With a name like Jade and a daughter called Olivine, you could say that a gem-focused jewellery brand was written in the stars for Jade Howard-Smith.
As the founder of and designer behind Two Green Stones, Jade has not only created a beautiful range of pieces, but also a legacy for her daughter.
So often we hear about mothers putting their dreams to the side when their children enter the world, but for Jade, it sparked something new. “When I thought about Olivine (who was growing into her own person at a rapid rate), her vibrant spirit really triggered something in me. She was such a happy little individual and has this inner strength that I admired so much,” said Jade. “I thought, why should I hold back on my life long dream/passion? If I gave it a go, would it have a positive effect on her?”
And thus, Two Green Stones was born. “This is why Two Green Stones is named after Olivine and myself (Olivine is also a green semi-precious stone),” she said. “It’s a celebration of the connection we have already and the connection I want for our future. I want to be a good role model for her and teach her to live out her dreams, no matter what the circumstances are or the doubts you may harbor inside yourself.”
We spoke to Jade about following those dreams you hold inside yourself, building a business from the ground up, and why she’ll always choose a lifelong piece over a fleeting trend.
What did your career entail prior to Two Green Stones?
I have always worked in fashion actually, apart from my very first job which was working for the company my mother was CEO of. I managed a boutique when I was nineteen then I worked casually for Cue Design, before placing myself in David Jones in the Brisbane CBD store. This was a strategic move as I realised quite early I wanted to get involved in fashion. The exposure to the vast array of beautiful polished brands David Jones stocked was a solid foundation to learn about the industry. While I worked there, I studied Fashion Design full time for 3 years. This was 3 of the best years of my life! I really wanted to get behind the scenes and use my creative skills to map a pathway into product design. I was very hands-on, I loved the whole process and still sew to this day.
As I was finishing my course, I applied for work in Brisbane, where at the time there were limited positions available or fashion brands to work for. I worked for a children’s clothing brand (Bright Bots), and started at the bottom as production assistant. Fortunately I was able to not only to do the production side of things, I quickly moved into quality control, graphic and product design and development (specifications and reports etc). I then chose to travel and when I returned I worked for another children’s fashion start-up brand (Eeni Meeni Miini Moh) for a few years which went onto become quite successful. I handled all the graphic design, and development of the products and some assistance in design. I conversed with our suppliers and also travelled to China on many occasions to oversea our productions.
Unfortunately I had to leave that wonderful job when my husband proposed to me and stated we were ‘moving north for a lifestyle/sea change’. My designing skills were diverted (happily) to landscape, house and interior design as we built our house on top of an uninhabited hill that had absolutely no services. Amazingly due to my landscape designs, the company we had helping us offered me some contract work as a landscape designer. I designed several jobs including some entry gardens to new housing development projects and also a refurbishment of the central garden and recreational area of one of the local private boy’s High Schools.
Then I finally fell pregnant (after years of trying) and we decided that it was a great opportunity to spend the first few years of our daughter’s life, raising her… And hopefully another sibling (this did not happen unfortunately). Once Olivine my daughter started Kindergarten I began to get itchy feet and wanted to feel useful again in other areas of my life. And I felt that creative urge.
What prompted you to launch your own business?
Olivine was really the inspiration. Once I realised we could not have more children, and that she was now leading her own busy little interactive and educational life – it was time to work out what I was going to do.
Being in a regional area like Central Queensland, fashion was not at the forefront of the job listings. I was experiencing some self doubt prior to this and possibly depression, as I felt quite secluded in some ways. I really knew hardly anyone at the time, as I am not really an outgoing person and it was only via activities that I took Olivine too that I started to build friendships and connections.
How was a housewife who has been out of the business for years going to get herself a fashion career again? I looked deep within and the only thing that has ever sparked excitement in my being is art and design (apart from my family). Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to design fashion for a living. And I knew that this would bring fulfilment.
