Callie Lackey & Sue Nichols, Co-Founders, Dessie Marie: Jewelry With a Powerful Heritage

The NextWomen September Food & Fashion Theme.

Historically jewelry has played a tremendous role in cultures all over the world--sometimes as a representation of status, beauty or protection.

The two entrepreneurs behind Dessie Marie, Callie Lackey and Sue Nichols, have found in jewelry something even more precious: not only a business, but a friendship that will bind them for a lifetime.

Out of Callie and Sue’s vast combined experience within corporate sales, community development and marketing, along with the fortunate acquisition of several fine and exquisite pieces and a desire for the freedom to pursue their ambition, the concept of Dessie Marie was born.

The “It” Factor that speaks to Dessie Marie’s extremely high potential for sustainability in the direct selling industry is marked by Callie and Susan’s desire to connect with their customers, who become lifetime loyalists of their brand. Exceptionally beautiful pieces compose this collection of great quality jewelry that includes mostly genuine, precious and semi-precious gemstones to meet every taste and budget. Educating their prospective clients regarding the products, the meaning and significance of the gems and latest styles and trends lends an air of sophistication to the purchase experience with Dessie Marie, making the patron feel as if they are an aficionado.

After attending a gathering featuring Dessie Marie’s product line, I had the pleasure of connecting with Callie and Sue, modern style mavens and brilliant entrepreneurs who are amazingly down to earth.

We spoke to Callie and Sue about the amazing female hero behind their company's name; about their 'pay it forward' business model; and about how they measure their success.

TNW: What is the concept of Dessie Marie? What is the meaning behind the name?

D.M.: The concept was built on freedom. Freedom to be present and available in your own life and to those you love while doing something that you love while making the world just a little bit better along the way. The name Dessie Marie comes with a bold heritage.

Dessie Marie is the birth name of Sue’s beloved grandmother who rose from poverty and abuse to notoriety as a licensed female contractor in Indiana in the 1950’s.

A male dominated industry – her personal fortitude and sheer determination led her to be one of the best in her chosen field. She stands in our minds and in our company as a pillar of strength and a beacon of light that illuminates the inner strength of an unwavering woman determined to transform the world around her. To this end, it is of vital importance to Dessie Marie LLC. that we as a company not only supply the baubles and beads of external beauty but also the everlasting jewels of internal beauty to all of our valued patrons and those we serve through charitable gifting.

TNW: How is your jewelry company different from any others?

D.M.: Dessie Marie is owned and operated by Sue Nichols and myself and is a Pay it Forward Direct Sales Company.

Our product speaks for itself. With few exceptions, all of the gems are genuine, precious and semi-precious gemstones. The metals follow the modern trend of sterling silver or sterling silver bonded with 18 carat gold or platinum. They will not tarnish or chip over time. The prices are intentionally low so our valued patrons can share the joy we have in making the jewelry available to them.  Most importantly is the fact that 10% of ALL Dessie Marie proceeds go directly to charity. (See information below about the charities Dessie Marie Supports). Our valued patrons know that they are investing in the lives of others both here and abroad with each dollar that they spend!

Lastly, just as the first ring was gifted to us, we plan to identify individuals in the future who are looking for something with more freedom and personal success than their current position offers and gift them with their first round of inventory and position them for success. Many direct sales companies require a buy-in to initiate the process – we have removed this obstacle to success and likewise require each stylist to then groom and invest in others as they begin to experience success. This is the Pay it Forward Model of Direct Sales that Dessie Marie believes in firmly.

TNW: Why is it important to you that a portion of your direct sales go to charity and all who are involved to do the same?

D.M.: For us, it is a commandment and a duty. Moreover, it is a passion. Through our physical struggles, we were both so blessed by the kindness of others we developed a strong need to pay it forward and so we did and will continue to do. Something magical happens when you take a moment and share in the plight of another; you are forever changed and bonded. In a world where technology has largely replaced personal social connection and interaction, it is vital to maintain our humanity through intimate acts of selflessness.

TNW: In the world of Entrepreneurship timing is everything, when and how did you know that Dessie Marie needed to be established?

D.M.: Some companies are born by market research and others are driven by market demand.

Dessie Marie was born from a serendipitous moment, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for internal and external beauty.

To tell you about Dessie Marie I really have to take you back a few months in time to a very painful moment (with a happy ending of course). It all began with a rare Siberian Russian seraphinite ring! Sue, my sweet friend and now business partner, was fighting the battle of her life with colon cancer. A dear friend of both Sue and myself gifted each of us with  an angelic Seraphinite ring (named for the silver striations of mica that run through the ring and mimic angel wings in flight) keeping one for herself. Seraphinite is thought to have healing powers. As soon as Sue began to heal, I began experiencing significant neurological problems and am currently undergoing evaluation for a small growth on my pituitary. Although we are separated by geography our bond has been strengthened by prayers we continually utter for one another while holding this ring tight and garnering strength by the undying deep friendship that this ring symbolizes.

Along the way we began to be captivated by many other gems as we learned their meaning and studied their natural beauty. As time passed the collection grew and a company was born….. Dessie Marie LLC. We simply knew that we had to share this journey and the beauty of these beautiful gems with others.

TNW: How do you measure success?

D.M.: Several ways…As women are complex, so are the measures that weigh in on success.

Patron “Instant Gratification” success – This success is measured by the patrons “Aha” moment. The twinkle and smile as she gazes in the mirror and imagines the venue or event and the company that escorts her as she wears the piece she has just selected to purchase. It’s a fabulous moment.

Personal Freedom – The moment where I answer only to my patrons and not to a boss that sees the world differently than I do.

Each day I know that I am blessed to be my own boss and lead others to be the same. That is a day fulfilled.

This measure of success, of course, also encompasses the rewards of being a mom that’s available and present with my family.

Charitable Success – This is by far my most personally monitored measure of success. The more lives we are able to improve and futures we are able to secure, the more successful we believe ourselves to be.

TNW: What have you learned about yourself as you have embarked on the launch of this business?

D.M.: Well, because the creation of this company developed from a physical health battle we have learned more about ourselves than ever imaginable. Building a company is a walk in the park compared to facing death and uncertainty of life. We are not in control. That’s it. It is a simple universal truth but complex. We do the best to manage what we have been given and at the same moment realize it is not ours to possess. in business where control seems paramount this seems counterintuitive This opportunity has allowed us to cut out all the distractions that seem to be “Fires” and focus on the reality of the moment.

We are focused, calm and most importantly not obsessed! Life is comprised of more than what we do for a living – this is powerful when fully grasped.

TNW: Is this the beginning of many more business endeavors?

D.M.: A resounding Yes! This is just the beginning.

For more information about Dessie Marie and the story of Callie Lackey and Susan Nichols visit www.dessiemarie.com. More on the charities that Callie and Susan support: Okoa Refuge (http://www.okoarefuge.org/) & Mercury One (http://www.mercuryone.org/)

Octavia Smith is an experienced and licensed securities financial services professional whose career has spanned the gamut of community development within the non-profit sector to banking as well as investment services within the finance industry.

The experience she gained in these positions has increased her curiosity in writing about the brain trust composed of women professionals and entrepreneurs who are shaping the global workforce with innovation and women's wit. Her written work has appeared in editorial columns of local newspapers and syndicated magazines as well as short essay contests.

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