Heather Collard, founder and lead designer of Nashelle Jewelry.
If anyone is proof that the road to success is not straight and smooth, it is Heather Collard, founder and lead designer of Nashelle Jewelry. Heather first discovered her love of jewelry making in college and through word of mouth, trade show visits and sheer passion, parlayed her hobby into a source of income. In the nearly 20 years since founding her business after dropping out of college, Collard has weathered divorce, illness, addiction and even a near collapse of her company.
Now, with a wealth of experience under her belt, Collard helms the designer jewelry company with a projected revenue of $3.5 million that boasts celebrity clients like Shania Twain, Sheryl Crow and even the Kardashians. Nashelle Jewelry is also sold in big name retailers like Anthropologie, Neiman Marcus and Free People. Read on to learn more about how Collard was able to go from hand crafting jewelry at home, to selling in some of the largest stores in the country.
Be sure to plan, but don’t let planning hinder progress: Collard said one of her biggest regrets was not having a solid business plan before setting up her company. “I wanted to do it all and be it all. And I refused to admit that I had weaknesses and that was part of my failure,” she said. But too much of anything can cause trouble and planning within the fast moving fashion industry is no exception. “The people that I’ve worked with that really are slow and methodical — were some of the worst experiences that I had because I missed opportunities,” she said. “There’s an advantage to taking risks and going with your gut.”
Separate work and home: Collard’s family and children have been with her every step of the way, from bringing her infant son to trade shows, “I stuck him under the table and he rolled around,” to now working alongside her husband, the company’s COO. Collard, a mother of six, advises entrepreneurs that being intentional about making time for life outside of your business is key. “We’re actively putting the boundaries in place for our family that when he comes home — the work day is over — I’m done working from home he’s done thinking about work and we become a unit actively,” Collard said.
Play to your strengths and hire your weaknesses: Collard learned this lesson the hard way with her own weakness–hiring. “People joke about it now, they’re like, ‘yeah you could just go into an interview with Heather and if you’re just nice to her, she’ll hire you.’ And that was true,” Collard said. Collard now serves as the lead designer, founder and face of her business, while her husband and other business partners handle the roles of CEO and COO. “It’s removed some of the personal attachment to the brand. So I’ve had to let go. It’s becoming very serious now.
You are your business. Don’t let anyone change you: While Collard has learned to be receptive to outside help, she knows to draw a firm line when it comes to changing who she is. Collard recalled one experience with a male CEO that taught her to stand firm on who she is as a business founder. “I had hired a male CEO and — he would tell me how to dress and how to walk and how to talk and who to be,” she recalled. Initially, because she needed the help, Collard was reluctant to assert herself. Eventually, however, she put her foot down. “I am who I am — I stood my ground but that was an interesting experience to go through.”
Share your weaknesses and failures, you never know who you might help or who might help you: Far from being ashamed of the less-than-perfect aspects of her life, Collard is transparent about her battle with alcoholism and even her near loss of her business. “I’d been looked at as this woman who could not fail and I got this abundance of messages saying — Thank you. I look at you as if you’re perfect and for me to see that you’ve fallen, allows me to realize that I’m human too.’” In fact, Collard’s transparency about the state of her business led to her connecting with her first investor, who now serves as her CEO. “I put a plea out on social media. I was like, ‘Oh my God, apparently I messed up and if anybody wants to help us we’d like the help.’ Within the week, a woman that had grown up in Alaska with me reached out and said, ‘hey, I offered to invest in you three years ago, the offer still stands.’ I sent her over my profit and loss and it was a mess and she said, ‘let’s do it.’ So we’re doing it.’”