I was honored to be included in the Hoboken Girl's 24 Hobeken and Jersey City Women to Watch in 2024 list. Here is the full interview:
HG: Tell us about yourself, what you do for work, and where you live
JS: I grew up in London and moved to Jersey City in my late 20s. I was working for the Tourist Board for Britain which wasn’t fulfilling for me and I needed a creative outlet. I grew up making crafts and was always making things, sewing hats, making greetings cards, you name it. I would see something I liked and instead of buying it, I’d figure out how to make it. So when I couldn’t find any jewelry that I really loved, I decided to make something myself, I realized early on that I loved making jewelry, I loved how you could make anything from just a piece of sheet metal and some wire and transform it into something spectacular. So making jewelry became my creative outlet for a few years. I started my business and would work on it in the evenings and weekends and in 2015 I left my full time job to pursue my passion full time.
HG: What inspires you in your line of work?
JS: People, connections and my surroundings are my inspiration.
I really enjoy connecting with my customers and creating something special for them.
One of the most heartwarming aspects of my work as a jeweler is the opportunity to create engagement rings using stones from jewelry that have been passed down through generations. These pieces hold stories and memories that are deeply cherished by families. By incorporating these heirloom gemstones into engagement rings, I’m able to infuse new love stories with the history and tradition of the past.
There’s nothing more that I love when presenting the final piece to my customer and seeing the absolute joy that they have when they see it.
One of the reasons I love making jewelry is to bring joy to others. Selfishly seeing customer’s positive reactions to the jewelry I make brings me such joy. And that joy puts me in a vibrational energy that allows me to bring even more joy into my life.
By repurposing the jewelry into something new you’re doing something great for the environment. In this throw-away society that we’ve become, being able to work with gemstones that can be reused and recycling metal so that it can be used in something else is really important to me. I have been using recycled metals for the whole of my jewelry making career and using ethically sourced gemstones is also very important to me.
HG: What are your goals with your business + work in the community?
JS: This year I have embraced challenges, I have realized over the past few years, that for me, challenges are where I grow as a person and it’s good for me to have something to focus on. So, when the opportunity came up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, I jumped at the chance! It took me completely out of my comfort zone, I’m not an outdoorsy person, I don’t like to hike or camp, but being able to raise money and awareness for a charity that is close to my heart (my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2021) was really important to me. I didn’t realize that climbing the mountain would be life changing for me.
When I came off the mountain, I had made new friends and bonds that would tie me to them forever. There were 9 of us on the climb, all strangers and we bonded in a way that only extreme circumstances can bond you with people. We are family now and I just came back from a mini reunion with 3 of the other climbers and in January we are running a 10k in Florida, again for the Michael J Fox Foundation.
But it wasn’t just the other climbers that transformed me, or the experience of climbing the tallest peak in Africa. It was the people of Tanzania that really changed me. I have gotten to know the guides and porters that helped us summit the mountain and listened to their life stories, the hardships they endure and the daily struggles, striving for a better life for themselves and their families. Not only that, but the danger they put themselves in to help others realize their dreams of summiting the mountain. We witnessed this first hand, when one of the porters from a different group fell and broke his leg on the Barranco Wall. The porters and guides carry all of the camp gear (from tents, to tables and chairs, to food, water and even toilets). This all needs to be carried from one camp to the next and one slip can kill you. Sadly the porter that had broken his leg was airlifted off the mountain and we found later passed away from a head trauma.
When we came back to America, I was determined to help the guides and porters that helped us to summit the mountain, so I put together a GoFundMe, to gather money to help them and their community. We have raised enough money to send two Porters to Guide School which will double their income. We’ve enabled one Porter to go to English language school (an intensive boarding program for 6 months). This is a huge commitment from her as it means being away from her son. We’ve also raised enough money for her to go to Guide School once her English class is completed.
We’ve also raised enough money for the wife of one of the Porters on our trip to get an overlocking machine and sewing machine so that she can open up her own sewing business.
In addition to this, we’ve been able to donate money to a local orphanage so that they can get food and a sewing machine to make reusable sanitary pads for the girls, so that they don’t have to miss school and hinder their education.
And finally (and probably most importantly), we’re raising money to purchase hiking equipment that fits the Porters and Guides and keeps them warm and safe on the mountain. Hiking equipment is expensive and is not readily available to the Porters and Guides, so they are reliant on people giving them their hiking gear they no longer want at the end of each trip. I gave them my new hiking boots, my down jacket, backpack, base layers, socks, water bottles, hiking poles, sleeping bag, mattress etc, literally everything I owned, I left there for them. So we’re currently accepting donations of lightly worn hiking equipment or new equipment (we have set up an Amazon Wishlist) and I will be going back to Tanzania in March, with one of the other climbers to deliver everything.
Hoboken Girl interviewed me about the climb earlier in the year, and when I came back someone reached out to me to ask me all about the trip, she is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in February and she and her friends will bring over luggage of equipment for them too. She and I are now good friends and we work out together once a week. So many great things have come from climbing that mountain, new friends, overcoming challenges, serving my community and giving back. These three things are what motivates me to keep going each and every day.
So when I return to Tanzania in March, aside from dropping off the hiking equipment, visiting the orphanage that we were able to provide supplies to and reconnecting with our Porters and Guides, I hope to be connecting with some local organizations that work with female miners and Maasai Tribal women that provide educational opportunities, entrepreneurship, community development, mining equipment etc and learn more from them about the supply chain of ethically sourced gemstones that can be found in Tanzania.
HG: What is your favorite thing about living in the North Jersey area?
JS: I’m sure we all have a love/hate relationship with the Path Train, but honestly the ease of getting around, the proximity to NYC, not needing a car, but still being able to get to where you need to get to is key for me. I love being able to walk to the waterfront and look over at the skyline of NYC, that view will never get old for me and I’ll often walk down there and pinch myself that I live in one of the greatest places in the world. I fell in love with Jersey City as soon as I stepped off the Path Train, it just felt right and it has always been very welcoming to me. I’ve made lifelong friends and even met my husband in Jersey City! I love the community here, the arts community, the community I’ve found in fitness and my lovely neighbors in the Village area of Jersey City.
HG: What are your favorite local spots?
JS: My local spots are either food related or fitness related!
My two favorite eateries are right by me, Future (I just can’t get enough of their fried chicken wings and egg fried rice!) and next door, Sushi by Bou, the sushi speakeasy found in the back of Ani Ramen.
My favorite places to workout at are Jane Do and RowHouse, they both helped me to get into the physical shape I needed to be in to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Jane Do is more than a fitness studio, for me, it’s about the community of women that I have met there, each and every one of them are supportive, kind, strong, powerful and confident women. If you haven’t taken a Tramp class before, go there, they will take care of you and you will have fun, I promise!
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Kerry and the team at Love Locked. They have supported me since they opened in 2015, they are treasured friends and when I go in there, I always get greeted with a warm hug and a friendly chat!
HG: Who are some local women business owners you look up to?
JS: Beverly Parsons runs Jersey Cats, a non-profit that takes care of unhoused cats in Jersey City. She works hand in hand with TNR organizations in the area and organizes fundraising, foster parents, adoptions, social media. Everything that the organization needs, she attends to while working a full time job.
Johanna Wood of Metal Cloth & Wood is another Jersey City jeweler, I have known Johanna for over 15 years and she is such a talented, kind person. She specializes in bug jewelry.
Tinika Green of Glim + Glow. Tinika and I met the year I moved here, she makes the most delicious smelling candles, their aroma fills the room (even when not lit!)