Editor’s note: The following is part of Startland News’ ongoing coverage of the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Kansas City’s entrepreneur community, as well as how innovation is helping to drive a new normal in the ecosystem. Click here to follow related stories as they develop.
Being named one of Inc. Magazine’s 250 most successful companies in the Midwest is a bittersweet accessory for Nickel & Suede, as the Liberty-based company works to survive in an unraveling economy.
“It’s actually been really encouraging news at this time,” Kilee Nickels, founder and CEO of the Kansas City jewelry startup, said of the recently announced honor — which ranks the company at No. 91 on the list.
As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the company’s Liberty headquarters and storefront have shuttered in compliance with the city’s Stay At Home order and the opening of a second location in Dallas has been paused indefinitely, Nickels said.
“We’ve been fortunate so far to keep all payroll going as usual and we’re looking to continue that by taking advantage of the recent government assistance programs that are being made available,” she said.
“We’ve done hard things before and we can continue to push forward right now as well. … We really value courage and trying new things and COVID-19 is giving us plenty of chances to flex those muscles,” she said.
Click here to read about the origins of Nickel & Suede.
In response to the crisis, the Nickel & Suede team is upping its marketing efforts and looking to connect with customers online in more meaningful ways, while continuing to work toward long-term goals — which will include continued hiring efforts in Dallas, Nickels explained.
“We’re taking the view that an object in motion stays in motion,” she said, referencing Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion. “We actually hired a new employee the day before shelter-in-place went into effect. … We’ve also seen the quality of candidates increase during this time.”
Such a side effect could be tied to the company’s growing regional prowess, as documented in Inc. and similar lists, Nickels said, specifically citing Nickel & Suede’s 2018 ranking as the 127th company on the broader Inc. 5000 list.
“We found that the biggest impact to our business is definitely in having regional and local recognition. We’re so thankful and proud of how our visibility has increased over the past couple of years,” she said.
Such an increase in visibility has also built a new network for Nickel & Suede, Nickels added.
“This is the third time we have been on an Inc. list like this and each time we’ve found that when the lists are published, often, other business owners on the lists will reach out and connect — both local and otherwise,” she said.
“It’s always encouraging to meet with and talk with others — especially business owner couples — who have passed through a similar journey.”
Click here to read how Nickel & Suede used Instagram to build a jewelry powerhouse in KC.
Now embarking on a new and uncertain journey in an era of pandemic, Nickels said she’s hopeful communities across the country will rally behind businesses like hers and those owned by her friends when the country reopens for business.
“When something like this affects us widely, it really has a way of putting everyone on the same page. We all need the help, we all need to stay in front of customers, we all need to take care of our employees and families,” she said.
“So we think there is definitely going to be enough people out there who will see that more clearly than before and help things recover.”
Click here to shop Nickel & Suede.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.