How My Son and I Created a Family Jewelry Business From the Ground Up

CONQUERing founders Tammy and Jake Nelson.
CONQUERing founders Tammy and Jake Nelson. Photography by Maddie McGarvey.

Tammy Nelson built an Inc. 5000 company as a side hustle while working for another Inc. 5000 company.

Growing up in Wisconsin, young Tammy Nelson dreamed of becoming a professional dancer in New York City or L.A. Despite the slim odds of any girl making it in that rarefied realm, her mother only ever expressed complete belief in her daughter. Though Nelson, 52, ultimately exchanged her tap shoes for a successful career in marketing, she’s always looked for ways to harness the fearlessness her mother instilled in her to make others feel just as supported as she did. That led her to build her fidget ring brand, which she runs as a side hustle with her son, Jake. It is now one of the fastest-growing jewelry businesses in the land, and No. 478 on the 2022 Inc. 5000. But first they would have to fuss over the ring’s fidget mechanism. –As Told to Rebecca Deczynski

My mom instilled in me an unequivocal belief that anything is possible. I always thought that everyone must think that way, but over the years I realized that most people don’t. My mom gave me that gift. After she passed away from brain cancer in 2010 — too young, in her 50s — I set out on a mission to spread that feeling of empowerment.

In 2011, I launched a line of motivational-quote key chains. It was fairly successful, but I felt like it wasn’t totally effective. So, in 2018, when Jake was 19, we started brainstorming a product that people could interact with every day. As fidgeters ourselves, we landed on rings.

He designed a 3-D prototype out of paper, which we converted into digital art and 3-D-printed at the Cincinnati Public Library for 20. But it would be nearly two years until we launched our first rings. Our biggest pain point — and our biggest factor of success — was the interchangeable design of our rings.

I made piles and piles of prototypes trying to get the two parts to click together perfectly. People love spinning, but even more than that, they love to click — just as they click a pen or tap their fingers. It’s a really satisfying feeling. I was close to calling it quits, but Jake — bless his heart — said, “No, Mom, you told me from the start this was the No. 1 most important requirement. We’re not giving up.” The mechanism turned out to be very intricate, so we hired an engineer to figure it out. Then, we secured a utility patent for our design. I searched for companies that make Disney’s enamel pins, and found our manufacturer that way.

We launched in January 2020. Jake suggested we get on TikTok, and we had our first viral moment that August. It completely sold us out, and I had to drive to every Michaels in town to buy jewelry boxes. Then he went back to college for his senior year, and I had to figure out how to run our TikTok business myself.

Since then, we’ve had lots of viral moments on social media, especially TikTok — once we sold about $40,000 worth in one day — but they are feast or famine. In 2022, with my son working on the business full time, we built our own email and SMS lists, expanded to Pinterest and YouTube, started doing paid ads on Google, and moved into retail. That’s allowed us to reliably plan our inventory and hire the right number of people. Now, viral moments are icing on the cake.

I work on CONQUERing at nights and on weekends — by day, I’m a marketing executive at an Inc. 5000 insurance company. And while it’s challenging to balance both, the business is my passion. Working with my son, we have to find ways to separate business from mother-son mode more, but it’s been one of my greatest joys. It’s given us so many opportunities to be together, while working on something so rewarding.