Since Nina Berenato graced the Austin Woman cover in June 2019, she’s embraced new opportunities while staying true to her mission.

Photo courtesy of Nina Berenato

By Cy White

The Zoom window opens. A young woman, surprisingly young, graces the screen. Nina Berenato isn’t shy, possessing an honesty that isn’t exactly commonplace among the Hollywood elite. In fact, she’s as far away from Hollywood as you can get, yet her creations continue to capture the attention of some of the most powerful women in entertainment. She counts Houston superstars Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion as clients. Her most recent job again made headlines: providing Angelina Jolie with an eye-catching chin cuff she wore on one of her first red carpet appearances in almost a decade, for the premier of another Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, {Eternals}.

“I didn’t even know it was going to go on Angelina,” Berenato reveals. “I get a message from her stylist, Jason Bolden, who’s a very famous stylist. He’s got Alicia Keys, Gabrielle Union. He’s never worked with me before, but I’ve been emailing him for 10 years,” she says with a laugh. “So finally after all this time, all these years of being like, ‘Hey, Jason. I’ve got this new collection.’

“Rachel, who works in the store with me, says, ‘Hey, you got this order from somebody, and they need it tomorrow.’ I say, ‘Who is it?’ and she says, ‘Jason Bolden.’”

New Opportunities

Again, her eyes light up, the memory still sending tremors of excitement through her. “They wanted all the face pieces, the chin cuff, and I thought it’s for one of his regular clients. Of course I would have no idea he’s working with Angelina Jolie because she hasn’t been out. So I’m scrolling through Instagram the next day, and I see a picture of Angelina Jolie and her kids. I zoom in and I’m like…”

The sound that comes out of her mouth, what sounds like she’s choked on her own gasp, accompanies an animated flourish of her hands. “Then the next day my website starts going, ‘Ring, ring.’”

She reveals another chance opportunity. One that came purely out of her desire to reach out to a beloved figure in the fashion industry. “Lizzo came about because her stylist is a gay guy. He’d had an interaction where someone basically threw a hate slur at him. I wrote him a message and said, ‘Hey, I just read about what happened to you and I feel bad. I just want you to know that you’re so beloved in the fashion community. You’re a genius, you’re amazing. Don’t let this get you down.’ Then he wrote me back and said, ‘Thank you so much. Can you send me some stuff for Lizzo?’ So sometimes these things just evolve and come about.”

Not bad for a self-proclaimed nerd who has a deep adoration for Greek and Roman mythology. Her connection to the goddesses reigning on Mount Olympus famously informs the art she adorns equally powerful women in music and film with.

The Challenge of Change

“I do create with powerful women in mind,” Berenato says. “But it does sort of blow my mind that all these badass women are actually saying, ‘Yeah, totally, this does make me feel powerful.’ The fact that Angelna Jolie wanted to wear that on [one of]her first times out in public for eight years blows my mind. That whole situation was so crazy.”

Embracing change. Leaning into the challenges of the world’s ever-shifting landscape. Berenato is seemingly made of this: tenacity and the guile to move wherever a new opportunity presents itself. Even when the idea isn’t her own.

Forever Bracelet

“The Forever Bracelet came from a customer who came into the store. [She] asked if we could weld a bracelet straight on her, and I was like, ‘That’s a weird request, but yeah, I can do whatever you want. My studio’s right back here.’ While I was doing it I [asked her], ‘Do you think this is something people would really want?’ She said, ‘Definitely. I’ve seen some people do it, and they love it.’

“So it’s definitely not us inventing the wheel. The one thing we did differently was making it into an activity you would do with someone that you love, like a bestie set, or a mommy and mini set or creating an intention with it and then cutting the bracelet off when you accomplish it. [That’s] what really drove people to the bracelets. I’m able to do them at a really great price; we were able to market that super well, and it immediately got people’s attention and took off. I put it on TikTok that we’re going to open this Forever Bracelet bar. And I think that video got a million views. The next day the line was out the door. And it hasn’t stopped. It’s been really fun, but there again, that took us totally off-guard.”

A Year of Growth

Berenato’s is one of the few businesses that managed to flourish amid the craziness that enveloped the world for the past two years.

“This year has been one of the greatest growth years for my business,” she admits. “My business is mainly a brick-and-mortar store. So evolving that, coming out with our subscription boxes, ways to connect with our community that were a little less face-to-face. We’ve just been rolling with the punches this year.”

When utter chaos reigned and uncertainty wrapped its claws around local small businesses, she didn’t panic. She made a list.

