Happy Friday, friends! It can be so hard to navigate the small shop world when you want to be conscientious about where you spend your money. So, I decided to start a fun weekly post to share my favorite small businesses with you. All of the businesses we will share in this series will be shops that are socially conscious and fucking amazing. Our first feature shop is no exception! Avenue261 is a brand that believes that ALL women have a voice. Their stories deserve to be heard. They believe that, together, women can do anything. Everyday women are changing the world with their voice, their resilience, and their convictions. They are dedicated to helping these women be heard. And how do they do it? Through the most GORGEOUS vegan leather earrings. Those who know me know I almost never wear jewelry, but I have a drawer full of Avenue261 because they are my go-to for a night out. I know you will love them just as much as I do! So I am going to let Nicke tell you more!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hey! I'm Nicke the owner/creator/one woman show behind Avenue261. Avenue261 is my side gig as I recently went back to work full time at Horace Mann insurance which specializes in providing insurance to educators. I really like being back in the corporate world and enjoy working for Horace Mann as I used to teach Deaf and Hard of Hearing kiddos myself for 7 years. Besides work I'm a mom to 3 kiddos- 11 year old daughter Avery, 5 year old daughter Lucy, and 3 year old son Charlie. My husband is a pretty awesome dude who I've been married to for almost 7 years. Our house is full of love, laughter, chaos, yelling (sometimes...sorry old habits die hard!), and lots of dance parties. We love watching movies, playing outside, traveling when we can, and when they all go to bed I love having a big glass of red wine and binge watching shows about murder or Parenthood.
What made you decide to start Avenue261?
Shirt from Evergreen Goods
I had previously owned a business called page261. I was crazy passionate about it for a long time. I even opened a retail store that included my items and other handmade items from other small women owned businesses. For a time it was centered about being a brand that empowered moms to use their sarcasm and confidence to navigate motherhood. If I'm being honest that market was really saturated and I didn't feel what I was trying to accomplish was really connecting in the way I wanted it to. During that time I started making leather earrings and they really took off online and in my retail location. When I closed page261, I decided to focus on Avenue261 and learned some tough lessons about cultural appropriation and AAVE and rebranded it into the business it is today. The reason I continue Avenue261 is because I'm passionate about learning how to be a better ally and using my brand to connect people and donate for social change.
All of your earrings are named after women in history, how do you decide which women you’d like to honor?
So Avenue261 is named after my oldest daughter Avery (We call her Ave, Avenue abbreviated is Ave & 261 is my favorite page from my favorite book)... when I rebranded it was Ave's idea to name each style/shape of earring after a woman in history because she had recently read Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls. At first I was like that is way too much work but after listening to her and beginning to research some women I knew it was the way to go. My first thought process when choosing women is to make sure there are representations of all types of woman...Black, Brown, Trans, Latina, etc. After that I try to choose women that not everyone knows about so there is a piece of education with each pair of earrings you receive. Each earring card has the name of the woman on the front and her story on the back. People tell me it's one of their favorite things about my brand!
I absolutely love your Ally of the Month program. Can you tell us a little bit about the program and the nonprofits you support?
Each month I choose a style/shape of earring to be on sale & then donate a portion of profits from that style and all other sales to a designated organization. For example last August the Malala style earring was on sale for the whole month as children went back to school and I donated to The Malala Fund which helps girls in other countries gain access to education. I try to pick organizations based on current events, representation, or other things I'm passionate about and then base the style of earring chosen for the month around that.
What is an earring party?! That sounds amazing.
An earring party is just a really fun and casual way for people who love my earrings to host a party with their friends, eat food, drink wine, and earn a percentage of party sales towards free or discounted earrings. It is SUPER non salesy and the exact opposite of any type of MLM. I don't solicit anyone after the party, I don't have an up or down line since it's just me, so it's just a fun get together, in person or online, to get some discounted earrings and learn more about my brand!
What is your favorite set of earrings in your collection?
It's really hard to pick a favorite since I'm so invested in learning the stories behind the women I name the earrings after. I really love reading about all of them, summarizing their story, designing the earring cards etc...sometimes more than designing the earrings themselves. But if I had to pick a favorite I would say The Henrietta in the biggest size or The Dorothy are my go-tos!
Do you have a favorite quote?
I'm a big fan of "Some women fear the fire, some women simply become it."
What is one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self if you could go back in time?
F*ck. SO. MANY. THINGS. It's crazy to be a mother to two girls (and my son too!) and how much I just want them to love themselves and show kindness to others around them. I guess I would tell myself, and them, that you don't have to do what everyone else has done just because that's the way it's always been done. Challenge the norms, don't dim yourself to make others feel comfortable. Live big. Live loud. Listen to those that are different than you and learn from them. Know your worth. Love your body. That's definitely more than one thing but you get the point.
Because Nicke is so freaking amazing she gave us a discount code to share with you! Use code W&H261 for 20% off one purchase at avenue261.com!