Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, sisters Danielle Snyder and Jodie Snyder discovered a knack for designing jewelry while playing around with their father's medical tool kit. As teenagers, they taught themselves wire work with old surgical forceps and clamps, which are similar to jewelry-making tools, and began exploring their own design aesthetics. Soon the girls had designed enough necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories to sell, and while in high school, they opened a small retail store called Dannijo Jewels with the help of a small loan and a month-to-month lease. The store did fairly well, and they tried to run it remotely after heading off to college, but they eventually closed up shop to pursue other priorities.
That all changed after college when they both found themselves living and working in New York, where they took jobs in the fashion industry. Jodie moved after graduating from the University of Florida in 2004, and Danielle followed in 2007 after graduating from Vanderbilt. An opportunity to design jewelry again presented itself through LWALA, a non-profit that provides people in Lwala, Kenya, with access to AIDS testing and treatment, which Danielle co-founded in college after traveling there during a summer internship. The sisters collaborated on a three-piece collection for LWALA's fundraising gala. After receiving rave reviews and even an endorsement from Natalie Portman, who was a spokesperson for the event, Danielle and Jodie began seriously thinking about a business.
Rather than take the same approach they did in high school and open a retail store in New York, Danielle and Jodie decided their marketing strategy would be to shop their designs to the biggest names in fashion. "We knew that if we were going to do the jewelry thing and not have other jobs, we needed to make sure we landed great accounts," Danielle says. Their first stop: Bergdorf Goodman. Despite receiving the initial form e-mail from Bergdorf's buyer that the product wasn't right at the time, the girls persisted in getting their foot in the door -- they called the buyer, mentioned they were around the corner, and asked to stop in for some feedback in person. When they were told the collection was too edgy for Bergdorf, Danielle and Jodie immediately got to work on 18 new pieces that were better suited to Bergdorf's aesthetic. When they returned with their new pieces just days later, Bergdorf bought the entire collection.
From there, the buzz surrounding the line exploded, thanks in part to some press, which captured Beyonce wearing DANNIJO jewelry that had been purchased at Bergdorf. Since March 2008 when the sisters sold their first collection to Bergdorf, DANNIJO has acquired 75 accounts worldwide, including Henri Bendel and Intermix, and their designs have been worn on segments of Gossip Girl and the Today show, as well as on fashion models during New York's Fashion Week. Jodie works primarily on the business side, reaching out to stores, asking to show the line. Danielle focuses on marketing, including updating a company blog where she interviews industry insiders and celebrity fans like Portman.
"A lot of our success has come from reaching out to people and taking advantage of opportunities, instead of waiting for others to do something on our behalf," Danielle says. And she means it, literally. The sisters recently saw NBC's Natalie Morales on the street while they were shopping, and just walked right up to introduce themselves, a newfound connection that eventually led to a segment on the Today show.
Danielle and Jodie, who got their start with $30,000 they saved up in part from their Jacksonville store days, continue to create all of the designs, source materials from around the world, and operate the business with the help of four employees out of their Lower Manhattan apartment. This past summer they launched a college internship program, giving five girls the opportunity to experience everything from marketing to design work.
Aside from their lauded design aesthetic -- which Danielle and Jodie describe as "seamless fusion of edgy rock 'n' roll with an old world sensibility" -- the sisters are confident they have captured a part of the fashion market that many consumers are still willing to spend money on. "We think of our jewelry as an accessible luxury," Danielle says. "Purchasing a great accessory enables woman to access higher fashion while dealing with a smaller budget." Most of DANNIJO's pieces come in under $1,000, with some selling for just a few hundred dollars.
And the mixed aesthetic reflected in Danielle and Jodie's collection is perhaps a reflection of their business partnership as well. "One of our greatest strengths is we have different design perspectives," Danielle says. "But we work off of each other's creativity."