When you set out to start a jewelry line, there are a few things we’d imagine you’d hope for your business. One of those would probably be coverage in a major magazine. Another might be getting counter space at an iconic department store.
After just four years in business, Leslie Kumar, the Stamford, Connecticut-based designer behind NYLA STAR jewelry, has done both. Her simple, but stunning pieces have been in In Style, the Sport Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and Brides, and they’re currently sold in Bloomingdale’s along with dozens of boutiques around the country.
Here, we chat with Leslie about the success of her business, the challenges of entrepreneurship, her design process, and more.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START A JEWELRY COMPANY?
It was time for me to start doing what I really wanted to do – design and sell jewelry. I’ve worked in the jewelry industry before, which was a huge asset. I learned so much and applied what I already knew to start NYLA STAR. I went for it without thinking too much about the ‘what ifs’.
WHEN DID YOU START IT?
I launched in 2010. The economy hit a low and most consumers were curbing their spending. I wanted to create a line that looked like fine jewelry at an affordable price.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO OWN YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
Some days it’s amazing, other days it’s a mixed bag of emotions. It really all depends on the ebb and flow of sales. Overall, I’m grateful to do what I love and even more grateful that people like the product. Having the creative freedom to design jewelry that I’ve always wanted to wear is a major perk as well.
WHAT’S THE PROCESS OF JEWELRY DESIGN LIKE FROM START TO FINISH?
First I gather design thoughts, photos, tear sheets and I write down everything and put an “inspiration board” together of just about everything, fashion-related and otherwise. Then I tailor ideas, design and submit everything to my manufacturer. I then either approve the design rendering of each piece or make tweaks. Lastly, the collection is carefully crafted and a couple months later, it’s in my customer’s hands.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESSES AS A DESIGNER SO FAR?
The exposure I get through selling at Bloomingdale’s has been a milestone for me. Having my jewelry displayed at such an iconic store has been a ‘pinch me’ moment for sure. Otherwise, I have small successes all the time. I love it when customers tell me they wear their NS jewelry everyday or that they get so many compliments on it. That’s success.
Doing everything. I’m a one woman show, so I’m the Design, Production, Sales, Marketing and PR department. It can get overwhelming at times, and you have to stay dedicated and focused. I hit dead ends all the time, but I look at them as detours to my destination.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR COMPANY IN FIVE YEARS?
To exhibit at trade shows nationwide and significantly build my wholesale and on-line retail business. Additionally, there’s a lot of potential doing private label. I have my first private label project in the works, so I’m hoping it will lead to other ones. Ideally, I’d also like to have a few employees in the next few years.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF YOUR JEWELRY?
Elegant, feminine, delicate, and easy to wear. Because it’s not trendy or too bold, NS has a wide customer base. And it’s sparkly – what gal doesn’t want that?!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO FOLLOW IN YOUR CAREER FOOTSTEPS?
I think it’s easy to hesitate or be scared of something new, especially in your career. I’ve trusted my gut throughout this entire process and still rely on those instincts. If you want to start your own business stop talking about it — go for it if it feels right. My husband always tells me, “what’s the worst that can happen?” And if you can stomach the worst, then all is good.