“She believed she could … so she did.”
That is the inspirational phrase inscribed on a charm attached to red leather bracelet that my sister gave to me as I started my new business a few years ago.
It might also be the phrase that best describes the mother-daughter duo of Kara (mom) and Danielle Parde of Lincoln, the makers of my bracelet and the masterminds behind the successful KD Designs.
What started as a small fundraiser 13 years ago has turned into a full-time jewelry business. Their products are sold at boutiques, salons and gift stores across the Midwest and at KD Design’s trendy retail store in Lincoln’s Haymarket, where customers can create their own personalized jewelry at the store’s unique “charm bar.”
Making Bracelets For A Cause
Kara Parde describes her only daughter, Danielle, as a “go-getter like I’ve never seen before.”
When Danielle was 12, she competed against 200 girls for the role of Annie at the Lincoln Community Playhouse. She got the part.
Kara and Danielle had previous involvement in the theater and knew that funds were tight. So, they decided to make Annie bracelets to sell during the theater’s 12 performances of the show.
“That was the launch of making any kind of jewelry,” Kara said.
The Pardes sold hundreds of bracelets and earned close to $1,000 for the playhouse.
After that, Kara found herself continuing to enjoy making jewelry in the evenings after she finished her full-time work-at-home job in bank credit card marketing. Kara has a degree in business marketing.
Then, Danielle decided to take a class in wire wrapping and suggested they make earrings.
They started selling their bracelets and earrings at local craft shows and then at the Lincoln Farmer’s Market.
“Lincoln has a fantastic farmer’s market,” Kara said. “We loved the market. The people. The atmosphere.”
Their jewelry sold well at the market, and they continued to grow their business together.
“If I wasn’t pushing forward, she was, and we kept growing,” Kara said.
The earrings became a best seller, and then Danielle started creating “button rings” made out of buttons and a wire band. Those sold well at the farmer’s market, too.
As Danielle became more involved in theater and other activities in high school, she didn’t have as much time for the jewelry business. But, she did offer a 45-minute jewelry-making party package that became popular for young girls. The button rings and jewelry parties provided a good source of college money for Danielle.
In about 2008, Kara said a customer wanted to sell KD Designs jewelry as a softball team fundraiser. They decided to create jewelry with a softball theme, and that’s where the idea for the charm bracelets began.
Kara’s in-laws and a friend make hundreds (or close to 1,000 some weeks!) of leather bracelets each week to hold charms that can be personalized to fit the customer. The charms range from birthstones to sports and dance, hobbies, travel, professions and nature. There are even charms for camping, yoga and Nebraska’s new football coach: the “Frost Advisory” charm.
Personalization in jewelry is trendy right now, and Kara said it has boosted their sales.
“I don’t have to guess what people want,” she said. “It’s really cool to see what people put together.”
Customers will build bracelets to remember loved ones who have died, including pets, or to show off their interests or to be inspired.
“People love anything with inspirational words,” Kara said. “People need that reminder or they want to give that reminder to a friend.”
Jewelry with birthstone charms or the “mama bear” charm make great gifts for Mother’s Day. There are also charms that say, “Mom,” “Grandma,” “Family” and “Blessed.”
For graduates, the inspiration charms such as “Find Joy in the Journey,” “Live Your Dreams” and “Follow Your Heart” are popular.
All of these products can be purchased from KD Designs website or from their retail location at 151 N 8th St., in Lincoln’s Haymarket next to Scooter’s Coffee. In 2013, they moved from a home-based business to a retail store in Lincoln’s Railyard and then moved to their current location in 2016. The store offers enough space for a warehouse, making jewelry and selling their products as well as other unique Nebraska products and gifts.
And with the store’s location in the Haymarket, Kara and Danielle still feel like they are part of the Lincoln Farmer’s Market.
“Now, we just have to prop open our front door, and we are ready to roll,” Kara said.
A new item they added last year is the “Yardzee” giant wooden dice game that Kara’s son, Ryan, started making last summer. The game was so popular last year that Kara’s husband, Ross (a manufacturing engineer by trade), designed a more efficient system for Ryan to make those again this summer.
Kara said she appreciates this business being a family affair. She appreciates the time that she and Danielle spent together traveling to craft shows and making business decisions.
“I think we’ve had a lot more interaction during what could have been busy years because it was business and we needed to get it done,” Kara said. “We definitely pushed each other.”
Besides their own retail store and website, KD Designs jewelry is sold at more than 200 other retailers around the Midwest.
Kara, who quit her banking job in 2009 to focus full time on KD Designs, now has five employees to work at the retail store, and she recently hired a family member to manage the social media and marketing duties.
Danielle graduated from college at Loyola University in Chicago with an accounting degree and now works full-time at Fat Brain Toys in Omaha, and she still helps with the jewelry business. She creates KD Design’s wholesale catalog (they are on their third one), including taking all of the photographs and designing the publication. She is continuing to grow her jewelry birthday party side of the business and helps in the store when she can.
KD Designs also offers parties at the store for women. Groups can reserve the store after hours, bring in their beverages and make charm jewelry together.
“It’s a beautiful setting and fun for them to pick out charms together in a relaxed atmosphere,” Kara said.
Kara is excited about the future challenge of expanding the number of wholesale customers. She is glad that her daughter helped her find her true passion.
“I don’t know if this store would have happened without her pushing it,” Kara said. “I value her judgment. She just has a really good sense of things like that, and I knew to listen to her. And, I’m glad I did because it’s really evolved into something that I truly enjoy. It’s a lot of work. I’m working until I go to bed, but it doesn’t feel like work.”
For more information, visit KD Designs website at www.kddesignsjewelry.com.