You’ve undoubtedly already seen the ethereal antler tip necklaces of Tess + Tricia—in stores, at trunk shows, or adorning someone you know. Their unmistakably original aesthetic of natural materials and unexpected colors has taken over the local jewelry scene, winning over women one purchase at a time. But behind the catchy name and beautiful jewelry is a dynamic mother-daughter duo—Tessa and Patricia Redmond Webber—working hard to hand-craft these pieces and grow a formidable business together. Patricia co-founded Redmond Products, a professional and retail international hair care manufacturer, with Tom Redmond in 1979. Together, they built it into one of the largest privately-owned hair companies, eventually selling it to Bristol Meyers. As is evident when speaking with her, Tess clearly embodies the same entrepreneurial spirit of her mother, and together it seems they produce an endless stream of ideas, each one helping their company evolve one step further. We sat down with T+T for an exclusive interview about what inspires their jewelry, what they’ve learned from each other, and their hopes for the future.
S&TF: How did Tess + Tricia begin?
TESS: I was going to business school in Colorado when I started to realize there was a certain side of business I wasn’t learning from the program. I’m a very creative person, and I wasn’t expressing that out there, so I came home to figure something else out. I had so many ideas, and my mom had great ideas too, so we decided to try and start a business. We tried a few things that didn’t really fit us, and then we rebranded a bit because people were really interested in the fact that we were a mother-daughter company. So after trying a few different things we renamed our company Tess and Tricia to make it more focused on our relationship and the things we love. The things that influence us are all very natural, peaceful, and happy. And I think that’s reflected in the materials we use, and the colors and styles that have taken us to where we are now, which is great.
TRICIA: When she came home, she had so many ideas, and because of my background, I thought, let’s try it. I wanted to teach her how to start a business and run a company. People loved our first business, when we made our studded bracelets, but that wasn't going to be a viable product. We needed something more. So then we started playing around with the idea of antler tips last September, and people just loved them. So we let the other stuff go, Tess rebranded the company, and gave us a new name and look. It’s been interesting for me to watch her evolve as our company keeps growing. She was a little worried about having enough ideas, but I’m like “oh my God you’re twenty one, you’ve got a lifetime of ideas! Just trust yourself!”
TESS: It’s been really fun. It’s nice because we’re not constantly worried about companies who makes a similar product. We’ve always found many colors or textures that other people do well and we make them our own.
S&TF: Your pieces don’t look like anything else.
TESS: Thank you! Yes, we’d like to keep it that way. I feel like we’re not going into the market to compete—we just like to do this because people like our jewelry. We make what we would like to wear and what we think the ladies around here would like to wear. It’s nice going into a business with that mindset, because it makes it more enjoyable.
S&TF: I would imagine that as soon as you start paying attention to the other guy, you can get sidetracked and lose focus.
TESS: Yeah, it’s scary. I was looking at a couple different companies and what they were doing. I thought, “maybe I should do something like that” and when I tried it out I hated it. What boutique is going to pick us up if we look like everybody else?
S&TF: What draws you to antler tips? You spoke a little bit about your aesthetic being peaceful, happy, and calm, but what in particular about the antler tips are you drawn to?
TESS: We’ve always been drawn to naturally based jewelry. The antler tips almost have this marble-like finish to them—they’re smooth and dense at the same time. One of the things we try to include in an explanation of our company is that antler tips symbolize courage and growth. They mean different things in different cultures, of course, but that’s one meaning that we really like to focus on. It’s a sign of good luck to come upon one, when you know that this creature has gained the courage to shed that part of their life and move forward with the next.
S&TF: Do you do any sort of finish on them? Or are these their natural texture?
TRICIA: They come to us cut this way from a guy in Utah. As you know, the animals drop their antlers every February naturally—no animals are hurt! The only thing we do, aside from the ones we embellish, is just smooth them out a bit so they won’t snag anything. The beads we use are natural stone, we have Egyptian cotton for our tassels...everything we use just has a really great feel to it. And the great thing with the antler tips is that no two are exactly alike.
S&TF: What have been the most rewarding and the most difficult parts of starting a business?
TRICIA: Well there have been tons of rewards. I’ve just seen how much Tess has changed between this summer and last in terms of evolving as a businesswoman. She’s taken over sales calls and she’s managing things herself, which has been great because that’s been the goal: to teach her how to be an entrepreneur. Sometimes people will come up to us and ask to buy pieces that we’re wearing. It’s really rewarding when that happens. At the end of the day, Tess has got some bad hands after doing this all day! She really puts her heart and soul into it. So it’s satisfying when you make something a woman wears every single day. Something she wears to the bone because she just never takes it off. Con wise, we get overwhelmed sometimes and stress out…but we never do it at the same time.
