From Michaels to the Oscars

Jennifer
Jennifer MacKinnon
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With a background in sports psychology and no training or experience in jewelry design, Karen McClintock is proof that if you put your mind to something, you can do it all.

Karen McClintock

In 2005, Ms. McClintock was at a crossroads in her life. Although married to a wonderful man, she and her husband lived in different cities due to work commitments.

Ms. McClintock, with no current occupation, was spending her time driving between Ottawa and Cambridge to spend time with her husband while raising her two kids and trying to maintain two homes, all while dealing with her husband’s health issues and the financial crisis they both faced.

Ms. McClintock was determined to be more selective about her next career step. It had to be something she was both passionate about and that allowed her freedom in her life. But most importantly, she had to love it.

With a love of jewelry and creativity Ms. McClintock began frequenting Michaels Craft Store, buying bobbles and supplies so she could begin making her own jewelry. When wearing her creations, she often received compliments and began making them for friends and special occasions upon request.

As she gained more experience and knowledge about making jewelry, she eventually developed a complete collection that led to Karen McClintock Jewelry Design.

Getting into retail stores was not always easy, but proved seamless at the start due in large part to the mentorship, and eventual friendship, offered by Marlene Shepherd of Shepherd’s in the Rideau Centre. Ms. Shepherd welcomed Ms. McClintock into her store and offered her invaluable advice and guidance for turning her jewelry making prowess into a career.

Ms. McClintock took this information, made the necessary changes, and when she returned Ms. Shepherd agreed to buy a selection of her jewelry to sell in the downtown Ottawa store.

Soon Holt Renfrew was on board and agreed to sell Ms. McClintock’s jewelry in their stores across Canada. They became the best-selling jewelry items in the store.

Ms. McClintock was on her way.

But it wasn’t always easy. In the midst of her success, Ms. McClintock began to feel poorly physically. Soon her hands were so sore she couldn’t open or close them. Worse, she couldn’t hold the tools needed to make her jewelry. The pain throughout her body was so severe it affected every aspect of her life. Eventually she was diagnosed with arthritis and, after finding the right combination of relief, she is now in good health.

The road hasn’t always been smooth for Ms. McClintock. Rejection is common in the industry, and there are many designers competing for very limited retail space. But Ms. McClintock persevered and after years of making the jewelry herself, now has full-time staff doing everything from marketing to public relations to jewelry production.

Ms. McClintock says she feels blessed to have Carrie Irvine on her team, a circumstance that happened entirely by chance. Ms. Irvine brings the marketing focus and retail savvy the company needs for continued success and exposure and allows Ms. McClintock to focus on the creative process.

In fact, Ms. Irvine was instrumental in getting Ms. McClintock’s collection into a store that been turning the company down for seven years. She also managed to get the collection exposed at this year’s Oscar awards.

All of the company’s pieces are handmade in Ottawa. As with the fashion industry, Ms. McClintock is always preparing for the season ahead. She draws inspiration for her new collections from everything around her whether it is colour, texture, landscape or otherwise.

And she develops a brilliant collection every time.

Fenix Solutions Inc. CEO Jennifer MacKinnon writes a monthly column, Ottawa Women of Wonder, to profile and celebrate local women in business.

Organizations: Michaels Craft Store, Rideau Centre, Fenix Solutions

Geographic location: Ottawa, Michaels, Cambridge Canada

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