THE ability to recognise gaps in the market and driven by her creativity, Port Elizabeth jewellery designer Jenni Gault has been able to turn her passion into a sparkling business.
Gault – the face behind jewellery brand Jenni Collections – grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and did not start her career in the fashion industry but ventured into bookkeeping after finishing high school.
“As many girls did back then, I took a bookkeeping course during what would now be referred to as a gap year. I felt my creative side was being badly stifled; crunching numbers as a career did not fill me with passion,” said Gault.
She then stumbled across the option of training as a chef, with visions of jetting around the world to exotic places and creating delicious meals for patrons at famous hotels, and jetted off for Cape Town’s well-known Silwood Kitchens.
“I was among my own kind, creators and artists. I flourished at Silwood but most particularly at the decorative side – cake icing was a forté of mine.”
“But my passion was only starting to be awakened.
“Looking for an outlet for this, while my classmates were making and selling delicious cupcakes to subsidise their allowance, I discovered my love of making jewellery.”
At 22, she started her first business – a modeling agency and gym in her hometown.
“The fitness industry was blossoming at that time, it was all about aerobics then. I did a modelling teacher’s course in London and had trained as a fitness instructor in Durban.”
While working as an instructor, she also organised fashion shows, including for Edgars, and always made sure her jewellery made it onto the ramp.
A year later she sold her agency, Body’s Beautiful, which financed the purchase of a ballet studio and its conversion into a gym.
“Having the gym increased the modelling business with the crossover of clients from one to the other.
“At the time I was the only qualified gym instructor in town, with only one other gym to compete with and fitness was in fashion. Think Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, Footloose and heavenly bodies at the movies.
“Creating the right business at the right time, filling a need, identifying a gap in the market was key.”
After three years, she decided to sell the business and travelled the world.
“After travelling through Europe and the USA, my passion for jewellery manufacturing brought me back to Africa.
“I returned to a tourist boom in the Victoria Falls area.
“My designs were very African and revolved around animal themes, moulded in sterling silver. They were an instant hit with the tourists,” she said.
“I have been designing jewellery for nearly 30 years. However, I only launched my jewellery brand, Jenni Collections in 2005.
“I wanted the brand to specialise in creating jewellery using Swarovski crystal and pure metals.
“Until the end of 2009 my focus was wholesale, but this changed with our move to Port Elizabeth in January 2010. I then opened a retail studio,” Gault said.
She said she had been privileged to have shown her products at many international high profile events.
She has also been nominated and subsequently selected by Swarovski Austria as one of their Atelier designers to show at the Swarovski Elements World Jewellery Facets Exhibition and Runway Show 2013, to be held in China.
This event has previously featured renowned designers such as Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier and Azzaro. Gault is the first designer to be invited from Africa for this prestigious annual event.
She is also very enthusiastic about her latest project, which is re-branding her business.
“As this year we will be showing again in New York, Las Vegas and London, while adding Dubai and China to our itinerary, we are excited about our new brand – Jenni Gault International Jewellery Design – which we will officially launch here in Port Elizabeth at a glittering function in early March.”
Her advice to young aspiring businessmen and women is to have passion and to work hard.
“Play to your passion, because if you follow your passion you will never work a day in your life,” said Gault.