Gay Dad Family Stories

9-Year-Old Girl Starts Successful Jewelry Line With Help of Gay Dads

Riley Petersen is 9 (!) and already a Creative Director, with the help of her gay dads

Riley Kinnane-Petersen is 9 years old, enjoys playing tennis, being with friends, has a pet cat, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her two dads, John Petersen and William Kinnane. She's also the official Creative Director of a successful jewelry line she founded with the help of her dads. Two years ago, John even quit his day job to assist in the day-to-day operations of the jewelry company.

What began as a long road to adoption for William and John, has become a thriving creative business, and more importantly a family.


John (left) and William with Riley at their wedding, 2014

John and William met 17 years ago via the Yahoo Personals – "Ha! When they existed!" said John. Both wanted children and began the adoption process after being together for 4 years. "Adoption was the best option for us as we so badly wanted to be parents," said John. "If we could find a baby or child that needed parents, then it was a win-win."

The four years that followed were filled with heartache but John and William persevered knowing their child was out there. They were matched several times with birth moms, but for one reason or another, they didn't work out. In 2008, William and John looked after a baby for a week in California before the birth mom and dad changed their minds.

John with Riley

"That was very hard for both of us," explained William. "We knew our baby was there and that we still had to keep our hopes high, so we flew back that morning and started the process again so that we were ready for when another birth mother called us."

They pursued open adoption as the men wanted the birth moms to be open and honest with them on how they were feeling. When they were matched with Riley's mom, they were cautiously optimistic, excited, nervous, and filled with love. They were there for her birth in California: they had found their daughter.

Once they brought Riley home, William and John began to collect vintage jewelry for her, imaging that one day she would want to play dress up while "she danced in an imaginary costume ball," said John. Since neither of her dads wear jewelry, they began to search thrift shops, antique stores, and asked friends and family for any they no longer wore. "Within a few short months, we had collected a treasure chest of amazing jewels."

One of Riley's first memories of her treasure trove was putting on every single necklace and bracelet she owned - which was a lot - and looking in the mirror. "I remember thinking this was AMAZING!" shared Riley. In 2015, she began to tinker around with making jewelry from the collection from her dads. "Riley showed a knack for making jewelry so after dinner she and John worked on necklaces together," said William. "Using her fine motor skills, she learned how to tie knots, use pliers, and tweezers as she developed her own line of necklaces." Riley then went on to sell her pieces at her summer lemonade stand, and then on her website. Today, her creations have been sold in stores around the world, including J.Crew, and mentioned in magazines such as Babiekins and Vogue!

"She is the official Creative Designer of her business so as the business has grown, we have had to hire amazing employees to help us," said John. "Her role consists of coming up with new ideas, workshops, photo-shoots and more!" The dads have agreed that as long as Riley is having a good time, learning from her business and is truly enjoying it, then they will support her and see where it goes.

"My dads have always encouraged me to try new things," said Riley, "from styling my own room, trying out my own fashion choices, to seeing what works and what doesn't with my jewelry line."

In 2016, John quit his day job to support Riley and her business. "I was coming home from my 9 to 5 and working all night shipping orders," he explained. "Now that I get to do this full-time and get to work with Riley on a regular basis, and see things from her perspective, it has been so rewarding." He loves their time together and shared that seeing her create has been a wonderful thing. And Riley loves working alongside her dad. "Even when things can get serious, he is always smiling and knows how to make me smile," said Riley.

Riley's favorite thing about her business has been the creative side and sharing it with others. "I love putting together new ideas, and really love seeing kids wear my jewelry." And her dads could not be more proud of their daughter.

"Everything she does makes me proud," said John. "I am so proud of everything she has accomplished with her business, but it's the fact that she is kind and loving… that is what makes me the proudest."

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