Handmade Beaded Jewellery Store Finds An Online Outlet
Marlene Kwandibens, a creator behind Em-Jay-Kay Beading Plus, always dreamed of the e-commerce space for her brand but could never find the time to build it. When COVID-19 hit, cancelled events forced her to look for other sale avenues and during the Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, she found her solution. The ShopHERE Powered by Google Program offered the guidance Marlene needed and now she is a proud owner of a new online store!
Em-Jay-Kay Beading Plus offers quality, handmade beaded jewellery and artwork that uses Japanese Delica beads to combine versatility and creativity in their designs. Marlene represents a driving force behind the brand, and is a self-taught artist of the Delica Bead medium with 16 years of experience. Marlene often draws inspiration from her Ojibway roots of Whitesand First Nation on the Northern shores of Lake Nipigon. The name of the brand also pays homage to letters written in Ojibwat text, special to Marlene’s mother and grandmother.
“I am a self-taught beader who needed an extra income stream when my son was young. Beadwork became my passion once I developed my skills further and could realize more bead designs,” comments Marlene.
Her beaded pieces and sewn crafts have gained recognition across Canada due to Marlene’s attention to detail, and evident aim for near perfection in her items. Marlene has also used fabric in some art pieces and ceremonial skirts. She presented these products for the ‘Celebrating the Creators’ installation, Thunder Bay Art Gallery and the ‘From the North’ Installation of Ontario Craft Council using art to express a cultural lens of her life experiences. Em-Jay-Kay Beading Plus website now offers four different collections of her art: bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces.
Apart from creating her beaded artwork, Marlene always seeks to share her knowledge of beading experience with other women through teaching. She also supports a motto of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in the creation of her crafts believing in using antique beads and other items from yard sales and thrift shops in Canada.
Through the ShopHERE Program, Marlene believes that the process of getting an online store setup has been very easy as she had resources to learn about the e-commerce platform and its features. “I’m not a code person at all and worried that I may miss the mark on my website design but the Shopify templates made the process seamless,” she commented.
“The website looks fantastic and I can manage it on my own.”
Marlene highlighted she could always ask her Coordinator for any additional assistance. “There were some shortfalls on certain products that were varied and unique but my ShopHERE Coordinator, Adriana, was instrumental in finding solutions for me,” explained Marlene. “She was accommodating my schedules and kept me on track. We launched the website in just over a month!”
When asked about whether other businesses should join ShopHERE, Marlene offers a definitive ‘yes.’ “I have recommended the program to my friends and helped answer many questions related to the setup of the website!” The entrepreneur believes any business could benefit from the program and e-commerce:
“The available templates suit all types of businesses: stores that offer one product or a full-scale retail store with many items. The templates allow for enough optimization to warrant an online presence.”
Apart from signing up for ShopHERE, Marlene encourages business owners to overcome COVID-19 effects by sharing their expertise with communities.“Reach out and talk about your experiences whenever possible. We all need more connections right now to stay sane and the extensive network will always be important!”
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.