Tell me a little bit about your story.
About exactly a year ago, I was working at the Abercrombie headquarters and loved what I was doing because it was a nice mix of the creative and analytical; however, it was a little bit heavier towards the analytical and I've always had a passion for more creative things and wanted a side project. I became interested in making bracelets and it started with me watching a YouTube tutorial to learn how to hand stamp bracelets. I thought it was really fun because it was a cool way to express yourself. One night, I posted a picture of 10 bracelets that I had stamped explaining that I made too many bracelets and that I’d give them away for the cost of shipping. I got 50 comments on that post and was like, “I think I can make this bigger!”
Wow! So this business started as kind of an accident?
Yeah! It was really silly and totally random. I was not expecting anyone to comment and figured that I would give the bracelets away when my friends came over. Next, I set up an Etsy shop and made bracelets while still working my full time job. I enjoyed doing it and the demand kept increasing through social media and word of mouth. This all started happening around March 2016 and by August or so, sales were picking up. I became super busy and had to work after my full time job during the week and even more on the weekends, which was really exciting, but a lot to manage.
How did you find the balance between your day job and side-hustle?
To keep up with the high demand, I started making the transition from making everything by hand to manufacturing to take advantage of economies of scale and make the business more efficient. I was on a two-year contract at my job and was nearing the end of my contract which made me start thinking about what I wanted to do next.
“Do I want to stay here or do I find another job? Do I pursue this full time and when do I start?” I was seriously thinking about my next steps and ultimately decided that I would leave my job to pursue Cuffed by Nano full time. This was obviously a scary decision but I was excited and knew if there was any time to take a risk that was potentially stupid but also really fun, it was then. I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, so I did not have any major responsibilities in my life that in five to ten years I could have. I decided to take a risk and be an entrepreneur starting in October 2016. I have now been running Cuffed by Nano full-time for seven months now and I’m totally loving every single day. Each day is a new challenge but I'm learning so much and reminding myself to enjoy the ride. It’s not perfect but it’s such a unique experience.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN MORE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MODEL AND VALUES?
An increasing amount of companies are building a “give back” model into their businesses and so the service component of my company came second nature to me. I love that these companies are adding a philanthropic spin to their business models. I think it's amazing whether it's big or small because doing little things to give back, says a lot about the company’s values which is why I was excited to add this to my business model as well.
The “give back” model is a demand-driven chain meaning that it’s the customer giving back. The way I chose my cause came from my mom. Over ten years ago, she started a non-profit in South Florida, where I’m from, in the Haitian community. She started doing a lot of projects within the community—educational, social, occupational, and health-related—pretty much any service you can think of that someone coming to a new country with little resources would need.
Pretty quickly, she extended her program into Haiti doing a range of projects from health awareness to smaller infrastructure projects such as building schools, staffing schools, and running medical clinics. With my business, Cuffed by Nano, my whole philanthropic model marries with my mom’s nonprofit organization. I feel very blessed to a have a mom who is so involved and has inspired me to use my business as a platform. I’m not making it big just yet, but I’m trying to use my business to make a small difference.
What has been your most impactful lesson that you've learned from some of your volunteer experiences in Haiti?
When I go to Haiti and volunteer, I think it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t really be about you, it should be about them and their needs. I’ve been to Haiti six or seven times now every summer since high school and it’s hard for many people there because some wake up not always knowing if they’re going to have a meal that day, if their kids will be fed, or if their kids are going to survive; however, there is this attitude within the culture that is incredible. So many people don’t act like they don’t have much. They don’t complain. They have a very positive and an open mindset. My mom has described the Haitian culture as very rich in spirit and in love. I think it’s been very important to learn from people who don’t have much but somehow find it to take on each day with an amazing attitude.
So...how will you bloom in the next year?
Well personally, I recently got engaged so planning a wedding will be a big one. I’m also super lucky to be my own boss and am enjoying the ride. I’ve been celebrating with friends and family for almost a month now and we’ll get married at the beginning of next year. So that'll be really exciting! I’ll see where that takes us, not sure if we’ll find ourselves in a new city but I’m excited to take everything day by day.
Professionally, I’m going really try to grow my business and draw in the consumer—whether it’s word of mouth, social media, or a stronger website. I’m trying to get into more boutique stores all around the country and not just in Columbus, Ohio. My next step will also be to travel around the country and host pop-up shops. It'll be important to get to know the customers and the new people in my markets.
What advice do you have for women who want to be entrepreneurs?
I would say that every day is a new journey and you have to stay positive. You will learn so many new things every day, every week, or every month but try not to throw in the towel and say things like, “Maybe this isn't for me” or “Maybe this isn't going to work out.” It's the people who have the strength and ability to find reasons to keep trying, working hard, and coming up with new ideas or solutions to overcome whatever was bringing them down. It’s with sound ability you’ll eventually encounter obstacles that bring you success or bring you failure. Sometimes learning from that failure will create a new success later and whether it’s a week or month long process, growth takes time, a lot of patience, and a lot of resilience.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
I would say to think outside of the box. I went to Duke University, and while it has a lot of entrepreneurship opportunities and is such an amazing school, I was surrounded by a lot of people who went into somewhat generic industries like finance and consulting. Even me, starting my career in retail, even that was a little off the beaten off the path because not a lot of people wanted to go into fashion or the retail world. So my advice would be to think outside the box and not really accept anything as the norm.
Lastly, what do you want to be remembered for?
I just want people to remember how they felt when we were together and I hope that they remember feeling happy and valued when they were with me.
A KICK BUTT FORUM THAT AIMS TO INSPIRE, COMFORT AND UNITE INCREDIBLE WOMEN (& DUDES) THROUGH DYNAMIC INTERVIEWS