Manly Bands is a direct-to-consumer seller of men’s rings. The company launched in 2016 after John Ruggiero, the co-founder with his wife Michelle, couldn’t find a suitable wedding band.
This is Ruggiero’s second appearance on the podcast. In April 2021, we discussed the company’s founding, unique ring materials, and more. Since then, Manly Bands has acquired its manufacturer. The making of rings from, say, Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels or Fender guitar strings creates compelling video, says Ruggiero, perfect for storytelling on social media and elsewhere.
The entire audio of our conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Give us a rundown of what you do.
John Ruggiero: My wife, Michelle, and I started an online ring company called Manly Bands in 2016 to solve a problem of wedding bands for men. We were just married. I have large fingers and couldn’t find a ring that I liked that was not overpriced. My options were ordering from a catalog or having something custom-made.
I ended up buying from a website. The ring arrived in a flat mailer, with no box or customer service. It was a horrible experience by today’s ecommerce standards.
We got married, moved to Florida, and needed a job. We told ourselves, “We’re both entrepreneurs. Why don’t we create our own business?” We discussed the types of problems we’d seen and how to solve them. My ring experience came up, and we opted to try to solve it for other guys.
Our goal when we started was to pay rent. We thought making a couple thousand dollars a month from this would be fantastic. We considered it a lifestyle business, not high-growth. It was just Michelle and me in our garage designing rings and sending them out to customers. We had hit on something. Our message resonated with prospects.
Michelle and I make an excellent team. I come up with ideas, and she’s the implementer. A lot of our success goes to her creative mind. She names the rings and develops personas. She connects the rings to customers. Describing a ring solely as “eight-millimeter black” didn’t cut it.
We designed rings from unique materials, such as Jack Daniel’s barrels or special metals. The business took off. Since then, we’ve grown dramatically. We now have over 55 people in the Manly Bands family. About half of those are ring artisans who work in our recently acquired manufacturing shop in Utah.
Bandholz: When did you acquire a manufacturer?
Ruggiero: About a year and a half ago. We had been their customer for years, so we knew them well. Most of their business was wholesale, which didn’t interest us — going to mom-and-pop jewelers. They retained their wholesale customers and brand name. We acquired some of their assets and brought over employees.
Bringing on a manufacturing team has been one of the best things we’ve done. It’s been incredible to go out there and watch them make rings out of Fender guitar strings or metal from an M1 Abrams tank.
Bandholz: How does in-house manufacturing impact marketing?
Ruggiero: It’s been huge. Taking a camera to the other side of the office and filming the team using lathes to cut the metal rods or whiskey barrels into rings makes for incredible video. We have our camera crew out there all the time. We use that footage on our social media and in our ads and newsletters. We try to promote that because most companies in the men’s ring space don’t manufacture. They drop ship or order from overseas and then ship it out. But we want it to last a lifetime and be something people can take pride in.
We’ve had a lot of success with our military heritage collection, where we source unique military materials. We have the M1 Garand rifle stock, the wood part, from World War I. Watching our team put that in the lathe and cut a piece out for a ring is fascinating.
Our marketing for those rings talks about the history, the soldiers, where the weapon was used, and things like that. My wife and I studied filmmaking in college. We use our skills to educate and tell a story. For instance, I recently received an email from a customer who shared that his grandfather used to drive M1 tanks. The customer gifted one of those rings to his grandfather, and they had quite an emotional exchange. It’s nice to help customers connect with their past and create something meaningful.
Bandholz: Where can people buy a ring from you?