Lifestyle 10 April 2017
A cutting edge business plan in today’s crowded marketplace must be more than simply spreadsheets, quarterly growth and profit margins. True success is measured by collectively using every avenue available for growing a vibrant community of customers, suppliers, distributors and artisans, and committing to a corporate culture of trust, quality and compassion. When I found Nashelle Jewelry and learned of their long-standing track record of doing all the right things, I fell in love.
As the new managing partner for Nashelle Jewelry, I firmly embrace the company’s signature mission of donating one plate of food for every piece of jewelry sold. I strongly believe that all responsible business entities have a unique calling to give back to our society in a tangible and meaningful way. Our company has a targeted legacy of providing those in need with nutritional help through a variety of nonprofit, neighborhood-based programs including Feeding America and NeighborImpact.
When Heather, my friend and business partner, first started Nashelle Jewelry in 1999, her goal was to use her talent simply to make enough money to support herself and her children. She wrapped jewelry in her living room, marketed at local festivals and was an iconic presence at a makeshift table with a handmade sign in the town square of Bend, Oregon. Word quickly spread throughout the region about her beautiful creations and enamored shoppers stood in line to purchase her newest designs. Often, a local bride would have Heather design a unique necklace to perfectly complement the theme, dress and style for her wedding day.
Not surprisingly, given Heather’s talent and popularity in her hometown, word spread through the Northwest about this budding, young jewelry designer, and over the past 17 years, she has been featured in major publications such as Vogue, Glamor and Cosmopolitan. Her stunning creations have graced the runways of major fashion weeks and star-studded award ceremonies across the globe and are carried in thousands of independent retailers and specialty boutiques. Heather’s keen eye for beauty grew a very successful business in a very competitive marketplace.
In tandem with Nashelle’s increasing popularity and profits, Heather made a heartfelt and courageous decision that she wanted to share her company’s success with children and families in need of the very basics of life. As a woman, a mother and an entrepreneur, she deftly focused on the needs of low-income families and banked in karma the knowing smiles of her children as they learned by her example with every dollar she passed along.
While Heather was busy creating Nashelle Jewelry, I was working on growing my own companies in a variety of industries, including retail sales of children’s clothes, a restaurant, a rapid delivery shipping company and investment real estate. My favorite business ventures are those where I have the opportunity to form connections with passionate, creative, smart entrepreneurs with crystal clear visions of what they want their business to become. It’s a unique personal bonus when I have a piece of the marketing puzzle from my own past experiences coupled with the financial resources to be able to help extraordinary people achieve their goals.
Nashelle Jewelry came to my attention in 2014 through social media after I recognized and respected many of the people who were commenting on, liking and promoting this unique brand. Surprisingly, I learned that Heather was also a product of Juneau, Alaska, and we had even attended the same high school. It’s fun to follow and celebrate success stories from your “homies,” and I was immediately drawn to Nashelle’s no-frills mission of giving back. I contacted her and congratulated her on the success of her brand, letting her know that if she were ever looking for investors, I would like to explore that opportunity.
We started following each other through social media, discovering that we both were newly married with large families. (We have 11 kids between the two of us!) It was fun to keep up with the posted adventures of our two families, and I stayed keenly aware of Nashelle’s progress.
By 2016, Nashelle found ever greater success in worldwide markets and was filling more plates of food than Heather had ever dreamed of, but growth offers new and often unforeseen challenges. Heather reached out to me last December during a stressful Christmas season and told me that she was ready to talk about taking on investors to help manage the remarkable growth of the business.
My husband and I journeyed to Bend just after Christmas and met Heather and her family for the first time. I immediately knew that she was the exact person with whom I wanted to be in business. Most impressive was her dedication to the mission of donating “one plate of food for every piece of jewelry sold,” which was fulfilled even during times when she wasn’t able to take a paycheck for herself. That sacrifice was one of many she made to maintain the integrity of her business culture during the 17 years of growing her brand.
When we first sat down to discuss the vision for the future of Nashelle, we immediately agreed that growth and profits, while critically important, are secondary to promoting the charitable mission on which Nashelle was built. In early 2017, Heather and I decided to write the next chapter of Nashelle as a partnership, and we are diving headfirst into our respective roles. Heather is, and always will be, the designing force and creative director behind the brand. I have taken over the day-to-day management of the business activities to support the ongoing sales and growth. Nashelle is rapidly approaching 500,000 plates of food donated, and with significant orders and new large retail partnerships coming online every day, we hope to sustain and expand this effort exponentially in the years to come.
Being a woman in business isn't easy. The constant demands of family along with the pressures that we all put on ourselves daily to succeed in business is a tough rodeo ride. We are all striving to be the best mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter and business partner we can be. The task is often overwhelming. One solution I’ve found to that relentless nagging feeling of “I’m not doing anything well enough” is to build my own daily report card on two strategies that are at the very core of my professional career.
The first criteria for my well-being is to support amazing women in their kaleidoscope of daily tasks by making sure that we can always share openly those irksome pressure points that we face around every corner, every day. I work diligently at creating and refining a personal culture of compassion and uncompromising support for those women experiencing the very real fears of failing to be perfect in everything we do.
The second component of a meaningful life is in finding creative and business-friendly ways for giving back. My own investment of time and resources into Nashelle has been one of the most emotionally rewarding ventures of my career. Sharing success with others in need of your skills and resources goes together like a wink and a smile. It just feels good to give back to those who haven’t found their own path to success yet.
5 Min Read
Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.
At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.
But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?
Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.
But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).
Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."
As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.
- Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
- Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
- Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
- Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.
Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?
Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.
Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.
This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.
"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit
Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.
Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.
She was, and still is being, silenced.
After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."
Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."
Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.
Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.