I wake up. It feels so good — it takes your breath away and gets you ready for the upcoming day and the whole regimen.
I have this unbelievable salon that I go to in Framingham, Massachusetts, called PARLR [By RLR]®, and they got me into a regimen. I use SkinCeuticals® Gentle Cleanser to cleanse. And then I use SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel®. I have super dry skin and it's a moisture-enhancing vitamin serum with B5. I finish off with SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2®, which is an anti-aging, lipid replenishment treatment, and it's super thick. I love thick stuff. On the weekends, I just splash my face with water and use IT Cosmetics® Secret Sauce® Anti-Aging Moisturizer.
Spotlyte: What’s in your makeup bag?
HDC: I have fine lines, so I'm very cognizant about not putting a ton of foundation on. I use IT Cosmetics CC+® Cream with SPF 50+. I absolutely love it because it's full coverage, but doesn't feel like it — and it has SPF 50, which is huge. It's also got an anti-aging hydrating serum in there. And then I use a basic Maybelline® powder, which is really, really light. I don't get fancy with powder, because if I go crazy with it, it just starts to cake and it doesn't look good.
I use an IT Cosmetics bronzer and NARS® blush in OrgasmTM. Recently, I've been laying off the eyeliner. I used to love eyeliner when I was younger, but as I get a little bit older, sometimes I feel like it's a little too heavy. Instead, I surround my eyes with a really pretty brown eye shadow: FLOWER BeautyTM Wanderlust Eyeshadow PaletteTM. It's just got a little bit of a shimmer to it. I put it on my eyelids and I also put it under. I've noticed, too, if I put a little bit of shadow under my eyes, it tends to open them. I use IT Cosmetics SuperheroTM Elastic Stretch Volumizing Mascara Super Black. I'm obsessed with it. I've tried 150 different mascaras, and that's still my favorite.
Spotlyte: What’s your evening skincare routine?
HDC: At night, I use the same SkinCeuticals regimen, unless I'm traveling, and at that point I use Olay® wipes to cleanse.
Spotlyte: How did motherhood change your beauty routine, if at all?
HDC: Believe it or not, my routine got a little bit longer — because all of a sudden I had two little girls looking up to me wondering what I'm doing. I want to make sure that they understand that they're worth the time of slowing down, and taking time for themselves, and having a skincare regimen and an exercise regimen and things like that.
Before I had children, I was running around like a crazy person trying to get things done. After I had children, it slowed me down a tiny bit to recognize that it's not just me. I really need to understand that actions speak louder than words, and whatever I'm doing, they're going to recognize that — and probably follow suit.
Spotlyte: What other beauty-related practices do you utilize?
HDC: I drink warm lemon water in the morning. It gets you hydrated for the day. On days that I'm dehydrated, or maybe when I went out too late and had been drinking alcohol, I can see it in my skin for the next two or three days. It's unbelievable how important hydration is.
Spotlyte: What’s your stance on anti-aging?
HDC: I love how I feel inside as I age, but I don't love how I look outside as I age, as much as I want to. I've got to be honest. There are so many people who say, "Oh, it's great getting older." It's the little things that are definitely a challenge, like my skin being dry and having to moisturize it constantly. Aging is inevitable and we need to embrace it, but we can definitely fight back and make ourselves feel good and look good during the process.
Spotlyte: Have you tried any aesthetics treatments?
HDC: I try to stay as fit as I can, but I recently started CoolSculpting® on my back [fat], in the bra [fat] area, and I've noticed difference. I went twice. I would love to go back and try some more spots.
Editor’s note The CoolSculpting treatment is a non-invasive fat freezing treatment that effectively reduces fat in certain self-proclaimed “problem spots” in the submental and submandibular areas, thigh, abdomen, flank, and upper arm, along with bra fat, back fat, and underneath the buttocks (you know, those bulges that just won’t go away, regardless of how much you sweat it out on the treadmill). While it isn’t a weight loss solution, fat freezing can reduce pouches of fat. As with any procedure, there are risks and side effects, so talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you.
I've tried Fraxel® lasers for scarring on my neck area. I also did Thermage on my neck and chin. They zap you, and it breaks down your collagen so that it can rebuild. [The results are] very, very, very slight, but I truly believe it works.
