Laurel Ryan is a 28 year old jewelry designer who began making hand-stamped jewelry and accessories as a hobby in 2016, shortly after she moved to Cape Cod in her native Massachusetts. But the seaside-themed line quickly took off and requests for wholesale orders came in. Today, Ryan’s company, Nautically Northern, is carried in over 200 stories across the country and is beginning to expand into homeware. The New England-based entrepreneur says she finds great joy in creating pieces that have sentimental value for her customers, and is grateful to have a strong family network to support her as she grows her company.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about starting your business.
I began by making a few items for friends and family, customized to help show off a part of their journey. Everyone who got one loved the meaning behind them and encouraged me to turn it into a business. After a store reached out on Instagram to ask if I sold my products wholesale, I decided that I wanted to turn Nautically Northern into a brand, not just a hobby.
How do you define success?
Meeting people, listening to their stories, and being able to make them a piece that helps share that story is one of my favorite things. I have had people cry happy tears when they see the finished item. Being able to connect with them and create an item that they will be able to wear every day means I am succeeding in my business. Running my own company has also allowed me to be able to donate back to the community and charities that I think are really important.
What is your biggest success so far?
Being a 40 under 40 honoree at age 26 in the Cape & Plymouth Business magazine. I struggle with imposter syndrome and being recognized for what I have achieved in my business. So it was an amazing honor. There are so many amazing business people in the area, that to have my name mentioned alongside theirs in the award ceremony really helped me realize how far I have actually come in my few short years in business.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Balancing my full-time job, Nautically Northern and my personal life. It is so easy to get wrapped up in work when you are the only employee. There is always one more task that needs to be done. I have been taking time to step back and focus on my personal life so that I do not get burned out. Hiring third-party agencies and delegating tasks to people who are experts in that area has been a huge weight off my shoulders that has allowed me to take back some more of my personal time.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
In 2019, I moved from Cape Cod back to my hometown in Clinton, Massachusetts. This required me to change how I marketed my products, since I originally marketed the line as being made on Cape Cod. I had to change the strategy and the image of the brand.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Keep going. Success does not happen overnight. If you have an idea that you are passionate about, pursue it. Don’t give up if you don’t see the results you want right away.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I remember the people who have messaged me, saying how important the item I made for them is. That makes everything worth it.
Who is your most important role model?
My father.. He was the one that encouraged me to have an entrepreneurial spirit and to always give back to others. Both of my parents have always been big on volunteering and I think that is the main reason why it is so important to me to do the same with my business. My dad has been with me every step of the way with Nautically Northern. He has given up countless weekends to come to help me at craft fairs and has moved his whole schedule to fly halfway across the country to help me at a wholesale show, just so I would not be alone. ◼