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A Look Back at 20 years of nora flemingⓇ

Updated: Jun 5

This month, our client, nora fleming, celebrates 20 years of being in business. We are proud to work with this amazing company and their equally amazing team, and are thrilled to be able to celebrate this incredible milestone with them.

The nora fleming story, starting with how the business began, to how it very thoughtfully grew, to overcoming the loss of one their founders, and to moving forward after that tragedy, is truly heartwarming. At the core of their story, is the desire to build a business that does good and honors the importance of celebrating holidays, milestones, and both everyday and special occasions. Their story is filled with grace, hope, and love, and is built upon the desire to build community.

Their Story:

The nora flemingⓇ story began with Nora Napientek and her ambition to honor both her creative and entrepreneurial spirit with her desire to make her family a priority. To marry these two aspirations, she opened an independent, create-your-own pottery shop called Pottery Bayou in Naperville, IL. As she watched her customers create platters and pieces for every holiday and occasion, Nora had an ‘aha moment.’ Rather than having to purchase platters for every holiday and occasion, which is not only expensive, but also creates a storage conundrum, why not create a single platter that can be used for every occasion? On a slow day in her studio, Nora painted and fired a platter, drilled a hole into the platter, and sculpted a little figurine with a small stem at the bottom to insert into the hole in the platter. Viola! With only one base, she created a platter that could be used for any holiday or occasion by simply switching out the figurines (now known as minis).  

Nora began gifting these to family and friends, and then began selling her platter and minis at church bazaars and craft fairs, and they were an instant hit. However, after the birth of her second child, who had medical issues, Nora slowed down the creating and selling of her pieces, so she could focus on her daughter’s health and being a full-time mom to her two young children. Recognizing the potential of her products, Nora’s brother, Jon Neidlinger, didn’t want to let Nora’s creativity end there. He saw that people loved her products; not only for the elegance and simplicity of the platters, but also the convenience of having one platter be used for any holiday and special occasion without taking up too much space in people’s cabinets.  

Jon suggested to Nora that they join forces. He would use his business acumen to bring her creation to market. And that he did! With Nora’s blessing, Jon flew to China and tagged along with a family friend who made finials for furniture as he visited manufacturing factories. With 12 minis on hand, Jon found a factory that would mass produce the minis. They named the company nora fleming  after Nora and Jon’s paternal grandmother.

With the factory secured, Jon and Nora now needed to borrow money to place their first product order. After receiving no after no from bank after bank, Nora and Jon went to their maternal grandmother, who was a retired school teacher living in a small town in Michigan and asked her to lend them $35,000. Their grandmother, who saved every penny, cashed in her CDs, and loaned them the money. That first order was shipped to their parents garage, and in 2005, they participated in their first trade show at the Chicago Gift Mart. Nora is proud to say that she and Jon paid their grandmother back every single cent of that loan!

Working together to grow the business and their team, Nora and Jon hired their first employee, Janice Christensen. Janice and Nora initially met at a mom-to-mom market where Janice was selling her handmade stationery. Janice, formerly a high school teacher, first worked with Nora as a Personal Assistant, and then later, was hired by Jon and Nora to do a variety of roles for the company. Janice’s roles and responsibilities grew as the company grew and evolved, and in 2022, she was promoted to the President of nora fleming

In 2019, nora fleming suffered a tremendous loss. Jon tragically died in a car accident, leaving behind his wife, Britnee Neidlinger, and their 2 children. Nora not only lost her brother, but also her business partner - who she would say was truly the “brains” behind the business side of the company. However, the day that Jon passed, Nora recalls how she heard this voice in her head that she knew was Jon’s, telling her, “You’re going to turn this into something beautiful. You and Britnee can do this.” That gave Nora the confidence she needed to keep going.

As a way to deal with her own grief and to honor her late husband, Britnee became actively involved in the company after Jon’s passing. Britnee, Janice, and Nora through grief, grace, and the desire to honor Jon and keep his legacy alive, truly have built something beautiful. This dynamic trio works seamlessly together and have naturally fallen into their own, unique roles within the company, each one leaning into their different strengths. They all agree; they share the same core values, but each have different skills that benefit the company. They continue to honor Jon and all he did, but also choose to honor the work that they have done since his passing to make the company what it is today. 

Through The Years:

Since its beginning, nora fleming has created approximately 130 bases and 350 minis. They partnered with St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital, and have donated over $860,000 to them with the goal of raising $1,000,000 by the end of this year. In addition to their ceramic bases, they have expanded into melamine platters, cheese boards, and created the Band Together line, which is a collection of ten colorful bands that can be placed around their melamine chip & dip platter to add a pop of color. A portion of the proceeds of each band is donated to not-for-profit organizations that are near and dear to nora fleming. What hasn’t changed is their commitment to working with the independent retailers who helped grow their brand. They also recognize and cherish how much their products mean to people, and honor the community they have built through these products.

Reverie + nora fleming:

Reverie’s relationship with nora fleming began in 2022. Since the beginning of working together, the nora fleming team has treated us like an extension of their family.  It is just who they are. To know them and their company, is to love them. We are incredibly proud of the work they do, the accomplishments they have achieved, and the community they have built. Congratulations, nora fleming on 20 years of being in business and building a company that remains true to their core values.  We celebrate you! 

Reverie’s favorite things about working with the nora fleming team:

Jaid: I love how fun and creative it is! My favorite thing about working with the nora flemingteam is their desire to be authentic. They march to the beat of their own drum, looking at ways to grow, but not at the cost of doing things that do not feel authentic to them.

Lindsay: The people!!! The amount of care they put into their community is second to none. They are kind to all, and ensure that everyone is included. I have so much fun every time I get to work with their team.

Sara: The people are wonderful, and Reverie is welcomed as a real part of the nora flemingfamily. I also love being able to get creative and see ideas come to life. Everyone is open to trying new things to see what works and resonates with the customers. The growth since we started working with them has been amazing - growth in volume and also in the team dynamic. It is motivating and exciting to work with a group that is extremely receptive and accepting of new processes to improve the business.

Annette: I think Lindsay said it best! Their commitment to each other, their team members, their community of retailers, and customers is truly at the heart and soul of who they are and what they do. However, most of all, I love their story! At the center of their story is the importance of family. Does it get any better than that?

Our Favorite Minis:

Jaid: The melting popsicle - I love how fun and creative it is!

Lindsay: My favorite mini changes all the time. Currently, I can't get enough of the piñata!

Sara:  These three are always high on my list - be mine (red heart), juicy fruit (strawberry) and here comes the sun. But slice, slice baby (new pizza) may soon take the lead!

Annette: My very first mini was a pumpkin (which has since retired). I received it along with a rectangular platter as a gift. It was that pumpkin that began my coveted collection of minis and love of all things nora fleming, so I have to pick the OG of my minis as my favorite!!

To hear more about their story, listen to Reverie’s podcast with Britnee Niedlinger, Janice Christensen, and Nora Napientek.

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