At just 24 years old, Nano Swetman decided that she was going to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and began making jewelry for her friends and family. Fast forward five years later and Nano is the proud Founder of Cuffed by Nano, a high-end online jewelry store that offers beautiful jewelry at an affordable price. Read more about Nano’s story and how she champions her most successful social media platforms to elevate her jewelry business!
Give us a summary of your business:
Cuffed by Nano is an eCommerce jewelry brand. We sell a range of solid 14k gold, 14k gold filled, and sterling silver jewelry styles. We focus on delivering high quality, timeless styles at fair prices to our customers. We sell exclusively through our online store.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I was working in corporate retail and had a craving to start something creative outside of work. I knew deep down that I ultimately wanted to work for myself, and it was just a matter of time to figure out what that would look like. I started researching jewelry projects and making pieces for friends and family, and then created a small Etsy shop. I was having so much fun growing this small project of mine that I made the impulsive decision to quit my full-time job and make my jewelry a full-time gig! The brand has evolved since but here we are 5-years later still chugging along.
Was it a tough decision to quit your full-time job?
I was 24 at the time, so it was probably pretty impulsive, but ultimately, I felt like I was at the right age to make that kind of decision; and I’m glad I did–I now have a mortgage and a baby! At the start, I was barely making enough with my Etsy shop to pay my rent; it was tough, but I knew it had to be like that in the beginning. I remember when I was quitting, someone at my job said, “do you know how much money you could make if you stayed here 5-10 more years? Are you sure about this?” I remember thinking how that was such a crazy question. Did they not realize how much more money you could make if you became your own boss?!?! Haha… but I’m not quite at that level yet!
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
I don’t know if I believe in a specific “turning point” that marks success but rather I believe that I’ve gotten this far by putting in hard work every single day and cultivating those small steps into big picture wins that happen over time. I think as an e-commerce brand, a big moment that shows how the business has grown is the weekend of Black Friday. Last year was a really big year for us and I definitely think watching sales come in that weekend was a crazy moment for me.
What makes you proud as a business owner?
I’ve always been super inspired by the space I’m working in, so being able to move into my 1,500 square foot, beautifully-exposed brick space located in the historical downtown was a major moment for me.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
Being an entrepreneur means being able to come up with innovative ideas and solutions and facing even the most challenging obstacles with excitement; even the every day, small decisions can show innovation. Take social media for example – it’s really hard to figure out how to be successful on Instagram sometimes. You can throw up a random product photo on your IG and get frustrated when it lacks conversion. Or, you can experiment daily with new ideas… like analyzing your past month of posts to find the best performers and replicating those concepts for new posts, or playing around with stories to learn Instagram’s newest algorithm hacks to get ahead of your competitors. I am constantly trying to innovate on IG to do things differently, stand out, improve, excel, and ultimately, win our customer over every single day.
What does the City of Columbus mean to your business?
Everything! It’s where I began this business. The people of Columbus have been my number one supporters since day one. As an e-commerce business, we ship not only across the United States, but all over the world. It’s the Columbus community and our Columbus customers that makes us simultaneously a successful, small business as well.
Are you from Columbus?
I’m from North Palm Beach, Florida and grew up in South Florida. For college, I went to Duke in North Carolina, my first job out of college was at Abercrombie HQ in New Albany which eventually brought me here! I feel like people who aren’t familiar with Columbus usually go “Oh, nice Columbus! I heard its actually pretty cool”. I always laugh at the inclusion of ‘actually,’ but I’m glad it has a “cool” reputation! I usually say it has a great small city feel, the food scene is amazing, and it is full of amazing small businesses.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Be resilient and don’t take things too personally. I used to get a negative customer service email and think “Oh no, I have to close my business” because it made me so sad. Now, I crack up that I ever had that mentality! Customer service is so great – its a daily opportunity to 1) connect with your customer, 2) potentially turn a negative experience into something positive, and 3) get feedback on your business from valued members of the community.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
The obstacles get bigger as you get more successful; don’t be afraid of them! Understanding the need of when and to seek access to capital is hard, especially if you’ve never needed it before, but it’s important for growth to educate yourself on when and how to access capital to help achieve your goals.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night?)
Right now, it’s my newborn that keeps me up at night. My biggest challenge is balancing my time with both her and my business. My husband is truly an unsung hero. Aside from emotional support any time I’ve needed it over the past 5 years, he helps a lot with product photography and eCom assets. He is also the bouncer and bartender of any of our Cuffed events!
