Rustic Cuff: From Hobby to Passion for Jill Donovan

Out & About in Greater Tulsa By EMILY RAMSEY
Managing Editor

NATIONAL POPULARITY: Rustic Cuff founder Jill Donovan, second from left, stands with April Sailsbury, left, senior vice president for the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce; Lynda Wingo, executive director of Miss Helen’s Private School; and Tiffani Bruton, Broken Arrow Chamber board chair and director of public affairs for Cox Communications, at the Broken Arrow Chamber’s Oct. 6 luncheon where Donovan was the guest speaker.

GTR Newspapers photos

A private Facebook page that has grown to nearly 20,000 devout followers in five months.

Online specials that sell out in seconds and crash servers in the process.
Loyal shoppers willing to camp out overnight in lieu of a special offer.

Just another day in the life of Jill Donovan, a transplant Tulsan and founder of Rustic Cuff, her jewelry business of four years.

“Really, I didn’t want this,” she says of her business’ rapid growth since she began making cuffs for fun in 2011.

When Donovan’s fledgling business outgrew her house – “it got to where we almost couldn’t live in our home anymore” – she moved her cuffs and her four employees in December 2012 to an office space at 41st Street and Harvard Avenue.

“I figured that we would mainly be an online business. I said that if I could just sell three cuffs per day, I could make payroll for everyone,” she says.

Donovan’s success has partly come from her ability to take her negative experience on the Oprah Show, where she was a guest in 2004 and was chastised for being a “regifter,” and turning that experience into a Cinderella story that ends with her cuffs being worn by Oprah on the cover of O Magazine.

“For whatever reason, I just knew one day that I would know why that experience (on the Oprah Show) happened to me,” says Donovan.

It seems that she has found her answer.

Donovan began making cuffs in 2011 as a hobby, storing the cuffs in her closet that had once been filled with items that she planned to regift. A few months later, she held a show for friends and sold 200 cuffs.

Since that time, Rustic Cuff has been featured on Good Morning America, ABC’s The View, The Wendy Williams Show and E! News, and her cuffs have been photographed on the arms of numerous celebrities, including Miranda Lambert, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, Sheryl Crow, The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, Dolly Parton and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

“It’s been a snowball effect,” she says. “It hasn’t been one thing that has caused our success.”

Now, Donovan uses her cuffs as a way to spread her idea of regifting or, in other words, giving to others.

Donovan is known for giving away cuffs to those in attendance at her public speaking engagements.

At a Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce October luncheon, she gave each attendee two pink cuffs in recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, encouraging everyone to give one of their cuffs to someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

Though, it’s not always cuffs that Donovan gives away.

Recently, when Donovan spoke at Bishop Kelley High School, she gave $20 to each of the male students in attendance, telling them to pass the money along to someone else.

“I had a mother come into my showroom crying a few days later because of her son’s experience giving his $20 away,” she says. “Now, he gives a portion of money from each of his paychecks away. She told me that it changed his life.”

Addicted to Cuffs, a private Facebook page created in May by diehard Rustic Cuff lovers, offers individuals a way to show off their cuffs and also to talk about how they share their cuffs with others.

“This Facebook group writes amazing stories about how it made them feel to regift a cuff and how it changed their life,” says Donovan.

“What started as my story about regifting-gone-wrong has really turned into this amazing thing.”

Since its beginnings, Rustic Cuff has grown to, currently, 40 employees plus 80 temporary workers, with Donovan planning to open a Rustic Cuff retail location in the Vineyard on Memorial shopping center at 109th Street and Memorial Drive.

“It’s going to provide a really awesome shopping experience,” she says.

While Donovan recognizes that her business’ growth may be inevitable, she’s hesitant about the speed of growth. “I don’t want us to grow too quickly and lose the heart and soul of what we do.”

Because heart and soul is what Donovan puts into her business day in and day out.
“It’s overwhelming and all-encompassing. It’s more than 24 hours a day.
“But,” she adds, “this is not even a job for me; it really is my passion.”

Updated 10-26-2015

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