Photography: Emily Johnston Anderson
Sarah and Stacy, stylish minds behind the coveted jewelry line frieda&nellie, took a leap of faith in 2010 and dedicated their lives to their line. Since doing so, the girls have garnered significant recognition for their unique and eye-catching baubles (we love throwing on one of their pieces to spruce up a simple outfit!). The two New York City girls spoke with us about their sources of inspiration, their start in jewelry design, and the process of running their own business while retaining fulfilling personal lives (both are engaged–how exciting!). Sarah and Stacy’s drive and talent have made them totally inspiring and worthy of recognition.
“Behind the curtains: a peak at our vintage materials & a ‘Retro Disco Cowgirl’ necklace in our showroom. Similar necklaces are available on our website, www.friedaandnellie.com“
How did you both get into making jewelry and when did you create frieda&nellie?
frieda&nellie, named after our fashion-savvy grandmothers, is a playful ode to past and present.
Sarah: We both have loved to paint, draw, sew, and make things with our hands since we were little girls.
Stacy: We both have always loved and worn our grandmothers’ vintage jewels. In a nutshell, friendship bracelets from a trip to Ecuador brought about our idea to mix our grandmothers’ vintage jewels with friendship bracelets. An article ran on us in WWD in February 2010, and our hobby turned into our full-time jobs.
What were your backgrounds prior to starting your own jewelry line?
Both of us come from an academic and design background. Stacy studied a mix of business and art at the University of Texas, followed by Women’s Sportswear design at FIT. She then worked in accessory design for a large fashion house. Sarah has a background in business from Baylor University, followed by Women’s Sportswear at Philadelphia University. She then worked in lingerie design.
How did you both get the courage to quit your day jobs and do this full-time?
The WWD ran on February 8th, 2010. Emails and phone calls started coming from people who wanted to place wholesale orders, including high-end Japanese stores. We decided to go big or go home, and the rest is history!
“This is a glimpse at a cork board we mod-podged using the white pages from a phone book. We are constantly pulling clips from magazines, as well as adding fabric and material swatches to our boards. I love creating these boards; they make me smile and give me other ideas when I look at them.” – Stacy
How did you overcome the financial hurdles of starting your own company?
Thanks to the incredible response from the WWD article, we already had orders to fill, so we each decided to put in a small, equal amount of money and take a leap of faith. It’s been such a dream come true to turn our hobby into a successful business.
What are the biggest rewards of being an entrepreneur? Biggest challenges?
Biggest rewards: The simplicity of having an idea and watching the idea grow, evolve into other ideas, and turn into a real life business with employees and amazing opportunities. We just got back from a ten-day trip to Japan where girls ran up to us with arms stacked to the brim with our bracelets, screaming “frieda&nellie” — it’s so surreal! The most amazing part is being able to do what we love everyday, plus having the flexibility to make our own schedules and not be typical 9-to-5-ers.
Biggest challenges: Working together as best friends is why this works; frieda&nellie would not be frieda&nellie without the two of us. We are ying and yang. But that’s not to say that it isn’t sometimes hard. We love each other like sisters, but any time you mix business with friendship, it can be difficult to juggle both simultaneously. There are times where we squabble, but we’re like an old married couple: we never go to bed without saying, “I love you.”
“My beautiful little lovie dog face, Bambi. She and Sarah’s dog Levi come to the office with us every day. Being able to bring our dogs is definitely a plus to owning our own business” – Stacy. “Lovely lady” style necklace draped over Bambi’s leg.
Your jewelry is so unique and definitely glittery! How do you come up with your designs?
Our best creations are usually started by one of us but then finished by the other. We’re great at bouncing ideas off of one another, and that leads to some amazing product development. Just as we’re best friends and business partners, the way we work — our ying and yang — is what makes it all come together and work so well.
You are both engaged! Congrats! How do you balance your work and personal life?
Thanks so much! This is such an amazing time in our lives — building our little business that could and sharing it with the men we love. We work our tushes off and are forever grateful for the support of our fiancés, family, and friends. We’d be totally lying if we said that working 13-hour days doesn’t affect everything else, but we have an incredible support system to help manage our sanity. Working with each other thankfully allows for some overlap between our work and personal lives. It can be difficult to balance the two, and we’re still figuring things out, but it’s great to have your best friend by your side through it all.
How do you stay inspired?
In a city like New York, we are surrounded by inspiration. Anything from a flower, to a group of people in the park, to graffiti on the side of a building — there is never a lack of things to be inspired by. We also love to travel, and find enormous inspiration in the places we visit. Our surroundings are a constant source of inspiration, whether it’s the culture and people we encounter while traveling or simply walking around NYC. Inspiration is everywhere and ever-changing, but maybe the greatest and most constant source of inspiration is each other. We both think, create, and design differently — but it’s looking at things from a new vantage point that pushes and inspires us. Our differences fuel our creativity.
What advice do you have for girls looking to start their own business?
Work hard, and always stay strong, driven, and gracious. Listen to advice, but go with your gut. Take leaps of faith knowing that falls will only make you stronger and wiser. If things come easy, you’re not working hard enough.
What’s next for frieda&nellie?
Since we just returned from Japan yesterday, our minds are buzzing with new ideas, and we have some exciting things in the works for the coming months. We’ll be launching a new website soon, and in addition to our jewelry, we are looking to expand our brand and grow in some exciting direction…stay tuned!
“Our love for vintage goes way beyond just jewelry. Here is one of our favorite pieces filled to the brim with vintage baubles. This is an old Hamilton printing press cabinet from the 1800’s. It used to house printing press letters, but works perfectly for organizing our vintage finds.”
How do you sparkle?
Stacy: Red glossy lips, signature red nail polish, a smile, frieda&nellie earrings, and at least a few bracelets!
Sarah: Cowboy boots, a cool vintage belt, and — of course — frieda&nellie necklaces and bracelets (one of my favorites being a vintage bracelet of my grandama’s!)