At the beginning of the year we knew we wanted use this space to highlight some of the many incredible women in business that are disrupting the status quo and incorporating sustainable practices at the same time. We’re are excited to continue to introduce you to new founders and companies through our series: the Sustainable Business Spotlight. We hope that you find these stories insightful and inspiring—no matter what your career path. Know of a woman-owned business that has sustainability in their business model? Please let us know who you would like to see featured in the comments!
Today’s feature is a personal favorite, handmade jewelry brand, Yearly Co., founded by the wonderful Ann Williams. Jess has a very special bracelet stack, pictured below. (A more detailed post on that coming soon.) Read on to learn more about the story behind Yearly Co. and make sure you follow the brand on Instagram. Ann posts tons of videos and close-ups of the pieces.
Use code JESSANN2020 for free shipping on your sizing kit.
Who: Ann Williams, founder of Yearly Co.
Where: Nashville, TN
What: Heirloom handmade jewelry made from 14K gold and other quality materials that are meant to celebrate occasions, milestones, and more.
Why did you start Yearly Co?
I started Yearly Co. because the women (and men) in our family were looking for a source for our traditional 14k gold anniversary bangles. I’ve always loved being creative and felt such satisfaction making jewelry in my little garage studio while my two little girls napped and after bedtimes. It was a fulfilling way to have some solo time and feel a sense of fulfillment while juggling the craziness that was two kids under two. And the built-in, small but loyal, customer base of my family was the perfect way to start a business.
What is Yearly Co. doing differently from a sustainability standpoint?
Growing up in Northern California, I think I have an innate sense of avoiding waste when possible. We were often in drought season and I can remember taking our kitchen waste out to the compost pile. My mom was the best at creating things from scratch. From cooking homemade meals to helping us make doll quilts from fabric scraps. I’ve carried that minimalistic resourcefulness into my business. Gold is inherently recyclable and we save and reuse every single scrap of our materials. I really enjoy using what’s on-hand to dream up new designs. And I love turning client’s pieces into new custom work without creating waste in the process.
Yearly Co. was inspired by the concept that you should invest in your jewelry once, wear it forever and pass it down to future generations because it’s a meaningful part of our story. We do everything we can to make sure that our jewelry will last for a lifetime and can be worn day after day. I think this supports sustainability on a personal level by investing in quality and not constantly buying things just for the season.
We also create our sizing kits out of brass to be reused over and over again. And our packaging and materials are largely recyclable and reusable. We try to think through each part of our ordering and shipping process to avoid waste and unnecessary materials or resources. I think by investing in something like a higher quality box that a customer can use again and again, we are both elevating their gift experience and also cutting down on the packaging that often gets thrown away.
What’s your biggest lesson in building a business?
The biggest lesson for me has been to listen to the customer. It can be easy as a creative to get distracted by shiny things (literally, in the world of jewelry) but I have always tried to use social media to really connect with the people buying our pieces. I love to get feedback (the good and the bad) and to listen to that feedback to create new styles, make our customer experience more streamlined and to find the right price points for our line. Dreaming up new designs can be so much fun. But often, a customer’s story will guide an addition to our product line, like the overwhelming request for birthstones which inspired our “Birthstone Bangles” launching this June.
How do you make your company standout in such a crowded industry?
Jewelry is absolutely everywhere, in every price point, material and design. I honestly think that the way to stand out is to simplify down to what you’re good at and focus on that niche. I started making gold bangles because of our family’s tradition. And I know bangles inside and out after five years of business. Any products that we add to our line are pieces that I imagine our customer wearing everyday, and passing down to her daughter or granddaughter someday.
We try to streamline our designs to be very classic, easy to wear, and simple, but we also provide enough customization so that every woman can express her unique story through her Yearly Co. collection. I think focusing on satisfied customers first, above sales, is what makes any brand stand out in a crowded space and creates a community of loyal fans who will continue to shop with us and share our story.
What’s your number one piece of advice for someone looking to start their own business?
Start with a story. If you plan a business around the idea “what can I do to make money?” it’s going to be really hard to sell that product or service over and over. If you begin from a place of “What can I offer? What am I good at? What do I wish existed as a product/service that I would use regularly?” then I think you have a true reason to create something that others will want as well. Also, start small. I took a jewelry class, gathered my supplies and equipment as gifts from family on special occasions, and made each bangle one by one in my garage often only for a couple of hours a week after my girls were in bed.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think of the business as a whole. But if you begin with something you enjoy and are excited about, it will grow as you share your story and build those loyal customers. Don’t be afraid to share that story even before it feels ready because people enjoy buying things from a person even more than a perfectly polished brand.