Editor’s note As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
I get HydraFacials® at PARLR. My skin looks unbelievable for three months after I have it. They hydrate your face really significantly after they vacuum all of the dirt out of your pores.
Spotlyte: Have you tried injectables?
HDC: I use an injectable wrinkle reducer in my forehead and crow's feet. Dr. Brooke Sikora is my dermatologist. I go four times a year. I’ve been getting it since I was 38. I also use filler. It was a game changer.
Editor’s note Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.
Spotlyte: Are there any other treatments you get regularly?
HDC: I'm obsessed with eyebrows, and began microblading two years ago with this tattoo artist named Kat Jones. I take my girls to do manicures and pedicures with me. That's always fun for us. I tend to do dip nails, because I have super thin nails.
Spotlyte: Besides manicures and pedicures, what other fun activities do you do with your daughters?
HDC: We're in New England, so we're huge wintertime outdoor people. We're not skiers or anything. But in the summer, we're outside every single day. We're at the beach, we're in the pool.
My younger one, Layla, is really funny. She loves workout videos. So she'll come downstairs on the weekend or just out of the blue be like, "Mom, I want to do Jillian Michaels." We'll do a 20-minute shred. She's really good.
Spotlyte: What does your typical workout routine entail?
HDC: I get up every morning, seven days a week, and I do between 20 and 30 minutes on the treadmill. I might miss a day once a month, but otherwise I'm on there. On low energy days, I'm just walking. On high energy days, I'm running. I'll finish up with some five- and 10-pound weights that I have in my home. I'll do squats, lunges. Those are always the best for me. If I can get through squats and lunges, and some curls and some basic exercises, I feel good.
Spotlyte: Besides exercise, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
HDC: My husband can't [even] cook spaghetti, but I love to cook, and the girls are starting to love to cook. For whatever reason, we are not bakers in this house, but we can whip together a stirfry on a weeknight. Every Tuesday, we have Taco Tuesday, and I try to make those a little bit healthier. We use reduced-fat cheese and we use reduced-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. My family could live on tacos if I let them.
Spotlyte: Do you have a mantra?
HDC: There are so many floating around my head, but it really circles around not taking yourself too seriously, and trying to have fun with beauty and fashion and everything, because you only get one life.
One of my favorite quotes is: "You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life," by Coco Chanel.
Growing older simply means you get to have fun trying all of the new beauty treatments out there. It's really important to have fun with it, and not let yourself get stressed out about it, or be bogged down by it. Make it great.
Read about more inspiring entrepreneurs:
- How an Injectables Appointment Inspired This Beauty Industry Veteran’s Second Act
- “Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal,” and More Smack-Dab Sayings Entrepreneur Pam Wolf Lives By
- How a Bout of Cystic Acne Ultimately Led Dara Levy to Her Calling
Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.
CoolSculpting® is an Allergan®-owned non-invasive fat reduction treatment.
CoolSculpting® Treatment Important Information
The CoolSculpting® procedure is FDA-cleared for the treatment of visible fat bulges in the submental (under the chin) and submandibular (under the jawline) areas, thigh, abdomen and flank (love handles), along with bra fat, back fat, underneath the buttocks (also known as banana roll), and upper arm. It is also FDA-cleared to affect the appearance of lax tissue with submental area treatments. The CoolSculpting procedure is not a treatment for weight loss.
Important Safety Information
The CoolSculpting procedure is not for everyone. You should not have the CoolSculpting procedure if you suffer from cryoglobulinemia, cold agglutinin disease, or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria.
Tell your doctor if you have any medical conditions including recent surgery, pre-existing hernia, and any known sensitivities or allergies.
During the procedure you may experience sensations of pulling, tugging, mild pinching, intense cold, tingling, stinging, aching, and cramping at the treatment site. These sensations subside as the area becomes numb. Following the procedure, typical side effects include temporary redness, swelling, blanching, bruising, firmness, tingling, stinging, tenderness, cramping, aching, itching, or skin sensitivity, and sensation of fullness in the back of the throat after submental or submandibular area treatment.
Rare side effects may also occur. CoolSculpting may cause a visible enlargement in the treated area which may develop two to five months after treatment and requires surgical intervention for correction.
Ask your doctor if CoolSculpting is right for you. To learn more about what to expect, visit the CoolSculpting website and comprehensive Important Safety Information.