This week’s Ms New Brunswick is Christa Martin, who owns and runs All the Pretties, a handmade jewelry business. Christa is simply amazing. She started her business after her fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis prevented her from working a traditional job. Christa turned to jewelry making as a way of staying busy and creative, and ultimately drew the attention of so many people she was able to sell some of her work. As a young 30-something, Christa has already undergone knee and hip replacements and deals with chronic pain daily. Yet she remains unbothered, and continues to create magic in her craft room, and give generously of her time and energy. She is careful to take care of herself, and so doesn't have huge aspirations for her business, though she is looking to grow it a little bit. I can hardly describe how positive and upbeat she is, and how infectious her demeanor is. She is a truly special unique woman, creating special unique pieces for all to enjoy.
Tell me about your business.
All the Pretties is my little handmade jewelry business. It’s funny because I don’t think of this as a real business. I refer to myself as an artist/artisan because I don’t have a plan to make this a big thing. It’s my side hustle – something I do for fun and to fill my time. I make sure to only work when I feel up to it or I need to clear my mind.
How did you get started?
I used to work in Early Childhood Education, but I had to stop working due to my illnesses. I was devastated and felt like my life fell apart. My job was my life, and I had to grieve both my beloved career and the person that I was. I had to take some time to reflect on who I was without that part of my life anymore. I had always been crafty and so one day I made myself a pair of clay rose earrings. People asked about them all the time, and I started making pairs for friends and family. It sort of grew from there, and it’s been a lifesaver. It gets me out of the house, helps me socialize and talk to people. It’s my happy place. I am a different Christa now, but I am a version that I really like.
Chronic illness. I have a few conditions. As a child my bones became arthritic. Osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. I have had a knee and hip replaced already. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in my early 20s after years of investigating. These are majorly painful conditions. My pain threshold is pretty high but there are some things that will flare it, like humidity. If the barometric pressure changes I also can get really affected.
What do you love about your business?
I love interacting with my clients and making something that makes them happy. When I meet someone and they like something that I made I get a lot of joy out of that. It is validation that I’m doing something worthwhile with my life. My business came out of a difficult time for me the fact that it brings people joy is magical to me – that something so good could come from something so difficult.
Has the community been supportive?
I have been really blessed. My surrounding area, Dieppe, Riverview & Moncton have been amazing. I have been approached by people to do awesome collaborations. I am in a few stores, and people always support me when they see me at a craft show or local market. I also have a wonderful network of like-minded makers in the area that lend me advice and support when I need it.
I’m a strong believer in community not competition. It’s amazing to be inspired by others in the industry. I’m a massive advocate for collaboration between makers, openness and helping others who are starting out. It can be a challenge to find the balance between protecting yourself and your products, while being inclusive and open to helping others. Sometimes it will go wrong and you may get hurt, but at the end of the day I feel strongly that it’s the right thing to do. Not that long ago I had someone really take advantage of me, and that was a very hard pill to swallow. I feel that stuff speaks more about those people than it does about you, so you can’t let those negative experiences or people change who you are.
How can we support you better?
That’s hard to answer because I really do feel supported here. I guess I would like to see more networking that was inclusive of all business types and sizes. I feel that most workshops and business programs are mean for larger businesses, and there’s not a lot for people out there with a smaller scale operation like me. In particular, I would love to attend training on social media, digital marketing and online sales. I am weak in those areas, but don’t really know where to go for help.
What is the biggest difficulty in your business?
My biggest difficulty is setting my own boundaries. Managing my energy and not pushing myself too hard. Another struggle for me is that I source all my materials within Canada because I worry about working conditions outside the country. That really limits my choice, and often costs a lot more, which doesn’t always resonate with my customers. Finding good Canadian distributors can be difficult, but is really important to me.
What piece of advice would you offer other women starting their own business?
Do it. I almost never got started because I thought I had to everything in place before I could begin. The truth is you learn so much more as you go then you ever could be prepared for ahead of time! Done is better than perfect. Also, something that has been invaluable for me has been finding a little group of like minded people that you can ask questions and bounce ideas off of. I am so lucky to have a community of makers in my corner to turn to for help and support.
How can we get in touch with you?
The Ms New Brunswick project is about taking a title back for all the women who really embody the heart and soul of our province through creative endeavours and entrepreneurship. The makers and doers who are sharing with us their time, energy and talents, and carrying us forward. Full-time or side hustle. Big or small. At home or in an office. Products or service. Crafters, moms, entrepreneurs, shop owners, consultants. Whatever. If there is a woman in our province giving life to an idea or product, I want to know about it.
If you or someone you know would be right for the Ms New Brunswick series please fill out the Nomination Form!