Jennifer ’05 and Kimberly ’05 Gennace, graduates from the College of Applied Science and Technology’s (CAST) apparel, merchandising, and design program, have always had an eye for jewelry and design. Whether it was working with embroidery thread, beads, and other materials to express themselves or selling their creations to their classmates, the sisters always delighted in the creativity and experimentation offered by jewelry making. Today the sisters continue to pursue their passion through their own design label, IANNECI, founded in 2008. ForeCAST, the college’s newsletter, caught up with the sisters to find out what it takes to run a brand focused on style and fashion.
ForeCAST: IANNECI is a unique name. How did you select it?
Jennifer: IANNECI is our last name in Italian, which is the inspiration behind our brand, a heritage that is authentic as we impart new traditions of craftsmanship to a new generation. IANNECI is pronounced E-AH-NET-CHI.
ForeCAST: How would you describe the brand and style?
Kimberly: IANNECI launched with high-end craftsmanship, authentic design, and bead innovation. IANNECI is created out of a bond that we share to unite women, explore a dreamlike journey, and to share the value and worth of creators.
ForeCAST: What were your first steps in making this vision a reality?
Kimberly: Our key steps in creating our jewelry label were testing the market with our product, seeing what the feedback was, and fine tuning our product. Once we knew we had a product worthy to show buyers, we reached out to local stores and then turned our focus to national retailers.
ForeCAST: What would you describe as the fun part of your job?
Kimberly: The most rewarding part of what we do has been the collaborations we have been a part of. We get to work with some amazing creatives who help us to push beyond our limits. We also get to travel to NYC, a great source of inspiration to us, as we source new materials and take in the surroundings.
Jennifer: For me it is the moments when you’re continually being challenged and taken to a new level of creativity and innovation in design. It is such a fascinating thing that happens organically and is one of the most rewarding things about our business.
ForeCAST: What unexpected challenges have you encountered along the way?
Kimberly: Juggling between many different roles and having to change your mindset from a creative to a business person.
Jennifer: I think for me, it’s to continually find and create that magical formula for success and find what works and what doesn’t in business.
ForeCAST: Are there challenges in partnering with a family member?
Kimberly: We are lucky to have each other as we pursue our business. It is hard to find someone who is on the same page and has the same passion for what we do. We both bring different strengths to our business and help push each other beyond our comfort zones.
Jennifer: I look at working with a family member not as a challenge, but an advantage. Two are better than one, and we are able to support and bounce ideas off each other to create a great working relationship.
ForeCAST: What do you have to do that others might not realize to make your label a success?
Kimberly: We make sure to dream big and figure out the small steps to get us there. We try to be successful at one thing before we move on to the next thing. We look to everything as an opportunity and collaboration to guide us into the next phase of our business.
Jennifer: We do a lot behind the scenes to gear us up for success. Some of these activities include planning for marketing initiatives for social media, gaining inspiration for new jewelry designs, scouting out the best retailers to partner with, and reading top industry magazines such as WWD to keep on top of what our competitors are doing and what they aren’t doing.
ForeCAST: How did your time at Illinois State help prepare you to act on such a bold dream?
Jennifer and Kimberly: Our time at Illinois State prepared us for our entrepreneurial journey as we were able to use the time in school to experiment with design aesthetics; travel abroad to open our eyes to new heights; be exposed to resources that were at were at our fingertips like becoming a teacher’s assistant for the fashion design students, learning master skills like portfolio presentation, and merchandising; learn the behind-the-scenes of fashion show production; and get involved within the community and take on an internship with a local fashion designer who took us under her wing and taught us about owning your own business, getting a product marketed, and producing a great quality product.
Learn more about Kimberly and Jennifer Gennace and IANNECI at ianneci.com.