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Women-owned business brings permanent jewelry to area

Knotted Chain owners aim to inspire their daughters with hard work

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August 23, 2023

SUAMICO – Hoping to capitalize on the lack of a permanent jewelry (a piece of jewelry that’s welded together instead of secured with a clasp) market in the Green Bay area, sisters-in-law Kendra Kuehl and Karen DeBaker started the Knotted Chain.

“We had been looking for a good opportunity to start our own business for a while, something that would be laidback,” DeBaker said.

Kuehl said they are always looking for a reason to do a girls’ night or go do something fun.

“We had heard of permanent jewelry, but there wasn’t much of a market around here,” she said.

DeBaker works full-time in finance, while Kuehl works from home in marketing, but together said they make a great team.

“Back in the day, there was home party jewelry that Karen sold, and I can crochet, but we were never brave enough to take those to the next level,” Kuehl said. “Finally, we decided this was it, we’re going to do it.”

After some research, the sisters-in-law decided to take the first step, and before they knew it, they had filed for an LLC.

“We’re natural-born business partners,” DeBaker said. “Kendra is creative, trendy and fashionable, whereas I’m more on the business side of things. Permanent jewelry is especially cool to me because I’m not a big jewelry wearer, primarily because I have to take it on and off. I have a full jewelry box I hardly ever touch, but now I don’t have to take it on and off every day.”

In terms of roles, Kuehl said she fits the jewelry and handles marketing, while DeBaker does the micro-welding and executes the business aspects.

“She always says, ‘I don’t want your job,’ and I always say ‘I don’t want her job’ – it’s perfect,” Kuehl said.

Permanent jewelry trend
DeBaker said permanent jewelry is removable with kitchen scissors or wire cutters and can be reattached if it is cut at the weld site on the jump ring and brought back.

“Permanent jewelry is claspless and custom-fit, which allows for dainty design, and it’s micro-welded together to be long-lasting,” she said. “It can handle up to 15 pounds of pressure – we do want it to be able to pop off if you hook it on something and need to pull free.”

Kuehl said permanent jewelry also appeals to people who can’t wear traditional jewelry because of their occupation.

“We’ve learned a lot of people can’t wear bracelets because they work in nursing or healthcare, but they still want to have that creativity of expressing themselves and feeling pretty, so we’ve done a lot of anklets that work with people’s day-to-day lives,” she said.

Kuehl and DeBaker said leading up to launching Knotted Chain, they researched permanent jewelry and even took some online courses on micro-welding.

“We learned about gold-plated, gold-filled, solid gold and sterling silver chains,” Kuehl said. “They all react differently to heat. We decided to work with gold-filled and sterling silver.”

Kendra Kuehl fits a bracelet for a customer at Knotted Chain. Submitted Photo

The sisters-in-law said they are planning to add rose gold chains to their selection in the coming weeks, as well as six new chain designs.

“There have been a lot of chains that are out of stock, or delayed in shipping, but we’ve been trying to plan in advance to handle that,” Kuehl said. “We buy U.S. products, which has helped us avoid some of the supply chain issues.”

Both DeBaker and Kuehl said their daughters were a big inspiration for starting their own business.

“We want to be teaching them what it means to work hard, that girls can do hard things,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl has one daughter, age 9, and DeBaker has two, ages 8 and 10.

“That’s why we have three knots in our logo, for our three girls,” DeBaker said. “There’s a lot of symbolism in our work. All of the chains are named after important ladies in our lives, like our daughters and moms.”

Though off to a great start, Kuehl said launching the Knotted Chain wasn’t without its challenges.

“When we first started, it was hard,” she said. “Karen welded through some of the jump rings, so the chains wouldn’t close, and I remember my mom coming over, and I couldn’t get the jump ring to line up.”

Undeterred, Kuehl and DeBaker said they kept practicing until they felt confident in their abilities.

“Our girls saw us struggle – but we didn’t get upset, we didn’t fight about it and we didn’t give up,” Kuehl said. “Now we can do the whole process, start to finish, in two minutes. We want to teach them to be hard workers and independent girls, and we want them to take risks.”

The sisters-in-law said other members of their family also served as inspiration for the Knotted Chain.

“My dad passed away last year, and that was a big factor for me because he didn’t make it to retirement,” Kuehl said. “I realized I wanted to take that leap now because tomorrow is not a given. I wear a ring with his thumbprint on it, and we have a laser coming in so we can do custom engravings like that for our clients.”

Portable setup
The setup for the Knotted Chain is portable, which allows DeBaker and Kuehl to bring their business anywhere.

“We have a couple of big events coming up in the next month, which is exciting,” DeBaker said. “We’ll be at the grand opening of the Howard Commons Activity Complex Sept. 3, their Oktoberfest, the Two Rivers Ethnic Fest, some girls’ nights and a couple of craft fairs.” 

Thanks to its portable nature, Kuehl said Knotted Chain allows them to meet a lot of people.

“And it’s a relaxed environment – it’s not pushy at all,” she said. “We can enjoy ourselves, and that’s what we wanted – more of a girls’ night out versus a sales environment.”

Kuehl and Debaker said they are hopeful Knotted Chain will grow as they create more relationships in the Suamico area, but are also focused on creating manageable growth.

“There is potential for long-term growth,” Kuehl said. “And in time, we could open a brick-and-mortar storefront and expand into other kinds of jewelry. But for now, popups are perfect.”

Kuehl said much of the Knotted Chain’s rapid growth can be attributed to social media and word of mouth.

“There’s a learning curve, but putting ourselves out there on social media and contacting local businesses has created a good amount of clientele,” Kuehl said. “We didn’t want to start huge right away, we needed to practice to make sure we had our system down. 

A balancing act
DeBaker said the transition from working one job to running a small business on the side has taken some adjustment.

“Kendra has a flexible workspace during the day, whereas I don’t,” he said. “But that works because her marketing needs to happen during the day. My kids are young enough that they go to bed early, so I can do the business side of things during the evening – the taxes and the LLC.”

Luckily, the duos said they have the support of their families.

“Our girls and our husbands have been active in this, which has been helpful, and my mom, too,” Kuehl said.

Find out more and book events on the Knotted Chain’s Facebook page.

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