Studs wants to modernize the ear piercing experience for Gen Z teens

A startup called Studs wants to reinvent the ear-piercing experience for Generation Z. Today, consumers only have two options to choose from when they want their ears pierced — the traditional “mall piercing” experience that uses piercing guns often wielded by novices, or professional piercing parlors whose wide range of services often means that only a limited selection of jewelry for ears is made available. Studs, instead, aims to combine brick-and-mortar storefronts for needle piercing with an online retail destination where customers can shop for after-care items, single earrings, collections, earscapes, and more.

The company has now opened its first retail store in New York’s Nolita neighborhood as well as its online shopping site, and plans to expand to more physical locations by 2020.

The idea for Studs comes from entrepreneurs Anna Harman and Lisa Bubbers, both of whom have backgrounds with in-person service startups. Harman, now Studs CEO, was previously the Chief Customer Officer at Walmart’s personal shopping service Jetblack, as well as Head of Operations at in-home closet organizing startup Fitz. Bubbers, now CMO at Studs, was previously VP of Marketing at interior design startup Homepolish.

Harman believes the market for ear piercing is split between the offline retailers who do the piercings themselves — either at mall shops or tattoo and piercing parlors — and the online retail side of the business, which makes it difficult to develop a relationship with customers.

“Earring retail is an entirely separate entity becoming increasingly dominated by [direct-to-consumer] brands exclusively leveraging Instagram ads to target and engage with consumers. It’s more competitive than ever to capture customers in the multi-billion dollar fashion jewelry industry,” Harman explains. “Without an authentic offline service to build a meaningful customer relationship and capture data for re-engagement, it’s almost impossible to survive in today’s retail climate as an online-only brand,” she says.

Studs, on the other hand, aims to connect the experience of getting pierced to the next intuitive step of purchasing earrings, Harman adds. 

“We give consumers an easy way to navigate their piercing and jewelry options and are the first to combine a brick and mortar retail experience with an e-commerce platform, so customers can seamlessly continue the experience,” she says.

Like professional tattoo and piercing parlors, Studs only employs professionals who are trained to pierce with needles, not guns. The cost ranges from $35 for one hole to $50 for two, on any part of the ear. Piercing jewelry is $30 to $180 per earring, while Studs’ fashion jewelry is $14-$175 per earring.

After getting pierced at Studs, customers are then directed to the website for after-care information and resources, as well as a shoppable destination for buying new products. In addition, the site is open to anyone — not just those who already got pierced at Studs’s shop.

In addition to traditional earring options, the website features “earscapes,” which are personalized combinations of piercings where you mix-and-match different jewelry to create unique looks, often across a larger number of holes going up the ear. Studs also collaborates on collections with indie designers like Susan Alexandria, Yumono, and Man Repeller. At launch, it’s offering an exclusive collection from Anna Sheffield, the founder and designer at NYC jewelry brand, Bing Bang.

Though not limited to anyone of any gender, Studs was designed with the goal of better catering to Gen Z teenagers who are getting pierced for the first time or perhaps adding additional piercings further up the ear.  Studs says its “sweet spot” is anyone ages 14 to 25. However, parents can bring in a child as young as 8 to get pierced.

In other words, it’s a step up from a store like Claire’s, where parents are often turned off by the use of piercing guns wielded by non-professionals. Instead, it offers the safe, more hygienic, and more precise needles that many of today’s first-time-piercers prefer.

The NYC area store is meant to test out this concept, but if all goes well, future locations may involve in-mall shops, kiosks, or even mobile units.

To date, the startup has raised $3 million in funding led by First Round Capital, with participation from Lerer Hippaeu and other angel investors. The company plans to use the funds for its retail locations, enhancing its e-commerce site, and expanding its team.

The Studs Studio, located at 12 Prince St. in NYC, opened alongside the Studs website on November 19.