Maker Profile: Kilee Nickels of Nickel & Suede
Meet Kilee Nickels, founder and owner of Nickel & Suede, mom to four (almost five!) kids, and the creator of One Little Momma, a lifestyle and fashion blog. Kilee and her husband, Soren, founded Nickel & Suede in 2014, and their jewelry has become a staple in KC fashion and beyond. Chances are you’ve seen a pair of their classic teardrop earrings around town. Kilee shares how the brand of Nickel & Suede was born, how she stays on top of trends and gives us a taste of her busy days.
What are your and Soren’s respective roles in running Nickel & Suede? How do you two work together?
Learning to work together has been one of the hardest parts of running N&S, but we also know that neither of us could do it alone. 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!
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 superpowers are spotting trends, making those trends approachable, creative marketing and picking “just the right look” every time.
We definitely love traveling together, celebrating successes together and the freedom that comes with working for ourselves. We also struggle with the stresses of owning a business, telling the other person how to do their job and bringing “the work” home with us. It’s a constant learning process, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
What did you do before starting Nickel & Suede?
Before starting Nickel & Suede, Soren and I started several small side businesses together. He worked as an accountant and I was a SAHM and blogger during the day. But during naptimes and in the evenings, we worked together managing a small Etsy shop making and selling leather baby belts, baby ties, growth charts and more. We both loved having a creative outlet and extra income that paid for our hobbies. Those projects are where we first starting learning to work together, appreciating each other’s talents and also where we got a taste of owning our own business.
How do you identify trends in colors and patterns?
I’ve always been really aware of trends in style and fashion. One of my talents has been the ability to spot one person, one image or one product and instantly see it as an upcoming trend. I’m usually years or seasons ahead, but I love spotting things early and seeing those trends develop. These days I’ll actively look through magazines, fashion blogs, Pinterest and people watch, but it’s more of a gut feeling that I run with and then see proof of it later on.
What are some of your trend predictions for this season?
This year metallics are a big trend and we’re seeing them in boots, jackets, skirts, bags and more. We love that because metallic leather is really our staple. Emerald green, velvet, and leather, in general, are all still very hot this year. All of our holiday items really work well with these trends and accent them in an easy way.
Has fashion always been a big part of your life?
Yes and no. I’ve always loved clothes, fashion, style magazines and making things my own. I shopped mainly at thrift stores in high school and enjoyed expressing my personal style through that. I have always loved color and almost majored in art, but ended up studying nutrition in college. It’s definitely a dream come true to have come back around to fashion as a career. I couldn’t ask for a more fun job.
Are you from Kansas City? What has made you choose to continue to call this city home?
I am a KC native. I’ve lived in Liberty, north of KC, for most of my life. Soren grew up in Las Vegas and neither of us ever expected to end up in KC long term. I left to go to college and we lived in Seattle after Soren and I got married. But after having a few kids, we realized that the Midwest was where we wanted to raise a family. We love living close to my family and being a part of all the amazing growth that is happening in Kansas City right now. This city has so much potential and we love the idea of adding to that!
What have been your favorite things to see developing in the city?
I’m most excited about all of the new businesses that have come to KC or started here in Kansas City. New restaurants, new entertainment, new shopping- it’s all very exciting! When I was growing up it felt like nothing new ever happened, but now there is always a new place to go try or a new event to enjoy.
What does a day in the life look like?
Let me tell you, no day ever looks the same. With four, almost five kids, we’re running from the moment we hear “Momma!” on the baby monitor to the time we crash at night. I really value being as much of a SAHM as possible so a big part of my day involves getting kids to school, preschool, baseball, art class and more. Depending on the day we’ll have scheduled marketing or full team meetings. I may have interviews to conduct or customer service emails to answer. Nap time is when I find time to blog, make lists, plan ahead and work on our upcoming website. Soren spends his days mainly at our production building doing everything from fixing offline printers to running spreadsheets for upcoming product forecasts. It’s a lot to juggle but over the course of a week we try to keep things in balance as best we can. No one day is ever balanced, that’s for sure.
What’s next for Nickel & Suede?
What a big question. There is SO much that I see ahead for N&S and yet never enough time to execute on it all. I’m really looking forward to our plans to open another store as well as our ideas for developing other product offerings. Those are big things with fuzzy timelines, but I know we’ll get there. In the short term I’m excited to really blow things up this holiday season and for a really fun upcoming photoshoot.
We can’t wait to see what you have in store! What products would you like to develop next for your product line?
We’d love to expand into more accessories and eventually more clothing as well. We definitely don’t see ourselves as a women-only brand and so we’d like to develop some men’s products that fit well within our brand in the future too.
What are you currently listening to?
I’m a big nerd and rarely listen to or read anything for fun. I always have NPR or a podcast on if I have time to listen to something because I know I’ll learn something. The books I read are the same way– stuff about marketing or self-help or other businesses.
You mentioned that you and Soren love to travel. Where is your favorite places to visit?
In the last year Soren and I have been traveling for work more than ever before and it’s been such a fun experience. Everywhere is new to me so I enjoy travelling anywhere, especially if it’s just Soren and I. We went to Italy earlier this year and that was definitely an unforgettable place to visit. I’d go again in a heartbeat.
What are some of your favorite memories from the trip? Any unforgettable Italian food?
Well, we hadn’t been anywhere together alone for more than 24 hours in our previous eight years of marriage/parenting so just getting used to being a couple and exploring together was so refreshing. I’ll never forget coming out of the Subway for the first time and getting an amazing view of the cathedral in Milan. It was breathtaking and just our first taste of what else we saw there. We also fondly remember these tiny ravioli that our waiter had us try at a rooftop restaurant in Milan. They were like tiny pasta pillows from heaven!