Today we’d like to introduce you to Nancy Tennant.
Nancy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It’s wild to look back and realize that Neckstrings was born more than a decade ago — and I realize that it’s been a healthy mix of timing, luck, and LOTS of hard work that’s made it all happen. The short of my bio is that I grew up in Southeast Asia, then moved to Texas in highschool and ended up going to college at UT Austin. After college, I pursued a career in fashion, starting out as a junior sportswear buyer in Austin. I loved it! Eventually, I followed my heart to Houston for a buying position with the then Oshman’s owned Abercrombie & Fitch.
A few jobs and life changes later, my own business was born. At the time, my daughter Sidney was obsessed with crafting earrings. It was her ever-growing bead collection that served as my original inspiration. Sidney and I started crocheting the beads into jewelry — and suddenly, our Mother-Daughter-Design team was born! Fast-forward a few years (with lots of love and support from my daughter and husband along the way) and Neckstrings Jewelry had officially emerged.
Then, in 2008, I got lucky. The Museum of Fine Arts gift shop reached out to me and wanted to carry my collection. It was very exciting, and a definite milestone for my small, home-based Neckstrings Jewelry. This gave me the confidence to purchase higher-end gems and materials and to develop a more upscale brand identification. The result has been pieces that appeal to many ages and styles while still having an undeniable, totally unique edge. Texas — and Houston in particular — continues to be my main source of inspiration and I’m so thankful for our community of vibrant and supportive artists. I am developing a larger following and am always creating new designs and styles to present to my growing audience on social media and in person.
Thirteen years later and I still love what I do! Sidney is still the first to try out all my new designs and continues to give me fresh input.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I love what I do, but there are always bumps and struggles on a journey. My biggest challenges have involved market exposure and technology. I battled a steep learning curve when it came to creating a website from which to curate and sell my jewelry. Some technical support may be in my future, but I continue to explore options and hope to find new ways to present my collection. Photographing my one-of-a-kind necklaces is getting easier— they just show so much better in person. Luckily, I love doing shows, talking to other artists, getting exposure, and being around creative energy-environments.
In business, as in life, having a passion for what you do and being authentic is important. I have developed a core following, and I continue to push myself to be innovative and open to new possibilities for business growth. I am usually not afraid to try new things or to step out of my comfort zone. It’s important to have faith in yourself! I’d tell young creatives that, in addition to hard work, it’s crucial to trust yourself to find the way. The support of friends and family is immeasurable. There is no better advertisement than word of mouth from your
customers, especially other mothers and daughters!
What should we know about Neckstrings Jewelry? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
All Neckstrings are handmade by me right here in Houston. Some of the most beautiful women I know wear them, and every time I have a show I hope to lasso a few new aficionados.
I design and crochet lariat-style necklaces using semi-precious gemstones, pearls, gold vermeil and sterling silver. I call them neck strings because they are fashioned to be tied, wrapped, and looped as you fancy. Each one is individually designed and is very easy to wear. My pieces go with just about any fashion style and can be dressed up or down. I also make earrings, bracelets, and choker-style necklaces. Every item is crafted with the same attention to quality and detail.
After a childhood in Southeast Asia, I married a 6th-generation Texan. By the time our 7th-generation daughter was born, Texas had also become central to who I am. Like the saying goes, I got to Texas as fast as I could!
Inspired by growing up in Asia, and by my husband and daughter’s deep Texan roots, I name my necklaces for
Texas rivers and the west, but always reflect an eastern aesthetic and simplicity.My newest collection is called Texas Charm. It features hand-stamped charms on a neck string I call The Pecos Road Trip, which self-layers and can be worn a new way in each town you visit. You can choose to go East or West of the Pecos in your Neckstring because charms can be personalized (in your choice of metal) for the road trip of your life. My current charms have a Houston inner loop GPS coordinate and a few other charming Texas quotes.
What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I feel that barriers for women in the fashion and retail world are similar to those in other industries. Working for myself I don’t face as many gender barriers in a traditional sense, but have felt the bias in the past working in retail environments. I once had a male boss who thought I needed to wear more make-up and coif my hair in a different style to be successful. It is funny and awful at the same time. To a young professional, it was damaging to self esteem at its core. (Just so you know, I kept my bohemian vibe! )
I am encouraged by the younger generation of men and women today who support one another in all things —and I am optimistic for the future. A balance of work, life and motherhood continues to be be difficult for women.
I became a stay at home mom due to work circumstances, and I was lucky to be able to do it. It was a great decision for my family and for our circumstances, but it is a hard decision and can come with a long lasting penalty for re-entry into the workforce. The flexibility home-based businesses and the ability technology has allowed for working from home and the #metoo movement and attention to issues of gender equality continue to empower women. Attention to these issues are not going away and I believe things will and are slowly changing.
- Website: www.neckstringsjewelry.com
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Leticia London Portrait