For Fred Magnanimi, owner of handcrafted jewelry manufacturer Luca + Danni, his business is more than just a company. It's a personal tribute to his brother Danny, who passed away at age 33 after a year-long battle with cancer. During that battle, Danny became committed to reviving the Magnanimi family's jewelry manufacturing business; it became something Danny could look forward to building after his recovery. When that day, sadly, never came, Fred took up the torch and carried forth Danny's vision; he founded Luca + Danni in honor of his brother. Magnanimi went behind the business plan with Business News Daily to discuss the business, its success, and the monument to his brother that Luca + Danni has become.
Business News Daily:In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Fred Magnanimi: Luca + Danni creates handcrafted jewelry, all of which are designed and manufactured at the family factory in Rhode Island. Known for our signature “top of the wrist” bracelets, Luca + Danni has quickly grown into one of the most sought after jewelry brands and is now carried in more than 800 retailers across the U.S. and Canada.
BND:How long have you been in business?
Magnanimi: Luca + Danni was formally launched in August 2014 and was created out of a design element that we just couldn’t walk away from; [it's a] bracelet design that focused on having the charms sit on the top of your wrist, similar to a watch concept.
My family has been in the jewelry manufacturing business for over 60 years; called Mag Jewelry, the company creates custom jewelry and gifts with a focus on clients in the religious market.
BND:Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Magnanimi: Yes and no ... I had a great team of people, including my father, that had a lot of experience with manufacturing. So we understood better than most new companies that important element of production and fulfillment and were able to leverage a lot of the infrastructure from the existing business. The real motivation was the product design, as I was absolutely convinced that we had designed something unique, something truly innovative, and something that would be ‘disruptive’ to a certain degree in the bracelet industry. From that gut feeling, we moved very quickly to get products out to market and, like most start-ups, the business plan evolved from that point as a fluid plan. Our only real plan at the time was knowing that the plan was going to change. Our initial expectations of what would be a good yearly revenue number is now what we do in less than a month, so clearly I underestimated the strength of the product and the brand in the beginning.
BND:How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Magnanimi: We bootstrapped things in the beginning with a little bit of capital but, luckily, the business was cash flow positive and self-sustaining almost from the beginning. On the part of myself and my father, we quickly saw the opportunity to leverage the existing manufacturing business – where most of the clients were now buying product from overseas – into the new company, as we saw its long-term potential as a strong emerging brand.
BND:How much did you invest personally?
Magnanimi: Financially speaking, I’ve had to put money and resources into the business, but it’s something I’ve truly enjoyed, so I’ve never viewed it as a burden. My former career was in investment banking, where the pay is far more lucrative, as you can imagine. I’m building a brand and a platform that allows me to do some pretty cool things and long-term, it’s a business that’s a reflection of me and my team. I don’t think there’s a dollar value in looking back at what we’ve created.
BND:Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset or has it changed significantly over time?
Magnanimi: Absolutely not and I’m steadfast in my belief that you have to embrace the willingness to adjust course as things play out. I envy people that have firm, long-term visions of what they want to accomplish. While I certainly have a long-term view of what I want to create, we’ve always had the mindset of evaluating things in real-time and not being afraid to either change things if they’re not working or increase the scale of things when the direction is positive.
BND:What are some lessons you’ve learned? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
Magnanimi: An old mentor of mine is a venture capitalist and he’s told me a few things that have helped in growing the business. The most important lesson is that my job as the entrepreneur is to hire the best possible talent, build the team as I see fit, and create the right culture within the business. Results almost always come from having great people that believe in the mission of your business and have “ownership” in making sure that the long-term goals become a reality. I’ve also gone into this with the mindset that I’m going to leave it all out there. I’ll look back on this and say that I gave everything I could have and made the best possible decisions given the resources and information I had at the time. So far, I’ve done a good job of sticking to that goal.
BND:What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Magnanimi: We have a great team of people that share in my belief that we have a superior product. We embraced the idea of trying to figure things out as we go along and, while not perfect, we’ve done a good job of being nimble and adaptable based on how things are working. We’ve stayed authentic to who we are; trying to emulate others that have been successful is normally not a good business plan, regardless of what industry you’re in. Lastly, we’ve taken a lot of risks. Failure … is often the best lesson and the things that I’ve failed at in the past have, in my opinion, prepared me better for this opportunity.
BND:What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Magnanimi: We have a more concrete business plan that will take us close to an eight figure sales number within the next 12 months. That’s up from a few hundred thousand dollars in 2014 and the growth is something we’re really proud of, as it validates our belief that we have something truly special.
Our distribution plan has changed based on the scale of the business and there is now an increased focus on trying to create the best possible experience with our consumer while staying true and authentic to our mission. We’ve put an increased focus on digital marketing and our e-commerce business as it allows us to efficiently and effectively communicate with our consumers, and it’s a great way to express the message behind our brand.
BND:What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Magnanimi: Don’t be afraid to fail. As I’ve become more involved with start-up businesses, the more I realize that you need to embrace the notion that not knowing everything is actually a good thing; it means that you can create the path on your own terms.