I remembered sitting on the carpet of my bedroom glued to my blackboard on my bedroom wall. I would literally sit there drawing picture after picture, dress after dress, flower after flower, garden after garden and it wasn’t until I was 19 until I realised the significance of this. I have this affinity, not only with fashion but also nature. I love what the earth has created, in all its forms. I love the organic feel of touching something that’s natural, tactile and I’ve always expressed myself through some form of art.
After much reflection, I decided to take the plunge.
We love the story behind the name - can you share the meaning of Two Green Stones?
When I thought about Olivine (who was growing into her own person at a rapid rate), her vibrant spirit really triggered something in me. She was such a happy little individual and has this inner strength that I admired so much.
I thought, why should I hold back on my life long dream/passion or something that I feel I could offer the world? And now, with the way technology is, it doesn’t really matter where you are situated.
If I gave it a go, would it have a positive effect on her? I decided to pitch the idea to my family and to my surprise – they said go for it! So this is why Two Green Stones is named after Olivine and myself (Olivine is also a green semi-precious stone). It’s a celebration of the connection we have already and the connection I want for our future. I want to be a good role model for her and teach her to live out her dreams, no matter what the circumstances are or the doubts you may harbor inside yourself.
In a market that is seemingly flooded with accessories, you’re setting out to stand out from the pack. How do you see yourself differentiated in the market?
Thank you that is such a nice compliment!
I guess my reasoning is that if I am going to do this, it has to be my show, on my own terms, and authentically me. I love natural fibres and elements of nature. I really value them. It is a conflict I know to be using such elements, but that is why I want to go down the slow fashion route. It’s not about quantity and accessibility, more so it is about quality and craftsmanship that lasts.
I love detail, and l don’t want Two Green Stones to be dominated by trends (although it is nice to feature certain elements of them). And the customers I hope to attract are those who buy what they love, ethically-made pieces that speak to them and they feel represents their individuality. It’s about treasuring each piece and steering away from the cheap overproduced products that dominate our stores and retreat after one season to our landfill (not to mention the environmental issues that are caused by this). We make limited edition pieces, and don’t ever plan to overproduce. If we sell out, then that’s great. We can create something new. Besides that, we don’t want to dictate to our suppliers that we need mass quantities of stones etc. We’d prefer to work with what’s already out there, so the demands don’t cause irrational over production and increase customer spending behaviours.
Putting on one item that makes a statement, can make your day into a good one… So much so, you might want to wear it over and over! We don’t expect our customer to buy from us every week or even every month, and we won’t be hassling them to do so.
My design ethic is derived from my love of fashion overall, so I guess what makes us stand out from other jewellery brands is our tactile approach. Our customers are genuinely surprised at how lightweight most of our jewellery is, especially the larger pieces and they always comment on how nice they are to touch. So it’s more than visual, due to sensory stimulation from the softness of the leathers and to the cool organic feel of the semi-precious stones. I think the combination of that and using good quality natural components, means we can produce unique pieces that will last. Craftsmanship is very important also, we never rush a piece and we don’t need to meet massive production deadlines so our quality is never compromised. It is our hands that make them, and we strive for perfection in every piece.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in starting and running your own business?
Hmmm wow this is a hard one to sum up! Time as they say, is always a challenge to manage. To keep the balance in all aspects of your life, I feel is a really big challenge.
Most days I feel like I am only half filling each of my ‘buckets’, other days I might get one or two to the top! Trying to start a business on your own means making sacrifices, and you can feel like you are climbing a huge mountain that never ends. But you just have to keep trying, keep tacking away at that goal. Finding key contacts and individuals that want to help you grow your business is a challenge also, but I think the momentum picks up once you get out there and involved and also offer your help and ideas.
For me one of the greatest blessings I’ve had, is to find the Smart Hub (co-working start-up business community organisation funded by the government). The resources I have had access to as a result, have been invaluable to me as founder and a designer. But I would still like to connect with other communities of likeminded individuals in my particular industry, which can be a challenge when you live in a regional area.
The other challenge is obviously funding… But that’s everyones challenge I’m sure?
What about some of the greatest highlights so far?
