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Growing up in Miami, Jaimie Nicole Shepard always knew she was destined to run a business, but she never imagined it would involve sterling silver, turquoise stones, and pearls.
"I stumbled upon jewelry as a career, and the reason why, is that about six years ago beaded jewelry was really big in Miami," Shepard said. "My wrists are really small and the bracelets just didn't fit. The jewelry was really expensive, and I wasn't going to buy a bracelet that didn't fit me. So, I went out on my own to a local gem store, bought some materials, and started assembling them. I had no idea what I was doing."
At that time, six years ago, Shepard was a sales manager selling commercial airplane parts at her family's aviation business. She eventually began designing jewelry as a part-time job. "I worked in my family business which is aviation– the polar opposite from jewelry. But I was really passionate about the jewelry and I was really gaining some confidence by the people who really loved the jewelry, so I decided to do it full-time and go for it," she says. "With compliments, I gained confidence, and with confidence, I started a career."
With compliments, I gained confidence, and with confidence, I started a career.
So she launched her own namesake jewelry brand, Jaimie Nicole, which, to date, is carried by nearly 30 boutiques and department stores nationwide. She also has two showrooms– one in New York City, and the other, its headquarters, in Miami. Her jewelry has been featured in publications and TV shows (most notably, in Harper's Bazaar, where her jewelry was modeled by Adriana Lima), and her men's line has been sported by celebs like Sean Paul.
The first piece Shepard ever designed was a bracelet. "I wanted those beaded bracelets that I could pile on, to create the arm party," she says, so she designed stackable bracelets for herself and for her customers. With her first design, she solved the problem she encountered when she tried assembling her own arm party when she went shopping for beaded bracelets.
The average wrist is seven inches, and Jaimie Nicole makes everything six and a half inches.
"The average wrist is seven inches, and Jaimie Nicole makes everything six and a half inches," she said. "I cater to a small wrist, but I customize everything. It could be smaller, or bigger; the clients are really collaborative on the design with me. If it doesn't fit, I'll make it fit."
Her line has expanded and today, she carries a range of pieces including rings, necklaces, body chains, hand chains, and a men's line that includes beaded bracelets. "Since then I have evolved, and I think there's much more of an eclectic range of my jewelry," Shepard says. "On top of having the daintier, the chunkier, or the statement pieces, I think that the collections have evolved to be more diverse. I like to find out what my customers like and really try to push the boundary, slightly. I don't like to go from zero to one hundred too quickly within a collection."
Shepard's team at Jaimie Nicole is comprised of three women and every piece is designed in its Coral Gables headquarters, located at an appropriately numbered suite, "305." Inside, it has warm, blue walls, a comfortable blue couch, and shelves that display colorful bracelets, earrings, necklaces and other pieces. Her showroom space is open to the public, and often hosts charity events where proceeds are donated to philanthropies, like Cancer Support Community of Miami.
I don't like to go from zero to one hundred too quickly within a collection.
She designs within a small area in the showroom. Gems, jewels and pliers are scattered above the workspace, waiting to be crafted into something beautiful, and completed pieces sit in containers that are stacked on top of each other waiting to be taken to the boutiques where they're sold. "Eighty-five percent of it is made in the Coral Gables showroom and fifteen percent is manufactured overseas, but everything has the Jaimie Nicole stamp of approval," she says.
Her latest collection is a self-described "total 180" from what she normally designs. "I think it's a minimalistic, dainty, detailed collection, so really focusing on the detail and the structure behind it, where you could wear one piece by itself or you could really layer them on with the necklaces and earrings and bracelets." So, while the pieces have changed a bit, they still remain what she calls "every day luxuries," because the prices range from $35 to $700. "It's affordable, it's comfortable, and there's definitely a lifetime behind the brand," she says. "I like being aware of trends, I don't like being trendy because I think trendy has a short shelf life, and Jaimie Nicole doesn't."
I think there's always a pay-it-forward method from my side as a designer.
Shepard mentioned she doesn't have one particular muse - Miami's colors and her own customers inspire her. "I think my favorite pieces would be unique pieces," Shepard said. "I never try and do a mass production of things, but those one-of-a-kind gems that you stumble upon walking in the diamond district of New York that I know one client is going to be so excited to wear; her own unique gem ... those are my favorites"
She owes her success and her accomplishments to the loyalty of her customers. Inside her showroom, she has a large cork board with miniature Polaroid pictures of satisfied, smiling customers adorning her blue walls.
"At the end of the day, I wouldn't have a business if it wasn't for the loyalty and the support of my customers, and I think there's always a pay-it-forward method from my side as a designer, and I think also for the client that has supported me and continues to do so," she says. And as for what's next, she has lofty goals.
"In the next ten years, Jaimie Nicole is going to be a globally-recognized jewelry brand, where people recognize the name, recognize the logo and recognize the style of Jaimie Nicole and are excited to buy it and spread the word for us," she said. "I think the sky's the limit, I never put a cap on a dream."