Inspired by family tradition, Ann Williams began making jewelry in her garage, giving way to the launch of Yearly Company. Nearly a decade later, she has built a beloved Nashville-based business specializing in meaningful milestone jewelry and custom commemorative pieces. We caught up with Ann to learn more about the secrets to her success, what’s on the horizon, and the precious story that started it all! Get to know this week’s FACE of Nashville, Yearly Co. founder Ann Williams.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and career trajectory?
I came to Nashville from Northern California in 2004 to go to Vanderbilt (and I never left!). I majored in Child Studies and got my M.Ed. at Peabody. I met my husband in Nashville, and after we got married, I started my entrepreneurial career when I opened a drop-in childcare called Smart Sprouts on Bandywood in 2010. Coincidentally, that space is directly across from our current Yearly Co. retail store!
I closed that business after three years when I had our first daughter. When I was pregnant with our second daughter, I was looking for a creative outlet and signed up for a metalworking class at Vanderbilt. I wanted to create our family’s gold anniversary bangles.
Yearly Company began with such a beautiful story. Can you share it with us?
Over 65 years ago, my grandfather, Stewart, gave my grandmother, Mary Jane, a gold bangle for every year of marriage. This tradition was continued by all of the women in our family, and when we get together, we each have our stacks of bangles that tell our stories. We often gave these traditional bangles to friends on their wedding day, and quickly, the “Simonson bangles” became something our friends and family consistently tried to find. That’s what created the desire for me to start making these bangles in my garage in 2015.
In just a few years, you grew the company exponentially. What’s the secret to your success?
I think the secret to that success is a combination of a beautiful product, a customer base of family and friends, and a lot of hard work with a great team. Because my first customers were my family members, I cared deeply about their jewelry being well-made and delivered on time for those special occasions. I imagined each woman I was making those first bangles for opening her gift and feeling celebrated, and that gave me the passion I needed to work late into the night or during my girls’ naptimes.
I’ve also always sought other women and business owners for advice and inspiration, and my sister, Mary (a cattle rancher and incredible businesswoman), hugely influenced my entrepreneurial drive. I obviously can’t do any of this alone, so hiring great people has made a huge difference in our ability to grow and serve more customers. Our in-house jewelers have incredibly high standards and make many of our pieces by hand. Being surrounded by talented people with skills I don’t have has helped immensely to move the business forward so I can focus on dreaming up the next designs and collaborations for our customers.
Talk to us a bit about heirloom jewelry and what that term means.
Heirloom jewelry may sound a bit like an overused buzzword at this point. But the true meaning of an heirloom is that it can be passed down for generations. At Yearly Co., we make pieces that will stand the test of time in their quality and design. I imagine each piece of jewelry we make being worn by our daughters, granddaughters, and future generations because they’re made of solid 14k gold and represent our stories.
I love the idea of a woman being known for her accessories — that gentle jingle of her bangle stack and that her family can physically inherit an item she wore on her wrist and wear it to recall those happy memories.
What was the first piece of jewelry you created, and what’s your current favorite piece?
The first piece of jewelry I created was one of our Original Gold Bangles. I vividly remember holding a torch in one hand and the solder pic in another hand and being so nervous to melt this piece of 14k gold. When I completed that first bangle, it had a bit of a lumpy seam, but I had created a piece of art from gold wire that I could wear for a lifetime, and I was absolutely hooked after that feeling.
My current favorite piece is our Legacy Birthstone Bangle, a bangle you can customize with up to six birthstones of the ones you love. I have one with two diamonds that represent my daughters (just because I love diamonds!). Taking a new design from concept to final launch can be so much fun but can also include a lot of little tweaks and bumps. When a piece turns out just as I imagined, I love seeing the result on our customer’s wrists and how they make their stack unique to their story.
Are there any misconceptions that people have regarding fine jewelry?
I think the phrase “solid gold” can be confusing as there are differences in karat, and often, a piece will be made of 14k gold but have hollow areas that can’t be repaired if damaged. Every Yearly Co. piece is made of solid 14k gold, meaning our bangles are solid through the center and can always be repaired or buffed out. 14k gold is 14/24 parts pure gold and is alloyed with other metals to give it strength and durability. Plated and gold-filled jewelry can be a great lower-price alternative but isn’t ideal for 24/7 wear or to pass down for generations.
Any myths you hope to dispel?
One myth I commonly hear about fine jewelry is that it simply can’t be worn 24/7. We disagree! The women in our family truly wear our bangles every hour of the day, including sleeping, showering, swimming, working out, and even cattle ranching (my sister just happens to be a cattle rancher, so I have some experience with this one!). We have a lifetime repair policy, and we design our pieces to withstand daily wear and tear so that you can enjoy them every day, year after year. You should regularly check stones to ensure they are secure, but with proper maintenance, your jewelry can be worn regularly for a lifetime.
We look for design elements that make wearing jewelry comfortable and easy, like our click-closed diamond and gold hoops that don’t need to be removed every night. I think accessories should be worn and enjoyed daily, and women are more likely to wear them if we don’t have to think about putting them on daily.
What’s on the horizon for Yearly & Co.?
I am very excited to share that we are renovating our old location on Hillsboro Circle and will be moving our retail location in early 2024! We hope to celebrate with a big grand opening. Our new space will be beautiful and welcoming, and we will offer our full line of products as well as some custom jewelry offerings for our local clients.
What are your favorite ways to spend time outside of work?
I love to enjoy this amazing city we live in by going out to a new restaurant or a concert with my husband and our friends. You can also find me eating popcorn on the couch with my two little girls and our needy rescue dog while trying to get them to enjoy my favorite childhood movies. A walk around Radnor Lake or our Green Hills park near our house always clears my head and makes me appreciate our seasons — especially right now!
What are your favorite self-care practices?
I hire help! I’m very fortunate to be able to do this, and I don’t take that for granted. As a working mom who is married to another entrepreneur, my husband and I spend a lot of time and energy on our jobs and teams. If we can come home to a clean house and have help with our kids, we can really enjoy our family time without feeling like we are constantly catching up. I also love to do a little retail therapy at some of our amazing local boutiques like Emerson Grace and H. Audrey.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
What comes to mind is from Brené Brown, which is “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” As a female business owner leading a team and raising daughters, I remind myself regularly that you cannot get upset about expectations not being met if you never set them. I think there is a way to be direct with feedback and clear in what you’re looking for that’s ultimately much kinder than tip-toeing around what you want. Women are often taught to make everyone comfortable all the time, but that can lead to saying one thing to someone’s face and another behind their back. With this in mind, I try to be a better boss, wife, friend, and mom.
Outside of faith, family, and friends, what three things can’t you live without?
I can’t live without travel, really good food, and a great pair of jeans.
What was your most recent memorable meal, and where were you? My husband and I went for a staycation overnight at Southall in Franklin to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. We had a delicious steak and some incredible sourdough bread while sitting outside on the last warm fall night. I had a delicious tequila cocktail that I need to try to recreate!
What is your favorite go-to gift, and where do you shop for it locally? Owning a jewelry store makes this pretty easy for me. I often stop by our shop on Bandywood to pick up a pair of mini diamond studs for my niece’s birthdays or diamond hoops for my sisters-in-law. But if I’m looking for a simple hostess gift, I love stopping White’s Mercantile for a luxe candle or cute kitchen towel to wrap up with a cold bottle of champagne!
What’s currently on your nightstand? Two novels, three books on small business and leadership, a Laneige lip mask, and probably some artwork my daughters made me. And almost always a Yearly Co. prototype I wore home from the office!
What is the last good book you read? Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore. I love to get in bed early with a book when I have a good one to read!
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