Some of the greatest highlights are that I have had some celebrities (Erika Heynatz, Kate Ritchie and english actress Joanne Froggatt from ’The Commons’) wear and like my earrings, so much so that they requested I send them more pieces. That’s a huge compliment. And none of them were paid, it was purely good luck and having a super star stylist friend (aka Penny Hunt)… And hopefully something that brought them joy.
I also did a Business Accelerator course at the Smart Hub, which was a huge achievement for me. My self doubt was heavily weighted down by fear of the ‘running a business’ side of things. Not only did I get taught business and marketing strategy, I met some fantastic mentors who are at the top of their fields and were able to give me hands on support. I learnt so much in such a short intense period of time, I am still working through my detailed list of smart goals!
How do you currently balance the juggle of career/business and family?
That’s honestly a work in progress… As I said, there are many days where my buckets are not full. But I try, and that’s the main thing. I think having lots of energy helps, however I am not the most energetic person around. It’s just lucky I have stamina, stability and a will to make it all work.
Do you delegate or outsource? If so, what are the areas of your life/business that you do?
I am just starting to do this, however most of what we do is done in-house. For the purpose of good time management, I am trying to be more efficient by outsourcing certain tasks. This can be costly though, so sometimes I end up doing it myself if I know I can, to save money.
Do you make time for self-care? What does this look like for you?
When possible yes I do. I love to eat well and overall I feel I am in good health. We have a fantastic local farmer’s market, which I go to every Saturday morning for fresh produce. I also like to exercise, I never dread it. Since the demands on my time has increased significantly, I really do appreciate it when I get the chance to exercise. My husband and I usually exercise together on the weekends and if I can I try to get on the bike through the week then that is a bonus.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
I love everywhere! My daughter asks me all the time, what’s your favourite…? And because I am inspired by art, colour, pattern, texture, textiles, fashion, travel, architecture, the earth and all that’s visually pleasing… I can never ever decide! I just have to open my eyes and there’s usually always something that I find inspiring. I daydream about designs all the time, especially after something catches my eye.
What’s your relationship like with social media? And what do you hope to teach your daughter in this space?
I have a love/dislike (hate is to strong a word) relationship with it to be honest. The lines are always blurred for me, but I am learning to use it and work with it more and more. Like anything there’s the good and the bad side of it. I love it for creative expression and spiritual reasons more than anything, there can be some very inspiring people out there.
Olivine is far more outgoing than me, so she is starting to really fall in love with the fact we can all communicate with the world and on so many levels. I guess being an only child too, this makes up for the absences in her life. But we are very open with her, and I think this brings cyber maturity. She will often show us something and say how inappropriate it is, before switching it off to something else. Her internal instincts is to look for the positives, which I am very proud of. She has also learnt so much by watching tutorials etc, but that is not so social as she does not interact with them. She doesn’t have FB or Instagram yet, and we won’t encourage it. We will let it all evolve naturally, with supervision. She does have a YouTube channel now though – although that’s a project for the future.
You’ve had many influential women wearing your earrings - including Kate Ritchie. Who would be your ultimate customer and why?
Any woman with style and a good purpose is honestly my ultimate customer. I love those influential women such as Kate Ritchie and Erika Heynatz who put themselves out there, and do it so well. They are an inspiration, because you think if they are willing to put forward their thoughts, their individual points of interest, talents and appearance at the risk of judgement, then why shouldn’t we? We are all completely unique and we should cherish that.
What hopes and dreams do you have for Two Green Stones?
I would love Two Green Stones to keep evolving into something we can truly feel proud of. I have so many creative ideas bound up inside that I can’t wait to share them, but realistically you just have to take tiny steps at a time. Ideally I’d like to make it a more global friendly on-line brand. And I am really in love with the idea of keeping most of what we do, local, and help build our community structure within. This does mean our pricing cannot match some other off-shore produced brands, however I feel passionate about helping our communities and the value of that to me is worth it.
What’s ahead for you and your business?
We just released our new wristlet and bracelet pieces, so probably to build upon what we have and evolve into other jewellery pieces and accessories then perhaps clothing in the future. I’d also like to offer ‘vegan’ friendly options to our customers who want to take that next step from ethical to sustainable.