In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Jayme Lillie, the founder of No Man’s Land. No Man’s Land sells handcrafted, sustainable jewelry pieces inspired by global craft traditions, is based in Tacoma, Washington, and has been in business for three years. Shop global jewelry here.
Abound: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Jayme: I was in fashion for more than a decade, first as a successful children’s wear designer and then as a costume designer and technician for the local film industry. While I’ve always been passionate about fashion and had a deep love for textiles and design, I knew that I needed to make a change.
Raising three kids, finishing my college degree, and approaching forty meant that I needed to find a new kind of balance, and honestly, slumping over a sewing machine for 12+ hours a day wasn’t doing my body or my mind any favors. Jewelry feels like a natural extension, but is infinitely more “portable” and fits perfectly into my life.
Abound: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
Jayme: I had been tossing around some design ideas, but it wasn’t until I toured my local maker space and saw the giant laser cutter that I realized the potential for a new kind of wood-based jewelry. Sustainability has always been a priority, and working with natural materials is really where my heart lies.
I signed up for a maker membership on the spot, sourced the right kind of hardwood and just started designing and cutting. My initial prototypes were more complex in line and form, but they lacked structural integrity. Now I design with more simple lines and use pigment, paper, and textiles to enhance the final products.
Abound: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What’s your process like?
Jayme: From start to finish, every piece is designed and fabricated in my studio. I start by designing and laser cutting the wood bases, source vintage and global ephemera, and apply a soy-based resin seal.
My brass pieces feature hand mixed natural mineral pigments suspended in the same soy-resin. Every jump ring and ear wire is crafted in house. Every piece is sanded and polished by yours truly. Having my hands on every piece that leaves my studio is infinitely satisfying.
Abound: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
Jayme: What’s the saying? Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? Well, I absolutely love what I do but it is a TON of work. I work six days a week in my studio, primarily fabricating for my roster of wholesale customers.
My days end up being a bit of back and forth. I run teenagers (who aren’t quite old enough to drive) around town, get emails handled, try to stay on top of social media, and down infinite cups of coffee.
It’s a lot to keep track of, but I’m happiest when my hands are busy. I love the actual handling of the wood and paper. The lasered wood smells like campfire, it’s delightful. My least favorite thing is social media. I want to be better and more consistent, but interacting online often falls to the back burner.
Abound: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
Jayme: Bootstrapped, all the way. I maybe had $200 to buy my initial supplies. My drive and inspiration were much bigger than my bank account.
Abound: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
Jayme: I started posting my pieces on my personal Facebook page, just to see what my friends thought. The feedback was overwhelming and I started getting custom orders that very first day. I branched out into small, local art fairs, and took my first wholesale order from a friend’s boutique a few months later.
Abound: Where do you sell your product now?
Jayme: My work is found in more than 330 shops around the country, and I sell retail on my own website.
Abound: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
Jayme: I would absolutely love to have my work in more national landmark shops. A lot of my work has a vintage travel souvenir vibe, and I love the idea that someone on a special trip would select one of my pieces to remind them of their travels.
Abound: Do you have a favorite product? If so, which one?
Jayme: That’s a tough question. I tend to fall madly in love with each new piece I make. That being said, I absolutely adore my Night Swimming Earrings. I’ve made literally thousands of them (they are my best seller), but I never get sick of them. Each one is as unique as a fingerprint and the colors just make me so happy.
Abound: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
Jayme: I would say that social media is very important to my business, but that I need to be more consistent in using it! My marketing is a lot of word of mouth, and I’m grateful to the amazing shops I work with that feature my work on their Instagram feeds. It’s an amazing feeling to have my work shared.
Abound: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with your business?
Jayme: My most frustrating challenge is all on me. As a natural control freak, I have a really hard time with delegation. I know it’s getting close to that time where I’ll need to hire some help, but I keep putting it off. I’m a perfectionist, so giving up that measure of control and ownership is tricky. Maybe I’ll hire a social media manager?
Abound: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with No Man’s Land?
Jayme: I feel like everyday is a victory, honestly. But, I was featured on the cover of Jewelry Affaire magazine less than a year after starting my business and that gave me the biggest confidence boost ever. I keep a map-covered cork board in my studio and pin the locations of all my accounts. Every time I have to squeeze more pins in, I can’t help but be proud of the growth of No Man’s Land. You like me!
Abound: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
Jayme: Be confident in your product and in yourself. There will always be people that think your work is too expensive, or too cheap, too trendy, too colorful, whatever. You do you. Decide if you are a Nordstrom or a Walmart. You can’t be both. Know your customer.
In fact, design your customer. What do they love? How do they spend their time? They are your people and they will work hard to help you. Don’t be afraid to fall down or fail. It’s going to happen at least once. Have integrity. Don’t forget to play. The best ideas come around when you give them space to appear.
Abound: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
Jayme: Keep a whiteboard marker in the shower. Seriously. You’ll be amazed at the ideas that will find you.
Abound: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
Jayme: Working in my pajamas? Not having to leave my house if I don’t want to? Taking afternoon naps? Spending hours and hours sourcing the most beautiful papers and stamps (aka couching with my iPad and spending lots and lots of tax deductible money)? It’s like a dream. Pinch me.