The founder of Nashelle jewelry says her Bend-based company is on the verge of insolvency, and her Old Mill District store is behind on rent because of her business partner’s mismanagement and sham financial transactions.
“Nashelle is my life’s work, and I stand to lose everything that I put into the company without the Court’s immediate assistance,” Heather Collard stated in a declaration to Deschutes County Circuit Court, where she and her husband, Ryan Collard, are suing their business partner, Skye Guina.
Meanwhile, Hardalee LLC, the entity through which Guina took her minority stake in Nashelle, has filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve Nashelle LLC. The lawsuit says it’s not practical to carry on the business under terms of an operating agreement that the Collards and Guina entered into in February 2017.
Nashelle, which also sells its handmade jewelry online and through other retailers, has a history of generating $1.5 million to $2 million in annual revenue, but both sides agree the company is in bad shape. “The company is out of money,” Guina’s attorney, Rob Royal, said in an email included in court documents. The question seems to be who is to blame.
The Collards’ lawsuit paints a picture of a successful business that ran aground after the owners handed control to Guina. They say Guina shut them out after they raised questions about a purchase order from T.J. Maxx that appeared to go unfulfilled and a loan from an entity controlled by Guina, which Nashelle was repaying with interest.
“Our lawsuit is: What happened to the money?” said Ryan Kaiser of Broken Top Law, who represents the Collards. The Collards are seeking economic damages of more than $57,000 and noneconomic damages of $150,000 each. They also asked the court to appoint Ryan Collard as receiver, which is a court-appointed manager. Because of the financial condition of the company, they couldn’t afford to pay a third-party receiver, according to court documents.
Kaiser said he didn’t represent the Collards when they met Guina and her husband, Eric Guina, who live in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I do know, though, that Nashelle at that point in time was going through some growing pains,” he said. “The Guinas were going to bring in some much-needed operating capital. They sold my clients a bill of goods. They basically got their 49 percent of the company for nothing.”
The Guinas insisted on entering an operating agreement, which was drawn up by their attorney, Kaiser said. The agreement named Skye Guina manager of the company.
After the Collards hired Kaiser, he discovered that Skye Guina, formerly Skye Rubadeau McRoberts, pleaded guilty to felony forgery in Alaska, where a trial court docket shows she owed more than $30,000 in restitution.
The operating agreement for Nashelle also called for paying Heather and Ryan Collard each a $70,000 salary, plus health insurance benefits.
The Collards say Guina took away their salaries last fall, when they started asking questions about Nashelle’s finances. But the lawsuit brought by Hardalee LLC says they agreed to give up their salaries until the company had enough cash. Guina discovered more debt than had been disclosed, according to the lawsuit, which also alleges that the Collards kept corporate funds for personal use.
The Collards had full access to the company’s financial records, and Ryan Collard had check-writing authority, the Hardalee suit says.
“My clients generously agreed to loan money to the company when they were having cash flow problems,” said Royal of the law firm Tiffany & Bosco in Phoenix. “Mr. Collard paid back a lot of that money.”
Heather Collard “doesn’t have her facts straight,” Royal said.
Guina left the company April 6, and most of its employees quit shortly afterward. Royal said Nashelle had 21 employees when Guina left. He didn’t offer a specific reason for her leaving.
Guina would not consent to appointing the Collards as managers of the company, according to the Hardalee lawsuit, because they’re “unfit to serve.” The Hardalee suit, seeking dissolution of Nashelle, was filed May 1, but Guina has not responded to the complaint filed by the Collards on April 13.
“We’re interested in seeking a resolution through negotiation,” Royal said.
The two sides agreed this week to hire an accountant who will sort out Nashelle’s finances with Ryan Collard as limited manager of the company, Royal said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7860, email@example.com