Nancy Zylstra – Swanky Belts

Frustrated that she couldn’t find the right belt, she took an antique brooch, and using semiprecious stones, transformed it into a belt buckle.

Nancy Zylstra then visited a local store simply looking for input and was instantly told to “get your order pad out!” With this validation, Nancy began making more belts with different adornments on top. It was 2006 and she quickly realized she could create a business with her own line of belts. She came up with a name, logo and more samples and hit the pavement. Visiting local boutiques, six stores ordered 12 – 15 belts each. She was in business.  (BUY the Gold Cross Buckle Now)

Now Nancy needed a workroom. The loft above her Southport, CT garage was it. The ping pong table became her work table and distribution area. She says, “It was wonderful having a home office to sneak off to early in the morning with a cup of coffee before my family woke up or while my children were finishing their homework in the evening, and get a few buckles made and orders organized.” Her husband and daughters were incredibly supportive, helping her pack and deliver her belts to area stores.

When customers wore her belts on vacation to various locals, the belts were noticed, and soon store owners from New York to Florida were calling. Client models and word of mouth spread the news about her cool designs. At her first NYC trade accessory show in the Spring of 2009, she got orders from several stores including the Ritz Carlton for their hotel boutiques that were all over the country and the world.

Realizing she needed help and space, Nancy secured an official work room close to home and hired another mom to help her fulfill orders. And then another big order came her way. In 2010, Calypso ordered belts for 16 locations. She hired more help, and looked to moms as employees, who all work around their kids’ schedules as well.

Nancy thinks of her belts as, “jewelry for your waist.” In multiple colors and layered adornments ranging from crosses to shells to graphic designs , there is something for everyone. “I love that I have created my own business in an area that I had experience with, that part is very fulfilling,” Nancy says.

“The hero of my belt has always been the buckle,” she says, but Nancy believes it is still important to continue to evolve and grow. She has added more unique styles and a variety of colored and textured leathers, as well as handbags and leather inspired jewelry to complement the belts. The latest season has brought several new belts centered around an equestrian theme.

What does the family think, “They love the excitement my business generates in the house. I have two daughters, 17 and 20, who love the belts and even ask me to design certain styles for them. It’s great in-house feedback.”

Belts in the VentureMom Shop reflect 10% off and use coupon code “venturemom” when shopping on Nancy’s site.

VentureMom Tip
Work out of your home until you have enough business to warrant outside space and help.

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