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About Us

Nickel & Suede was founded by Soren and Kilee Nickels in 2014. Read their story, as told by Kilee and learn more about Nickel & Suede bellow.

 

Can you tell us about your background and how you got started?

Nickel & Suede officially started in June of 2014 but it really started much earlier than that. After graduating from college my husband and I moved to Seattle to start our lives and our careers. He was in accounting and expected to stay in that field and I was looking for a job in the field of nutrition. We thought we had our lives mapped out but soon after moving we realized that neither of us were finding success in the areas we had previously determined were perfect for us. He didn’t love anything about the grunt work of beginning an accounting career and I couldn’t find a job related to nutrition anywhere. I ended up applying to work at Gap Kids AND we found out we were expecting. It was a frustrating time of life. During those first few months after having our first son we came up with the idea for our first business, ONE little BELT. We wanted a real leather belt for the little baby boy jeans I bought for our son at Gap Kids and no one was making them. I suggested we start to do it! My husband learned how to make belts and I started to learn how to sell them online. It was a great learning experience for us both about small businesses, internet sales, and more. It was also a welcome side hobby to fulfil us where our other jobs weren’t.

After our second son was born we ended up moving back to Kansas City to be closer to my family. (I’m a KC native.) We continued our internet business and I ended up starting my blog. ONE little MOMMA started as a way to help grow OLB but I quickly found that I actually enjoyed blogging about my own style and journey as a mother more than I did about our belts. As the blog grew so did our belt business.

In September of 2013 I was looking for a pair of gold earrings to wear with the outfit I had planned for the day. I always wore very large silver teardrop earrings, like daily, but I couldn’t find a gold version. I remembered that we had purchased some gold leather on our last trip to the leather store and had the idea to make a pair of earrings out of it. The gold leather had a similar look to the hammered silver metal earrings I already wore so I was very pleased when they turned out just like I hoped. I wore them out that day and over the next few days. Within a very short amount of time I realized that not only did they accomplish the look I was going for, but they also had these amazing functional qualities. They were so lightweight! And so soft and flexible! I forgot I was even wearing earrings most of the time because the leather was just so lightweight and comfortable. It was a definitely an ah-hah moment when I found myself mowing the lawn in my big earrings and not even realizing they were still in! 

I asked my husband if we could make more and he instantly saw a better way to make than cutting them out by hand with scissors. Our previous experience in the leather industry had taught him what tools we needed to execute this idea in a quality way and within a few weeks we had our first few sets of our teardrop earrings made. Very soon after I told my blog readers about this new product idea and the excitement was tangible. I knew we were onto something and so we had two more sizes made and got ready to sell them in our Etsy shop that holiday season. We sold quite a few pairs over the first few months and I decided I wanted to brand this product as its own business and start something outside of OLB. From January- May of 2014 we worked on branding, product development and our website and in June we turned it all on.

From the beginning I have been the eye for design and Soren has been our processes and quality control guy. He has been involved since the first pair of earrings and he actually quit his accounting job the day that nickelandsuede.com launched. It was scary, but exciting! We were blessed to be able to replace his income in our first month and we’ve never looked back!

What makes Nickel & Suede unique?  

-          There are so many things! The first unique piece is obviously our product. Our idea for leather earrings had never before been executed in the way that we have done it. Pre-Nickel & Suede leather earrings were feather shapes, beaded, fringy and very boho. We took the most classic, most universal and most flattering earring shape and made it with a material that actually gives it a function. We’ve made statement earrings comfortable for the first time. We call them lightweight and life changing and we aren’t joking. Most of our customers tell us they never wear anything else after trying our product. And then they go on to own 20-60 pairs!   

-          We work very hard to do everything right. Soren and I are complete opposites which means almost all bases are covered in doing things right at N&S. We frequently disagree about what the “right” thing is, but once we do agree we know we’ve hit our own mark. His superpowers are solving problems, creating processes and designing things to last forever. My super powers are spotting trends, making those trends approachable, creative marketing and picking “just the right look” every time. Our goal is that our customers can trust that our products are on trend and will elevate their style while still being functional and having the quality to be long lasting.

-          We also pride ourselves on our quality. We’ve been relentless in designing our making process to be scalable, high quality and well done all of the way around. Thanks to Soren for this one.

-          We also make our products in the USA and actually right here in Kansas City. Last year we moved Nickel & Suede out of our 800 sq. ft. basement into a 1400 sq ft production building. We are amazed to say that we have already outgrown that building and are currently in the middle of a remodel to squeeze out a little more space there. We have over 20 local employees that do everything from make and ship the product to work our brick and mortar store to answer customer service inquiries. We don’t ever plan on outsourcing our earring production and we’re proud of the unique and quality factory environment we’re creating.

What are some of your most popular items?

Overall our earrings are our most popular item, although we also sell chokers, leather cuffs, rings, apparel and more. Our most popular earrings are Lip Gloss, Champagne Shimmer and Matte Gold. Our London Tan Cut-Out earrings and London Tan Wrap Cuff are also best seller. This year we came out with our new shape, the Gem and it has quickly moved into a best seller spot in all colors.

Where can shoppers find your products other than your website?

We have a brick and mortar store where you can find all of our products in Liberty on the Historic Square.

111 N. Water St. Liberty MO.

You can also find a limited selection of our products at all Made in KC locations, HMK on the Plaza and many Hallmark stores in the area.

What about the future of Nickel & Suede?

We are so excited about the future of Nickel & Suede! We plan to continue changing lives with our lightweight leather earrings, but we’re also excited to add more products to our brand. We see ourselves evolving into a lifestyle brand that could include everything from jewelry holders to more apparel to men’s products and even homes goods. We’d also love to expand our brick and mortar stores and open another location in Kansas City as well as other cities in the country.

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