“I was a really competitive child,” explains Vera Balyura. “I kind of always had a fire in my belly.” Proof? While her toddler peers spent their days mastering the art of crayon-eating, three-year-old Vera learned to play the violin and became the youngest student in a music program for gifted children.
Despite such early and evident ambition, Vera—who moved from the Ukraine to New York at age 14 to model—needed a little encouragement when it came to creating her own line of jewelry. “I’d been making things for myself for a while,” she recalls. “But it was my friends who sort of egged me on and recommended that I start a company.” So in 2008, she heeded their advice and launched VeraMeat.
Since then, the label’s baby head rings and vampire fang necklaces have gained so many fans that Vera has opened three brick-and-mortar outposts—one each in L.A., Brooklyn, and Manhattan. “When I opened my East Village store in 2012, I suddenly felt like I was part of the fabric of New York,” Vera says. “For me, that was a huge accomplishment, because I love this city.” And it seems like the feeling is mutual. —mattie kahn