“All of the showrooms and the ways that celebrity stylists would typically get fashion items in New York and L.A. were all shut down. So I came up with a way of contacting stylists directly, because usually I would work with a rep. I went on Instagram and basically got all of these stylists’ emails myself. Built this big spreadsheet, started contacting them directly and saying, ‘Hey, here’s all of my line. I have samples here. I’ll send it to you in the mail.’

“That kind of opened up this whole new system of communicating with stylists that we’d never done before. We kind of brought it internally, and now we ship everywhere straight out of Austin. I don’t know anyone else who does that.”

Then it was time to get to work. Being a small crew allows for Berenato to connect with other local small businesses to ensure she can churn out a product that turns heads. “We work with really small makers like ourselves,” she says. “[It can be] one person who works alone in their shop that does stone-setting with us. Being able to work with other small businesses that may just have one, two, three employees allowed us to continue production. We were able to ship our ecommerce stuff. We do make every single product within the shop and can produce things a lot quicker than when you’re importing and exporting. Which has also been the great thing that’s helped us to work with some of these celebrity clients because we’re able to make it so fast. You have a need, we can fill it faster than other people who have to import things.

A New Frontier

With a direct line to stylists, Berenato was able to explore a whole new world of opportunities. Opening Pandora’s infamous box and accepting everything that comes out. And just as with Pandora’s box, fear of the unknown can and does cause one to question if taking the risk is worth it. When the option to expand her Austin-based jewelry store to Houston (home of some of her most notable clients) arose, she hesitated.

“That’s always scared me,” she admits, “because I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna like it. I just love being at the store. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to bring the juju that we have here to somewhere else. And it might just mess everything up.’ My therapist helped me. She was like, ‘That is totally rooted in fear. You create your own path. You can still be at the store in Austin every single day making jewelry and have a Houston location.’ Being able to utilize that location as a way to make the same type of impact for women in Houston and just continue to spread that, that is what got me really excited.”

Purpose Driven

Photo by Dallas Riley

To this point Berenato has been somber in a way that denotes the type of introspection she’s shown a few moments throughout the conversation. Being a young woman with a small business that caters to both local clientele and Hollywood elite certainly takes a mature mind and the ability to recognize moments of necessary reflection. But once she grasps the idea of having her cake, eating it and sharing it with others, that youthful enthusiasm comes roaring back. “I was like, ‘Wait! Okay, this makes sense. We can make this work now.’ Because at first it was like, ‘What’s the purpose?’ [Purpose is] so deeply rooted in who I am that it’s not hard. I’m pretty clear. If it doesn’t match, I can feel it.

“But it took me a minute because I never thought I’d get to the place where I’m at currently. And when I got there, I was like, ‘Uh-oh. What do I do now?’ There was a time of pause where I was grappling with whether it was my abilities that were getting me stuck, like ‘Can I not move forward? Is this outside my ability? Or is it mental? Am I holding myself back here because I’m scared to move forward, or [because]I haven’t spent enough time to even opening my eyes to possibilities wider than this for myself?’ I built what I built, and I’m proud of what I built, but I do struggle sometimes with the feeling that I can take myself further and trusting myself. I think that’s something a lot of founders deal with, but obviously female founders even more so.”

In the couple years since she graced the Austin Woman cover, Nina Berenato has launched a couple new collections, started plans on opening a pop-up shop in Houston and, yes, made headlines for more of her creations gracing the visage of powerful women in entertainment. She welcomes each new opportunity with grace and immense enthusiasm. And she’s never lost sight of her mission, of her desire to uplift local women-led businesses.

Opening Pandora’s Box

“As we were thriving, we were super aware that not everybody was having the time we were having or had the resources that we had to continue,” she says. “We tried to make sure we were connecting with our community of makers even more. Last year we did the Making it Together Auction where we basically had one item [each]from about 150 female makers. We [used]our website and had this huge auction and were able to sell things for 50 times what they were worth. We still did our Holibabes Holiday Market in person with some small tweaks, and we were really able to crush it for some awesome local women. So just keeping our mission in the forefront and being a little bit creative on how we can get around some of these roadblocks I think was really the key. Our community just became even closer.”

Nina Berenato: creative, entrepreneur, a woman for her community. Despite the Hollywood attention and allure, she remains the same young nerd for mythology and wants everyone around her to succeed. The same woman who didn’t want her name on her business, so instead named it after Psyche, her favorite Greek goddess. Her new collection, named after Pandora, looks at the other side of the legend. Yes, opening the box unleashed some bad, but it also released a great deal of good. “There was also hope locked in the box,” she says. “This whole collection is keyholes, and it’s the idea that we are the box. We have all the hope inside of us, and we just have to let it out.”



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