Some people are born creative, and others are born entrepreneurial, and if you are lucky, you get to be a combination of the two! South African entrepreneur and talented jewellery designer, Mary-Jean Treloar, displays both of these traits in huge quantities. Her highly personal brand, MΛRY JEΛN JEWELLERY, is inspired by the continent she loves and the stories that are woven into the very fabric of society. Her unique work is winning fans of great jewellery design both at home and abroad.
LoA had the pleasure of talking to this innovative and passionate designer to find out more about her work and her vision for the brand that carries her name.
What does your company do?
At Mary Jean Jewellery, we design and manufacture fine handmade jewellery that is inspired by patterns and symbols found across the African continent. Our current collection (The Adinkra Collection) is based on and inspired by the Adinkra fabric symbols found largely in Ghana and parts of West Africa. Each symbol has a meaning behind it and so all the handcrafted pieces have within them a story and a uniquely delicate yet bold design.
"Our jewellery is truly handcrafted and inspired by the amazing patterns found within Africa. Each piece is carefully made and finished by hand ensuring a high quality product that is both delicate and bold."
What inspired you to start your company?
My love of Africa, geometric patterns, design, geology and silversmithing. As well as the desire to spend every day creating and making something new and truly unique.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our jewellery is truly handcrafted and inspired by the amazing patterns found within Africa. Each piece is carefully made and finished by hand ensuring a high quality product that is both delicate and bold.
Tell us a little about your team
Last year I was lucky enough to employ, part-time, two amazing ladies (Kamogelo and Hildegard) and this has helped me exponentially. Especially after having been a 'one-woman-show' for 2 years. Kamogelo assisted me mostly with my jewellery for the safari lodges and then picked up silversmithing super fast and started helping me with MΛRY JEΛN. Kamogelo has now unfortunately had to leave us to pursue her studies at University and I wish her the very best of luck! Hildegard is a truly talented silversmith who assists me with manufacturing and we have recently also become business partners on a new company called 'Gin and Tea' which is an online wedding boutique.( watch this space brides-to-be)
"All the handcrafted pieces have within them a story and a uniquely delicate yet bold design."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Hold on tight! it's a bit of a long story...
I grew up in a creative family that has an incredible love of geology and semi-precious gemstones. So from a very young age I started going on many remote family holidays across Southern Africa where we would dig for and find our own gemstones. My father then taught me how to cut, shape and polish them. The lapidary workshop where I cut my stones was doing a silversmithing course where you could set some of your stones into silver and I decided I wanted to give it a try. I instantly fell in love with the art of SIlversmithing! Something in me just clicked and sparked!
After school I went on to study a Bsc in Interior Architecture and thereafter I worked for a year at a luxury safari lodge before returning to the Architectural industry. Throughout all this, silversmithing continued to be just my hobby, until 2014, when I just couldn't ignore the fact that it was now my passion! And so I resigned from my job as an Interior Architect and started my first jewellery brand called 'The lucky bean range' that still currently supplies jewellery exclusively to the luxury safari industry. MΛRY JEΛN Jewellery came about last year April out of a desire to develop a personal brand where I could design truly unique, quality handcrafted and African inspired jewellery that could run alongside my other brand, as well as challenge me as a designer and manufacturer.
My first creative entrepreneurial memories are from as early as Grade 3 while at Fields primary school in Rustenburg, where I would (without fail) take part in every entrepreneur's day market. I would sell the strangest handmade goods, from candles that I'd made in old painted tuna tins, to knitted pom poms, to homemade oatmeal biscuits. My friend’s dad even supported this streak by ordering biscuits from me for a guest house that he ran, and so by age 8 I was baking in the evenings, planning my packaging, working out my costs and without knowing it, I was grooming my inner entrepreneur!
"... by age eight I was baking in the evenings, planning my packaging, working out my costs and without knowing it, I was grooming my inner entrepreneur!"
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We have just moved into a new collaborative studio and showroom space called 'Gathere' with 4 other amazing creatives in Kramerville, Johannesburg and my hopes are to grow within this space as we are now more accessible to the public. I would like to approach some local and international stockists and grow the awareness around our brand, the concept of our designs, and the value that our handmade artisanal trade carries. It's my hope that this will lead to the growth I need to allow me to employ and train some more amazing team members.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The fact that even though the pressures are immense and the hours are long, I have gained more freedom. The freedom to make decisions. The freedom to make mistakes and grow and the freedom to take the paths I want to walk. But most of all it has to be the realisation that having this freedom is a wealth that surpasses any monetary value or possession. I also cherish the great moments one experiences and struggles you overcome while growing as a business, a business woman and a person.
"Our current collection (The Adinkra Collection) is based on and inspired by the Adinkra fabric symbols found largely in Ghana and parts of West Africa."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
I have 3 pieces :)
1 - Doubt is your biggest enemy! Keep positive by surrounding yourself with positive and encouraging people that believe in you, you are going to need to lean on them a lot!
2 - Just start! Small steps every day lead up to your bigger end goals. Remember: "The man on top of the mountain didn't just fall there" - Vince Lombardi
3 - Celebrate every little victory. There are going to be a lot of difficult and tough steps to climb along the way but when you do accomplish something, however small, be sure to celebrate it! This carries you through the tough times and brings joy into your entrepreneurial journey.
Contact or follow MΛRY JEΛN JEWELLERY
Why LoA loves it….
There are those people you meet in life whose passion and love for what they do is truly infectious, and in business this is a hugely positive trait to possess when chasing success. In this case, Mary-Jean Treloar is geared up for that success with her highly personal jewellery brand as she is able to connect with her customers, not only through the impeccable design ethos she displays, but also through the proudly African stories she tells with every piece of jewellery she makes. This is definitely a brand to watch over the coming months and years! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa