I began as a control freak. Everything was MINE, my designs, my ideas, me, me, me. After almost losing one of my kiddos, facing addiction and almost losing my own life, flipping my company upside down and almost losing 19 years of a brand that I poured my heart into…. I learned that we are all in this together. All of us struggle, all of us worry, all of us want to do good and be good.
Heather Nashelle Collard is the founder of Nashelle, a line of handmade jewelry made from recycled precious metals with personalized pieces, endless bohemian flair and a heart to give back. Ten plates of food is donated to someone in need for each piece of jewelry purchased.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in Juneau, Alaska. I started studying jewelry in 1999 and fell madly in love with the skill of creating handmade pieces. I then built Nashelle from the ground up to eventually be selling globally; securing relationships with Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and thousands of other stores around the world. I began selling in retail full-time and by 2005, we entered our first national trade show in Las Vegas, joined a showroom in New York and began a successful relationship with a PR firm in Manhattan. In 2007, we had cleared a million in annual revenue, moved into a large production facility in the industrial part of central Oregon and expanded our team to over 30 people. By 2011, we launched our FashionFeedingHunger Campaign in which we donate one meal to families and individuals facing food scarcity across the US for each piece of jewelry sold. For this initiative, we partnered with Feeding America on a national level as well as in our hometown with Neighbor Impact. In 2012, we opened our first brick and mortar store in Bend, OR. By 2018, we reached 750k meals donated. This year, we decided to change our mission to 10 meals per piece sold; planning to surpass 1 million meals donated by mid-year.
During all of this, personally as the CEO, lead designer and head of marketing, I had 5 children, dealt with two very sick kiddos (one had reconstructive skull surgery at 5 months), married twice, faced addiction and completed rehab, became a public speaker on all of the above to show others how they can overcome their fears and become rock stars of their own lives. I have also spent the last eight years teaching in schools, homeless shelters, rehab facilities and to women in our community. I teach the skill for an hour and talk about important matters such as the ripple effect and how our actions affect the world as a whole.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Oh my gosh, there are so many that I am actually beginning the process of writing a book about it. One that comes to mind immediately was when we received an extremely large order for Anthropologie and, because everything is handmade, we couldn’t pull it off in time. After hours of freaking out, our amazing team put all of their heads together and decided they would get a big vehicle, load up five of our designers and drive the order all the way to Anthropologie’s doorstep (which was absolutely NOWHERE near us geographically). The catch was that they would make the jewelry on the way there while NO ONE slept. That is legit dedication. You want to become successful? You do what no one would normally do to make it happen. We pulled it off.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest challenge to date was growing too big, too quickly and not being able to navigate it with proper infrastructure and cash flow. It was one of the most heartbreaking experiences I have ever navigated through professionally.
We first heartbreakingly tried investors, and when that didn’t work out as we had hoped it would, we went back to the basics. When you grow really big overnight (and your family grows just as quickly) it is easy to let go of a lot of aspects and rely on the people around you, which is great when you have a solid team. When you need to ‘save’ your company, it is ideal to get back in the trenches with everyone, which is exactly what we did. While it did require us to be at the mercy of the company 24/7, it gave us a lot of insight as to where things could change, where things were needed to be refreshed, what could stay and what needed to be cut. It was an evaluation, but on our terms since I know my brand like the back of my hand. It was heartbreaking but turned out to be the BIGGEST blessing in disguise.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Over the years, leadership has meant many different things to me and I’ve evolved with my business. These days, I lead with love, patience, empathy and soft pressure. My absolute biggest joy is to see someone step in to a role and grow. Seeing someone excel in ways they never thought were possible may be one of my greatest joys.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Oh wow, what a great question. Yes, I would not be here today if it wasn’t for many people along the way who share the excitement about what I am doing and wanting to help with their own skill sets. But my answer, after the number one lifeline I’ve had the entire time which is God, would be the Nashelle community. The community support I have had from day one all the way to the day I thought I was going to lose everything to know, is our community. I have never witnessed such an unwavering support across the nation from people who believe in what I do. These are the people I hope I can always give back to in some capacity.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
Ha. This question makes me laugh. YES, it was hard. It still is. But I love what I do so it is an extension of myself. Learning to become a working mother (we have kids ranging from ages 3–14) was hard. We raised all of our children on site, between the infancy/toddler stage where you worry about their safety through the teen years where they grow to become their own person. You have to make sure you are present, meaning work is work and family is family. The ability to shut off work when the work day is done may have been my greatest challenge. I balance my home life and work life by making sure I am taking care of myself. When I lose sight of my own mental health, spiritual relationship and physical health, it is felt by both my family and company. I put myself first so that I can give my 100% to all the people who matter — including Nashelle and its team, my husband and my kids.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
Absolutely. I worried too much and put great importance on the success of the brand, which caused me to sometimes lose sight of other things that were equally important.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
- Find out what matters to you and remove everything else that does not. Example: Have you grown out of going out at night? Great! Be honest with yourself that this chapter of your life is going to require you to focus so that you can reap the rewards later. Start saying NO and NOT feeling guilty about it.
- Take care of yourself. No one benefits from a spun out CEO that’s only living on coffee. Eat well, rest well, workout and love yourself and the people around you. I promise that not only will you feel better, you will see success in abundance.
- Take risks. The biggest reason I succeeded and still do was because I took risks.
- Follow a proper budget.
- Invest in the proper things. Invest in life insurance for you and your family. Chances are they rely on your salary, so make sure they are okay if something happens to you by putting money into savings (no matter how small) for a rainy day, a catastrophe (like growing too fast and flipping upside down) or to invest in your team. If it is the right crew, they are a HUGE reason that you are successful, so take good care of them.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride?
Besides my children and my unwavering relationship with God, it would be that I can hand make jewelry that I love and giveback to our community every step of the way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I began as a control freak. Everything was MINE, my designs, my ideas, me, me, me. After almost losing one of my kiddos, facing addiction and almost losing my own life, flipping my company upside down and almost losing 19 years of a brand that I poured my heart into…. I learned that we are all in this together. All of us struggle, all of us worry, all of us want to do good and be good. All of us want to make an impact and all of us have unique ideas and concepts. I think if more people could teach what they do and lend a helping hand to those who are working hard to hone their own skills, we would see a major shift in this journey we call life. Giveback. Giveback. Giveback. Not only does it feel good and help the world, but also comes back to you in ways that are beyond your wildest imagination.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?
I can be found with my designs, writing and family at: @Heather.Nashelle.Collard
My company is: @NashelleJewelry
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Medium magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live