Sheet Harbour goldsmith growing business during pandemic

·4 min read

SHEET HARBOUR - As a side hustle, Jessie Marshall started making custom jewellery for a pair of friends who asked her to make their wedding rings.

She described working with them to achieve their vision as a “personal and sweet experience.”

“The process of making custom jewellery is collaborative – the outcome depends crucially on who I’m working with and their preferences,” Marshall said in an email to The Journal.

Last fall, she applied for and was accepted to the Nova Scotia Self-Employment Program, a provincial initiative administered by the Halifax-based Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development [CEED], which focuses on ensuring the business an entrepreneur is pursuing is viable.

“I’ve been attending online classes, writing a business plan and researching what it will take to run a business online through the pandemic,” she said.

Marshall’s plan includes applying for funding which will go towards equipment to allow her to be more versatile in her practice.

She gave considerable thought to opening a business under challenging and trying times.

“I’ve always wanted to run my own business and the changing circumstances of the pandemic gave an opportunity,” Marshall said.

Jessie Louise Design is up and running, with the 30-year-old making custom jewellery and developing a line of made-to-order products that are available on her business website.

“My decision to pursue this avenue is also based on my background in digital product design,” Marshall explained. “I use 3-D modelling software to plan and render my designs – which is an asset to a business that I’ll operate primarily online. When I’m unable to meet with clients in person – the ability to send them true to life images of their design before is so helpful."

She said supplies come from across Canada and the United States, as there are no precious metal suppliers in Nova Scotia. During the pandemic, she noted postal service has been unpredictable causing shipping lead times to become an issue and causing delivery of metals and gemstones to be delayed.

Marshall’s previous employment hasn’t been jewellery related – managing projects, designing display fixtures and – in general – problem-solving for projects that stretched her scope.

“This was a taste of the diversity of work I experience as an entrepreneur and I found that I liked it. Each of those opportunities gave me perspective of what it means to own a business in Nova Scotia and the measures that are taken to market, procure inventory and connect with those who are collectors,” she said.

Marshall decided to come home to her rural Sheet Harbour roots last fall.

She said living here “… grants me the support of a community that was so nurturing when I grew up here. As a young artist I felt very encouraged and bolstered by those around me.”

Marshall remembered the Seacoast Trails Art Association inviting her to workshops, events and opportunities that she wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. The group also provided her with a bursary when she went to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD).

“It’s such a blessing to come back to that and grow this new thing within the same support,” she said.

So far, the goldsmith said the pandemic has not affected sales.

“People are still looking for a genuine connection and trust in the people they do business with and – even more so – [they are] looking to reach out within a pandemic. Having a jeweller is just like having a family dentist … the idea is that we take care of you.

“I make finely designed, one-of-a-kind jewellery and that can look like anything from an engagement ring to that brooch you’ve always wanted, to a special gift for a loved one. I love collaborating with each new client and working with them to bring what’s in their head to life,” Marshall added.

The jeweller uses Instagram, Facebook and her website – jessielouisedesign.ca – to market her design services.

“Social media marketing is an effective strategy to reach people through a pandemic. It’s entertainment, advertising and connectivity all wrapped up in a package that can be leveraged by small businesses,” Marshall said.

Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal