Spotlight on - Nisheeka Cruickshank Ralph
At Spotlight, we got the opportunity to talk to Nisheeka Cruickshank Ralph, independent business owner of The Journee of J’rissa.
I’m originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a chain of 32 islands found in the Caribbean. I migrated from St. Vincent in 2004 to attend University where I pursued my degree in LLB Law which I completed three years later. At that time I also got married and my paths, just like a river, changed slightly but one day I shall return to my original destination. Whilst I meander into the various curves of this river (smile), I’ve started this jewellery line where I make statement earrings and other accessories out of polymer clay. They’re handmade in small batches and often not replicated thereby ensuring that you’re wearing something that’s unique and adding just that little extra to an already jazzed up outfit or to turn a plain outfit into something you’ll see on the runways of high-end fashion shows.
My business is called the Journee of J’rissa. Journee is the name of my son and J’rissa is an amalgamation of my dad’s name, James and my mum’s name Norissa. The premise of the name surrounds that which I gave birth to and those who gave birth to me, with my creations being a reflection of me.
Since becoming a wife and later on a mother to an intelligent and energetic 8-year-old, my life pretty much centred around them. It was home, work and church on Sunday. I felt stagnant as if there was no growth within me. I called it my mid-life crisis… but not quite mid-life or depending on what stage counts as mid-life these days. I’ve always been into fashion, I love getting dressed up and part and parcel of an outfit are the accessories. I love a statement earring, the bigger, the prettier, the flashier for me. I had a former colleague once comment, that I love Pat Butcher earrings and she wasn’t lying. I’m all for the bold, different and beautiful when it comes to my accessories which is what I aim to pass on with my handmade pieces.
My biggest challenge has been marketing. As bubbly and outgoing as I am, I’m not one to put myself out there to be judged and part and parcel of producing a handmade item is that I’ll be subject to this. Some people are great at selling salt to the sea and that’s not me. I’m very good creative wise, which is why you’ll always have loads of options when it comes to the accessories available. However tapping into my market, trying to find people that share the same passion for accessories like myself has been a challenge.
I’ve still not overcome this challenge but it’s definitely a work in progress. One of the beauties of running a social media business is you’re able to tap into this massive market once you can figure out how the algorithms work...I’ve not done that yet. However, what has happened is that I’ve found various groups where I can advertise my items and in turn, those who have purchased spread the word via their posts and that increases my customer base. It’s not only customers but other creatives as well have shown me and my accessories so much love that even their followers have come along.
Drive and determination
My dad died when I was very young leaving my mum a widower at the age of 33, having to raise 2 children on her own with whatever she had. That was no mean feat but she was determined to make sure we had food, whatever little it was; that our education was a priority and that we succeeded. That’s the ethos that’s taken me through whatever I decide to put my mind through; to push through despite the circumstances.
A promise to buy is only that! LOL. I remember when I started out I had people requesting various pieces and when it came to completing the orders they practically disappeared. On a positive note, I’ve also learnt that besides the high street, there’s a host of independent sellers out there who are extremely creative and supportive.
Remember to research and do it well. Start on a small scale to see if it’s something that will work and then scale up. Surround yourself with positive people but not those who are ‘yes men’. Instead with people who will encourage you as well as offer you advice where an area can be improved on. Remember to do what makes you happy!
Highs and lows
The best part of my business is the whole creative aspect, from coming up with the concept of the earrings, executing it and packaging it up when purchased. It’s like watching your baby grow. The marketing would definitely be the worst part only because I’m not great at it. It can be disheartening putting all your effort into an item only for it to have little to no traction and it just doesn’t get sold.....when there’s definitely someone out there this piece will suit perfectly.
I’ve continued as normal during this pandemic, limiting my post office visits to twice a week. I’ve continued with creating my accessories as I’m able to do so from home safely.
It’s actually a bit of an odd one as I’ve seen intense growth since the pandemic started and lockdown was put in place. I suppose this is a result of more people spending time doing online shopping. I suspect it might slow down slightly now but I’m aware of the fact that people’s spending powers will change and a £10 earring might not be at the top of that list. Over the next couple of months, I hope to offer some deals to ensure that people can be #TrendingWithJJ.