S&TF: Is that something you consciously decided?
TRICIA: No! It just tends to happen like that! And we just tell the other person “it’ll be ok in a little bit!”
TESS: I guess a con would be that there is something about the industry that tempts you to doubt yourself. But a pro is that my mom has taught me not to. There are times when you call on a group of accounts and only two or three call back. With those others, you can start thinking “am I not good enough?” But she’s taught me that it’s simply an opportunity to find other accounts.
TRICIA: That’s also something that comes with experience. I know there are going to be a lot of people who say no. But I’m far less sensitive about it than she is, and it’s only because I’ve been doing it a lot longer. She was in Colorado calling on this cute yoga studio that has a great retail space. And that same day I was calling on an account in Edina. I just walked in there like “hey, how’s it going!” and she was a nervous wreck, shaking as she took things out of the bag. Trust me, I was shaking when I was 21 and taking shampoo out of the bag! It took so long. It took a lot of nausea and stomachaches and sweat at her age.
S&TF: Speaking of experience, what is something you each wish you knew 5 years ago?
TRICIA: On a personal level, after going through a divorce, you have to take a hard look at yourself and consider the choices you’ve made, and use those things as a chance to evolve. People can come out the other end of that really sad, alone, scared or insecure. You don’t want to see those things in yourself, and you don’t want other people seeing those things in yourself. Five years ago was when I really started to evolve out of that stuff and get to a point where I was completely happy by myself. And I knew that if I lived the rest of my life alone, I would have a good life. And then you’re in a place of emotional security. So I wish I would have known before then that I would have strengthened the weak areas that I saw in myself and actually come through it really well. Women can't tie their happiness to a relationship--you have to tie it to yourself. You can’t depend on other people to create this happy life for you—you have to deliberately do it yourself.
S&TF: Its so true!
TESS: I would have told myself that sometimes the things that pull you off the path are better decisions than the ones you were planning. I’m a person who likes to have 10 years planned out: this is what I’m going to do in school, this is when I’m going to graduate. But something came in out of nowehere and kind of washed that away in college, and that’s actually when all of the amazing things started happening. I found out that structure is good but when there’s too much of it you prohibit yourself from doing things you wouldn’t normally do. I thought that I needed to go to this big university and have this big college experience. I was going to join a sorority and be like every other girl older than me. And when I veered away from those things I found the opportunity to do things I would’ve never thought of doing. We started this company, I had some spare time and joined a fitness competition, and I definitely did things differently than other people my age. A lot of people want to make you feel like that’s the wrong decision. I may not be at frat parties with my friends, but I’m happy with what I’m doing.
S&TF: When you were growing up, what did you learn from your mother about business?
TESS: I thought it was so cool that my parents were equal on the caliber of their careers. I had a teacher in one of my classes literally tell me women can’t be CEOs.
S&TF: Did you say, let me get my mother on the phone?
TESS: I said, I’ll call you in 10 years and let you know where I’m at. I had my mother as that example so I knew better. I always saw my mom as the figure I wanted to be. There was never anything in her I wanted to avoid. All the decisions I saw her make were ones that bettered her as a person and as a mother.
S&TF: Where do you see the business in 5 years?
TRICIA: Our goal is to get the business in a position where it can support Tess when she graduates from college in two years. She has so much creative capacity and I think she'll continue to come up with really good designs right out of her core. We've had a lot of success just here in Minnesota, so I think in five years we could be doing really well; we're really excited about taking this to other cities. One of our philosophies is that we buy everything in the United States. We could buy our tassels from China but we make them by hand. Another thing that’s important to us is to do good in our community. We started working with Perspectives, a non-profit in St. Louis Park that provides transitional housing and support to homeless and at-risk families. They specifically help a lot of single mothers get back on their feet who may be dealing with addiction or abuse. So for some of our bracelets and necklaces, we’ve started putting together kits with all the things you need to make the pieces, and we take them to a woman at Perspectives who’s doing her program perfectly. It's now her part-time job. That’s a really big deal to us and we would love to grow the business enough to pull more people in like that, from our community, and give them opportunities. This woman is great. She’s more organized than I am! We would love to create more opportunities right here, where we live.