Small Business

Jewelry with a Minnesota Twist

Urbain gives Minnesota's history new life through handmade jewelry

By Anne Kopas

Logan Ketterling is a business owner, a craftsman and most of all, a storyteller. And he’s accomplished all of this at age twenty.

Just over a year ago, Ketterling, then an undergraduate student at North Central University, had a strong desire to start a business. He knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, and he knew his passions were fashion and storytelling. Instead of picking just one, Ketterling embraced all of the above to start Urbain, a jewelry company that creates handmade pieces made from the materials of Minnesota historic sites.

It all started with a Kickstarter campaign to fund a bracelet made of wood from the Marine Mill on the St. Croix River, the first business in Minnesota. The campaign was wildly successful—it raised $15,000 in just two weeks. Suddenly, Ketterling says, the business was “not just an idea—it’s real!” He attributes this success to frequent prayer throughout the process.

Since that initial campaign, Urbain has released two collections: one from hematite mined from the Soudan Mine in the early 1900s, and one made of leather from historic Red Wing. To Ketterling, the story behind each piece is crucial. “I don’t do this because I want to make jewelry,” he says. “I do this because I want to tell stories. Jewelry just happens to be the medium.”

Urbain’s next targets are both local and not-so-local stories. The upcoming “Capitol” collection will feature marble from the Minnesota State Capitol Building, an iconic piece of the St. Paul landscape since 1905. He also recently collected stones from the Valley of Elah, Israel, which is home to the brook where the biblical David carefully selected the stone that slew Goliath. He plans to use these in the upcoming “Giant Killer” collection, telling an ancient story in a modern way. “There’s no shortage of stories,” Ketterling says, and he clearly doesn’t see Minnesota’s borders as barriers to this storytelling.

Every Urbain piece is entirely handmade. But having passed its one-year anniversary, Ketterling says Urbain needs to grow. “It’s a great problem to have,” says Ketterling. Urbain is currently working to outsource some of the jewelry-making to local craftsmen, which will enable Ketterling to focus on acquiring new stories and materials.

Ketterling loves making jewelry, but he’s even more fueled by the people who tell him that the stories behind the pieces have changed their lives. Because of this, he says, “I don’t see an ending point [to the business].”

Ketterling’s advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs (of any age) is simple: “Love what you do. Steve Jobs said it best—if you don’t love what you do, you’re going to quit.”

Urbain’s “Giant Killer” collection is due to be released at the beginning of May, and the “Capitol” collection is planned for the end of May.