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Dannijo to Young Brands: 'Not Every Opportunity Is Right'

Danielle and Jodie Snyder of Dannijo.
Danielle and Jodie Snyder of Dannijo.

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When Danielle and Jodie Snyder, two sisters from Florida, got fired from their jobs in fashion in 2007, they made an ultimatum: start a successful company in six months or get right back in the job market.

The sisters, 28 and 31, always loved making jewelry—they recalled playing with their father's old medical tools when they were little—and so they began stringing jewelry by hand in their home and selling it in 2008 under the name Dannijo.

Six years later, Dannijo and its jewelry has taken a life of its own. From bold costume jewelry to dainty and intricate precious stones, Dannijo has become a top seller at Saks Fifth Avenue and Henry Bendel and is sported by celebrities like Beyoncé, Kourtney Kardashian and Blake Lively.

Soon after they added handbags their roster of categories, Racked caught up with the Snyder sisters to talk about braving a start-up during the recession, how social media helped them shape their brand, and why it's important for business to say no to some opportunities.

The Snyder sisters with their bag collection at Bergdorf's in March. Image via Instagram.

How did the start of Dannijo come about?
Jodie: "We started making jewelry when we were kids, in Florida, learning on our dad's old medical tools. After college, we both moved to the city, and Danielle had started a nonprofit called L.W.A.L.A. in 2007 after going on a trip to a small village in Kenya. We started a capsule collection to raise money for the nonprofit and that was the first jewelry. We both had been fired from our jobs in fashion at the end of 2007, and thought it was a great time to start something. Both companies we were working at were going through different changes, and a lot of things were changing during the recession. We decided to launch Dannijo and give it six months to get started."

Was it scary to start a new business during the recession?
Danielle: "In a sense, it was a little intimidating during the recession, but we had an optimistic approach. We knew the ante was down because of the recession and older companies were scrambling to figure things and backtrack. The creative product was more accessible, and we were new to the game so we were really nimble. We were open-minded and hungry, and at the beginning we just were making everything ourselves in New York. We were able to act quickly with products, buyers and editors."

Izzie necklace Prima choker and Mildred earrings via Instagram

There are so many jewelry lines out there. What strategies did you implement to stand out?
Danielle: "From the very beginning, we wanted to have an online presence. From the get-go, we were interested in our website, social media and being the forefront of the fashion tech movement. We wanted to build our brand from there."
Jodie: "[We saw] people weren't just buying products, they wanted to know about the people behind it, and how it's made. Using social media from the beginning it allowed us to be accessible to so many people, and showed them the ins-and-outs of our business, our travels. Instagram has been our number one and [it has] really [helped] grow as a brand."

How did you connect with such high-access personal?
Danielle: "Being in New York, we met different fashion people, had a little bit of luck and made the right relationships. Beyoncé was the first to buy something. We didn't even meet her; she just bought something off the floor. That was huge to us, she really introduced our brand and aesthetic to the world. Also, very early on, I met Milla Jovovich in a bathroom and she said, 'I love your necklace' and I sent her one, and she wore it the next morning. A few things are about being at the right place at the right time, being open to meeting new people."
Jodie: "We're lucky as sisters, because my strengths are her weakness, so we are lucky we have each other. Danielle is really great at just walking up to people and introducing herself and making small talk. I'm a little shyer. But we pushed ourselves at the beginning because you have to get yourself out there."

Celeste earrings, via Instagram

What were your biggest challenges running the company?
Jodie: "Time management. It was just Danielle and I in the beginning and we were wearing so many different hats. We tried to be as efficient as you can. One rule of advice someone gave us back then was when you start off, you're not going to know how to do everything so it's really important to ask people for advice. We spoke to people who did this before and gave us insight into how to grow a brand. As you grow a business, you learn, but you have to surround yourself with people who give you advice."

What's the creative process like between the two of you?
Danielle: "We're both creative, but Jodie does the business side; I do the social media, marketing. There is overlap— we sit next to each other all day, we basically share a brain. We have a very different aesthetic, but we've rubbed off on each other. I'm more bohemian rock-and-roll inspired, she's more classic. We create metal work, layering crystals, but also timeless, classic, barely-there pieces."

The Snyder sisters outside a Dannijo popup store. Image via Instagram.

What guidance would you give to someone who hasn't bought jewelry before and is looking to invest?
Danielle: "If it feels good, it'll look good. If you're not adventurous, start off with something simple. Take baby steps, and once you wear it, you'll feel more comfortable and then you can move on to arm parties. The thought is to go with your gut and wear what feels ok."

What's one piece of advice you'd want to give to young entrepreneurs?
Jodie: "Always stay on track to who your brand is and know that there are going to be many opportunities. Not every opportunity is the right opportunity for you. It's good to know when and how to say no. Focus on your goals, and as your brand gets bigger there will be a lot more opportunity—you just have to know which is good for your brand."

· Dannijo [Official site]
· How The New Potato Became the Coveteur of Food Blogs [Racked]
· How Trina Turk Keeps Up in a Fast Fashion World [Racked]