True Bijoux + Howard Fine Jewellers - Lindsay & Stephanie
How did you get started in the Family Business?
L: My sister and I always, worked at HOWARD growing up. However, I never thought I would join the business so it wasn’t until I met a friend of my father’s who introduced me to the estate side of the jewellery world that a light bulb went off. Still I wasn’t sure of my path but at the same time Howard Jewellers moved to the corner of Bank and Sparks and an opportunity to create a new store became a possibility in the previous location. This prompted my journey into jewellery entrepreneurship.
S. I have always loved working in our jewellery store. Creating, exploring, collaborating: the jewellery world offers so much for an entrepreneur like myself who is design driven and loves interacting with people. Growing up my parents would have to insist I go to camp because I would have easily spent my summers at the store. We have always had such a wonderful team of experts working at HOWARD and they have been so generous to share their passion and knowledge with both Lindsay and I. My decision to join the family business as an adult came in my last year at McGill. I was seriously contemplating law school and after much thought I realized that what I really wanted to do was right in front of me. Working in fine jewellery satisfies my passion to create and collaborate with clients and to be an entrepreneur.
”Relationships are the core of our business. Whether it is with our clients, our suppliers or our colleagues, it is these relationships that allow us to work at the level that we do.”
What’s it like running not just one, but two businesses with your sister?
L. Great! It’s a privilege working alongside my sister. We both have different strengths that complement each other and I love brainstorming opportunities to grow both businesses.
S. It is a lot of work. It helps that we each take a lead in a specific store. Working in any partnership requires respect, communication and a shared set of core values.
What was the inspiration for True Bijoux and opening a second jewellery store?
L. A less formal jewellery experience. A bridge between traditional and alternative jewellery. Our focus to to have a fun, friendly, approachable and knowledgeable jewellery environment for our guests. We have ever evolving ready to wear collections from $50 to $5,000 and custom options from any price point. Clients and industry experts often say “Wow, what a cool store, I have never been to a jewellery store like this before” this to me is the greatest compliment and means that we achieved a key goal to be a leader in creating a contemporary jewellery shopping experience that sets us apart and reflects how our clients want to explore and add to their jewellery wardrobe.
Any tips for someone buying jewellery?
L. At True Bijoux we see a tone of jewellery thru our service center that was purchased on vacations. When anyone is on vacation it is a fun and appealing time to shop, the challenge in jewellery is that it is hard to know if you are getting value for your money. Unless, you have a solid understanding of how things are made and the value of gemstones it can be the wild west. When you purchase anything abroad you can’t easily hold the store accountable if something goes wrong. Jewellery has to be cared for and built in such a way that it can withstand everyday wear. I believe it is one of those categories that if you are investing an amount that is substantial for you it does make more sense to do it with someone who you have a relationship with. If you get inspired by a piece while traveling my recommendation is to take a picture of it and some notes and bring the information back home with you and make it a project with your local jeweller.
S. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many of our clients at HOWARD have done their own research. There is a lot of information online and that is a wonderful starting point but to be able to speak with a diamond expert, someone who is accountable to you is the best. The internet has been wonderful for clients in terms of making pricing competitive but we have reached a point now where it is a dumping ground for diamonds that most gemologists would not recommend purchasing. Just because a diamond comes with a piece of paper saying it is a certain quality does not mean that it actually is. This is an unfortunate part of the diamond and jewellery industry and further reinforces my tip to work with someone who is a local expert. Many clients are very surprised to learn that they can have the in store experience at HOWARD and also get the competitive pricing they are looking for.
“We feel our biggest accomplishment is the successful transition between a first and second generation family business.”
Why are collaborations and relationships important to you?
L. My most successful collaborations with other local entrepreneurs and organizations work well because they are what I call a win/win/win, a triple win works for us, them and the guests. Finding local partnerships that compliment our creative vision and strong work ethic, result in cool and interesting projects. I find this type of grass roots thinking invigorating.
S. Relationships are the core of our business. Whether it is with our clients, our suppliers or our colleagues it is these relationships that allow us to work at the level that we do. Our business is a true combination of technical excellence and creative collaborations. Collaborating with our clients is the greatest gift, it is one of my favourite things in the world to do. I love brainstorming and hearing other people’s ideas and then combining them to create something beautiful. It is really satisfying and enriching to work together (client, designer and jeweller) as a team.
What happens in your on-site factory and Gem Lab?
L. That’s where the magic happens. We are so fortunate to have the Bijoux atelier, this is a factory space that allows our guests to experience jewellery making. It allows us to collaborate one on one and take an idea from its infancy all along the jewellery journey; brainstorming, sketching, cad, wax, casting, setting, polishing to finished piece. We also have the world class factory and gem lab on site at HOWARD. The on site gem lab offers our services in diamond and coloured stone brokering, enabling us to be incredibly competitive in the industry. The full custom factory at HOWARD is world renowned. We can do everything from simple repairs to elaborate custom designs. With a team of 7 experts it is an invaluable resource in our business, it is what makes us truly different.
What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishments in the Ottawa business community?
S. We feel our biggest accomplishment is the successful transition between a first and second generation family business. Succession is a difficult path to navigate and it requires a lot of open conversations and willingness to evolve in a way that feels authentic and empowering.
What’s your Favourite Local Ottawa Restaurant for a Friday Night Out.
L. Stephanie and I love to go out together for a nice dinner and a bottle of wine. One of our favourite go to places is Fraser’s. A wonderful, local restaurant.
Stephanie:, you said “the world has an amazing opportunity to invest in education “Can you elaborate on that? Why is education an important focus for you?
S. I have been given so many opportunities in my life and I am very grateful. It is not lost on me that not everyone is given the same advantage. Education to me is the key to giving young people the tools to create the life they want and to break the cycle of poverty. We spend so much money and time as a society reacting to the effects of poverty, in my opinion we are entering the cycle too late. I think we have the opportunity to be ground breaking in our approach and to design a new foundation that supports our young community.
Lindsay:Favourite destination you’ve travelled to so far, and what’s next on your bucket list.
L. I am an explorer at heart, I have loved my experiences travelling the world. A stand out trip for me was Tanzania. When I travel, I like to see the place from a local perspective. Here in Tanzania I had a great friend who lived there help me explore the textile markets. Many people ask me if I shopped for Tanzanite in Tanzania, an interesting fact is that most of the gem quality stones are pre selected by brokers and shipped out of the country. This has also been my experience in other parts of the world, most recently Columbia where I did have many industry connections and still came home with not a single emerald. Next…I am thinking India.