Made in New England: Meet Tiffany Narbonne of T. Jazelle Jewelry
Ever since she was a little girl, New Englander Tiffany Narbonne was fascinated by stones, particularly the energy and properties behind them. So when she realized her “dream job” in the corporate world wasn’t where her heart was after all, she started making jewelry, dubbing her product T. Jazelle after her middle name. An Etsy shop, Facebook page and hundreds of retail locations later, and she’s been hand-crafting one-of-a-kind bracelets and necklaces ever since.
We got to chat with Tiffany about how she’s learned to stay in her own lane while building her business, the importance of fostering community—including her company’s annual Stack Bash party—and the special meaning behind their gemstones and charms (which Tiffany writes herself to include with every single piece of jewelry).
R.K.: How did you get the idea to start T. Jazelle and take it from idea to business?
T.J.: I graduated from UNH in 2010 and worked at Channel 7 News in Boston doing PR for the summer. While it was really cool to work in the newsroom with anchors, my heart was not in it and I knew I didn’t see myself in that field.
I have always been really into fashion and my dad did product development for some shoe brands, so I grew up going to shoe shows and stores. I originally tried to be a sales rep for different shoe brands, but then I started making jewelry. One day, I bought some strands and charms and made some bracelets. When I made my very first pattern—the amethyst bracelet—friends and family loved it and really connected to them. I then made a Facebook page, put them on Etsy and started getting sales all over the world.
One day, during the holiday season of 2011, a jewelry store from my hometown in Quincy approached me about carrying my line. I had never even thought about going into stores at the time! [The owner] was like, “Okay, I’ll take 34 bracelets,” and I thought it was so cool. Two weeks later, he called saying he needed to reorder. Something came over me, and I knew this is what I needed to do!
My husband (then boyfriend) suggested I go to some other stores and see who else wanted the jewelry. So I got on the road, and closed five stores in one day! My dad was like, “Tiffany, that’s unheard of.” After that, I ended up quitting my job and started waitressing on the side for personal money; everything we were making from the orders I’d put back into the business. Within the first year, we were in about 20 stores.
All of this started out of my house at my kitchen table… there were beads everywhere! I had my friends coming down, and everyone was helping me fulfill these orders. Since then, we’ve really expanded: I have an amazing crew on the Cape, everything is made out of office and we even opened our own store.
R.K.: Your jewelry is handcrafted, each item with a unique design and meaning. Can you speak to me about your unique production process?
T.J.: I have always been into stones and their meanings since I was a kid. I always thought they were so beautiful, and loved that they had different energies. When I got my first run of stones, I wanted stones that had different properties—be it strength, good luck or tranquility. You also have your charm meaning so it really became a dual bracelet.
I then write all of the meanings myself from the heart [included on a card with your piece of jewelry]. The coolest part is any charm can be paired with any stone so you can kind of personalize it, whether it’s a gift for you or a family member. Over the years, the messages I’ve received along the way have been amazing.
When I first started, I questioned how people would make the jewelry like me, or tie the knot like me. But now I have this team that takes just as much pride in it as me. I always remind them that all these bracelets that we’re making and shipping will be on someone’s wrist for something so special. Every bracelet is just as important as the other, and the consumers can feel that.
R.K.: What’s one piece of jewelry you recommend our readers to pair with their summer style this season?
T.J.: One of my new favorites I designed is our New Day! It has a sunrise in the back with the waves and a couple birds. It’s a reminder that every day is a new day filled with new possibilities and strengths. I love the beach and the ocean, and this charm translates that.
Everything we do is sterling silver, and we want people to be able to add on and create their story with something that’s going to last forever. Our jewelry is timeless.
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way in launching your business? Any particular challenges along the way? Or something that surprised you?
T.J.: In the beginning, I would get really upset if I’d meet someone trying to imitate what we’re doing. If I could go back, I’d be like, “Tiff, focus on your own lane. Do you.” All that other stuff is just noise. Be the best version of you, as that translates in your business. That’s really helped me evolve in a big way.
Along the way, I’ve met so many amazing people. We do this really cool thing called a “Stack Bash,” a really fun summer kickoff introducing the opening of our boutique for summer. Last year, we had a huge turnout of over 100 people waiting in line. This year, I got some local friends of mine to bring in their stuff and it was a huge event; we had more than 200 people waiting to get into the TJ boutique! There was a line at 5 a.m., when we didn’t even open until 10 a.m.
R.K.: I love that you started your brand locally on Cape Cod out of an old barn. Do you think there’s been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
T.J.: For sure! There are so many stores that I still work with to this day that gave me a shot when I first started. They’d be like, “You’re local, I want to try this.” That gave me confidence.
I love New England! Everything from the seasons to the oceans to the mountains inspires me—from the charms to the colors I’m picking for the store. I am so grateful we get to experience all of that. I can also do charms that coincide with the seasons like a fall scene, ocean, leaf or pine tree. People from here get that, and people that don’t live here want those charms because it reminds them of vacations and memories.
R.K.: What other local brands are you a fan of—on the Cape or New England in general?
T.J.: I met a really cool girl who started Cape Cod Nail—a vegan, cruelty free polish line—who’s opening her own pop-up on the Cape. Another sweet brand is a friend of mine who started TRUST boutique out of Martha’s Vineyard. I also love Cape Shark and Little Words Project, which gives back to girls. Some of us got started around the same time, and it’s been really cool watching my friends grow!
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
T.J.: I’ve met so many awesome people! My husband is one of my biggest inspirations, and believed in me like crazy from the beginning. And definitely my dad, who passed away a few years ago. He was my biggest fan for sure! I feel so grateful to have that kind of support in my corner. It’s important to surround yourself with people who lift you up and believe in you, whether in work or your personal life.
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
T.J.: I want to keep getting more out there, spreading our vibes across the country! We’re in some stores on the West Coast, but it would be nice to gain some more brand recognition there. I’ll continue to share what I love to do: designing, creating and writing the meanings of the charms!
R.K.: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business from scratch?
T.J.: You have to love it; your heart needs to be in it for the right reasons or it’s not going to work!
R.K.: At WELL, we believe wellness comes in all forms. What does wellness look like for you?
T.J.: Wellness is having a positive outlook, and always focusing on yourself: your wellbeing and your mind. All of that coincides with your work. Do things personally for yourself: relax from work, turn the phone off, go to a yoga class or the beach. Doing things for your mind and soul translates into being a better version of you. To do all the good, you gotta take care of you first.
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