A women's outfit is always best accompanied by her favorite jewelry. So, in 2013, designer and entrepreneur Nicole Bandklayder co-founded Bijouxx Jewels- to bring fashionable and affordable fine jewelry to consumers. Created on the idea that all women should be able to afford luxe jewelry, all Bijouxx Jewels pieces are created with genuine gemstones and sterling silver. And, in 2015, Nicole decided to Bijouxx Jewels on step further. She launched them into the handbags market with their original line of leather bags. Read below as Nicole shares her tips and tricks to become a successful entrepreneur and how to Make it in Manhattan.
Did you always have an interest in the jewelry/fashion industry?
I always had an interest in fashion. Just growing up in Miami and living in New York City for so long, but the idea of designing my own line never seemed realistic. It was never even on my mind until years later when I met my now fiancé who is a Jeweler that I came to realize how attainable it could be.
What college did you attend and what did you study?
I went to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida and graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Recreation and Leisure (yes, an actual major) with an emphasis on Special Event Management. This is what initially brought me to New York.
What was your first job coming out of college?
Right out of college, I moved to New York City and worked as an Intern for Dalzell Productions, a full service event management company who at the time planned and executed most of the TriBeca Film Festival events and large-scale awards shows like the FIFI Awards. It was an invaluable experience where I gained a lot of hands on knowledge of events and how they come together from conception.
What aspects of your past do you feel helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
Working for several firms across a few different industries in New York helped pave my way to Entrepreneurship. I never worked for large corporations and I felt I was always at the forefront of the (at the time) small firms and even a start up that I worked for which basically means I worked directly for the owners learning about the back end of business development in addition to my role(s) in administration and marketing.
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
With Bijouxx Jewels specifically, I think we’ve made a few mistakes but that is the best way to learn what works and what doesn’t. In the past 5 years, the scope of online-based businesses has changed so much and that is a major challenge on our end to keep growing in the direction we want to. At one point, we decided to open up a mall kiosk locally in Minneapolis for a test run which ended up costing more than we should have been signing up for with little reward. I don’t regretthe experience, but I won’t do it again.
What did you wear to your first interview?
My style is typically very businessy conservative. For interviews, I always wore some version of a business suit, with a business skirt and trendy blouse. Neutral colors and of course some fabulous shoes- Michael Kors pumps are my go-to. It’s such a different world working for non-fashion related firms but at the time, it fit my personality and even molded the Bijouxx style in a way. Classic, yet modern.
Who have been your biggest mentors in the industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
I don’t have fashion mentors- I do have Entrepreneur mentors. The best advice I’ve ever received is to make mistakes, and that I can do anything. Once you realize there really are no barriers, you start to see things differently.
What inspired you to create Bijouxx Jewels?
Bijouxx was born out of my co-founder and my passion for Jewelry and our combined want to create something that would help people. Our initial goal was to carry fine jewelry at affordable pricing. Basically, by cutting out the middleman. We both have a similar sense of style and demographics we intended to sell our line to. It’s been an interesting journey so far, but we have a long way to go.
As co-founder of the company, what does your job entail?
As Co-Founder, I have to constantly keep the ideas flowing and keep up with the more top-level procedures like our relationships with current and new manufacturers. I also manage our small staff to make sure orders are getting shipped out, and our social media strategy is beneficial. There are so many things I do it’s hard to pinpoint just a few things- but these are some important ones.
What was the biggest set back you faced in your career so far and how did you overcome it?
We had a wholesale account we had worked with for about 3 years go out of business a few months ago. This stalled a lot of our outgoing sales and payments, which was tricky, but we managed to work around it and keep persevering.
You recently expanded Bijouxx Jewels beyond jewelry and into handbags. Where do you see the company going five to ten years down the road?
Shoes! Just kidding. I really want to expand our jewelry collection more and expand our handbag styles that we currently have into new colors and at some point new styles. In 5-10 years, I expect we’ll have more online volume with sales, which will create more cash flow to grow.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out their career as an entrepreneur?
Don’t give up because you have a bad meeting, or a bad day or even a bad month. Entrepreneurship is all about being able to persevere and push your business over time to grow and succeed. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
For an inside look into the fashion industry follow me on Instagram & Snapchat @cvazzana.
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