Hailey Mathis, creator of Highway Hippie Jewelry is conquering the odds as she combines her passions for biomedical engineering, social awareness, and the Western way of life.
Cowboys & Indians: How did you get the idea to start making jewelry?
When I first moved to McKinney [Texas] to live with my mom, I had no friends here. All I had was my mom. She owns her own jewelry company, Traveling Gypsy, and I would help her make jewelry. She works a lot with bead chain and her style is more of a rosary style. Although I enjoyed working with bead chain, I knew I wanted to learn more and taught myself how to bead. It was a hobby at first that eventually turned into a business.
C&I: What do you love about the products you make?
The one thing I love about the products I make is how they make people feel. I’ve had messages from several women that have told me how wearing my jewelry gives them confidence. My jewelry is designed to fit the customer, not for the customer to fit the jewelry!
C&I: What are your current favorite pieces?
My favorite pieces right now are my layering necklaces. I’ve always loved to layer necklaces and I would hate when I would buy a layering necklace that was one necklace. I created my layering necklaces so that way if you wanted to wear all the necklaces at once you can, or you can just wear one!
C&: Tell us about your “why” in choosing biomedical engineering.
I chose biomedical engineering because I wanted to help people. I have an uncle that has struggled for years with a rare disability. He’s had every reason to give up but he doesn’t. I knew that I had the drive and passion to create a solution to help people like him. I know this major is hard but they are people out there that need someone to solve these problems and find solutions. I’m interested in the research and development of prosthetics and using neural interfacing to help solve the lag in prosthetics. It’s hard to stay motivated and push through the tough classes, especially with my own learning disabilities but what keeps me going is knowing that one day, I may help someone walk again, and that feeling will be worth every sleepless night!
Another thing that has really motivated me to push through my hard times is my Nana. Before she passed away in June of 2019, I told her all of my plans and she was so proud of me. Its hard to know she won’t physically be here to see me graduate and use my knowledge to help find solutions to these issues but I know she’s had my back every step of the way. I dedicated a lot of my success to her. Even though she’s no longer physically here, I know she’s still one of my biggest supporters.
C&I: How do you connect what you learn in school with your business?
The one thing you learn in engineering school is that you expect things to fail. In all of our projects, you have to think of every possible failure and how to solve it. I’ve taken that concept and added it to how I create my jewelry. I’m always looking for ways to create not only new and trendy products but also how to improve my quality. I recently taught myself how to solder jump rings closed to prevent the jump ring from coming off. It’s things like that that I try to focus on. I’m my biggest critic and I’m always trying to compete with myself.
C&I: What inspired you to promote different causes through your jewelry?
I’ve always loved giving back to people and wanting to help people. When I noticed that I started getting more followers on Highway Hippie social medias, I started the donation collection. I’ve had my hardships growing up and I think there is more to life than just money. I try to create a platform for people to have a voice and bring attention and/or awareness to certain causes.
C&I: What cause are you currently promoting? Why did you choose it?
Recently we just raised $200 towards the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. I had a customer reach out to me about this issue and started doing my own research. After reading the stories on what has happened, I knew that this issue needed attention.
In September, I will be raising money for suicide awareness. This topic hits close to home for me as I had an older brother that took his own life on December 12th, 2015. I’ve also had my own struggles with anxiety and depression in the past. With each collection I do, I provide ways to donate, statistics and important information. Not every collection that I do is something I can relate to. I think the most important message with these collections I’m trying to spread is if you don’t understand the issue or meaning behind the cause, do the research and try to understand.
C&I: What are your career aspirations? Do you plan to continue making jewelry after school?
I plan on getting my bachelors and masters in biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas. After graduation, I plan on working in research and development on prosthetics. I hope to one day own my own research company. As for Highway Hippie, I have big plans. I want to eventually turn Highway Hippie into a charity foundation called The Hippie Engineer. I want to help fund scholarships for people interested in biomedical engineering and donate prosthetics to kids, veterans, and adults that are in need.
C&I: What do you love about the Western way of life?
I love how God is a huge part of the Western way of life. I think it is the one thing that brings us all together. My favorite part about rodeos are when we say a prayer. In my eyes, that is the most powerful moment!
C&I: What advice do you have for those inspired by your story?
I have people ask me all the time how I do it all or tell me that they wish they could do this. My advice to everyone is you can do anything you want in this world, as long as you have the motivation, drive, are willing to put in the hard work. I have people doubting me all the time. I’ve had a professor tell me once to change my major because my learning disabilities were only going to hold me back. People will be against you and I use those comments as fuel to motivate me to prove them wrong and keep going.
It’s important to surround yourself with people that support you. I’m very blessed to have an amazing support system of people that motivate me when I start to doubt myself. I think an important thing to remember is success doesn’t happen overnight. Keep working hard and learn to celebrate the little goals because that’s what success really is!
Shop Highway Hippie Jewelry here.
Photography courtesy of Highway Hippie Jewelry, Jennie Bee Photography, and Rylee J Photography.