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I can’t really log off. Still trying to overcome, but I like my job so I’m not really trying that hard to stay off of my phone. I do try to avoid checking my phone an hour before bed though–that’s a really great rule for general wellness.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
Their inability to scale resiliency to larger challenges over time. I have a natural mindset in that I’ll figure it out no matter what. Growing up, I was always willing to work hard and be different to stand out and be successful. When I decided what college I wanted to go to, I made sure I had every credential possible to get in. I think a can-do attitude is where it starts and is often underrated.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
I actually read the same exact mistake in Sam, The Cheesecake Girl’s interview. For the first 2-3 years of business, I sold cuffed wholesale to boutiques around the country. Because my pieces were already priced reasonably for my online customers, in order to sell wholesale, I had to price them with such tiny margins for wholesale customers that it barely made sense from a financial standpoint. I was so eager to get my product into their hands that I took these hits, which ultimately did not pay off. I made cuffed exclusively DTC (no wholesale) in early 2019 and haven’t looked back since.
What tool(s) has helped you the most for your business?
How did you build your social media following?
I think what has helped grow my Instagram following over the years has been authenticity. Being honest with our followers about who we are – we’re a small business, with a few team members. We donate a portion of our income, we care about our local and social community, and we do our best to make earth-friendly decisions. We want you to be our customer not for a quick sale, but because of our quality pieces that you’ll keep coming back to. This is all a part of the personality and messaging we put out there on IG and I think people really feel it, and it’s refreshing compared to a lot of the other brands out there. We also have fun on IG – we play games, do giveaways, have scavenger hunts, etc. It’s not a social media manager behind a screen who has to get every word approved, its just me having fun! My tip to others trying to grow their IG is be authentic and be consistent.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
When I couldn’t get orders to my customers in a timely manner because of the volume of incoming orders!
What is something that you did that was a game-changer for your business?
Hired my first employees! I always knew I wanted to scale the business bigger than a one-woman show. It’s really important to me that my employees are willing to work hard and learn on the job as well as seeking new ways to contribute to the business when they have down time at work. My first employee ever told me in her interview that there was “no task too big or too small” for her and I loved that! And, she lived up to it. In terms of retention, I only have two full-time employees but they’ve been with me for 1.5-2.5 years each. I think I’m a nice, flexible boss but you can ask them.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out?
Pinterest marketing! We spent a lot of money on that platform in hopes that we were playing the long game and that it would eventually pay off…it did not! We only just recently realized we were reading the metrics wrong because they report a little differently there, and basically realized our ROAS was essentially zero dollars. Whoops!
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
High quality jewelry and digital ads!
How did you know how to start making your own jewelry?
I learned the basics by researching on Google and YouTube and not long after I began reaching out to manufacturers through cold calls and emails, asking them to help me bring my ideas to life! I probably sounded really stupid in the beginning, but some were patient with me and I am now a bigger customer of theirs!
For digital ads, is this something you do yourself or do you have the support of an agency?
We do this ourselves! My sister is in charge of it. We do a lot of testing to see what works and then learn from that. Digital ads are an ever-evolving space, so its important to continually learn and evolve. A lot of mistakes are made but that makes it fun and interesting.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
I’m super excited about all of the pieces we have coming out in the next 2-3 months. Texture mixing, which we never do! Bolder styles. More customization. Lots of fun! And just in time for the holidays which is the best time of year! Instagram Ads and Email and Text Message (SMS) Marketing.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Instagram Ads and Email and Text Message (SMS) Marketing. My employees! My CFO who has provided a ton of budget, forecasting, and general business guidance since day one. His name is Beef and his business is called Cast Iron Consulting.
Who is your best Columbus resource?
My employees! My CFO who has provided a ton of budget, forecasting, and general business guidance since day one. His name is Beef and his business is called Cast Iron Consulting.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
I love venting with my friends who are small business owners. This includes the following:
- Sam Strange: The Cheesecake Girl [Read Sam’s EOC Interview]
- Phoebe Trickett – The Butcher Shop
- Stephanie Tersingi – Jolie Occasions [Read Stephanie’s EOC Interview]
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I like to focus on the year ahead of me. It feels more in my control and I can see tangible results from my everyday hard work.
Who are your two favorite eCommerce brands that you feel do a great job with their product and marketing?
I love @shopwithbelen – a small business that sells high quality basics for women. Such a simple business model but they just do such a great job and the quality of the pieces is THERE! Great email/text marketing, and a great social/digital presence as well. I also love @abercrombie – not a traditional eCom brand but they are starting to dominate the eCom space, their marketing is amazing, and their product never disappoints!
What is your revenue range?
- $500k – $1mm
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
It’s crazy how many random responsibilities a business owner might have. Cleaning the bathroom, paying payroll and rent. Handling customer service. The list goes on. It can be hard to get the big picture stuff done sometimes when the little picture stuff piles up. When I really need to get stuff done, I make calendar events for my entire day and include every single thing. For example, 8:30-9 drive to work and pick up coffee. 9-9:15 clean out email inbox and make to-do’s from it. 9:15-10:30 work on q4 calendar. 10:30-11 Instagram story series. You get the picture… This really helps me make sure I get everything in! And if I finish up early I get some bonus time before the next thing.