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Check Out Stephanie Edwards Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Edwards.

Hi Stephanie, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m a wife and mom to two preschoolers living in Leoma, TN. I began my own business almost out of necessity– I left a big city and moved to rural TN during the recession, so there were no jobs for someone like me with a short resume and a journalism and art background. I began doing freelance graphic design work until my dad met a good salesman and ended up buying a CNC Plasma Cutter– a machine that uses a torch to cut sheet metal.

I began putting my art into his computer and set up shop online selling steel home goods as Highland Ridge Decor (Highland Ridge being the road my dad’s shop is on). We’ve loved working together for the past 6 years! After a few years of making more work for my dad than he signed up for, I realized I wanted to make jobs for people who actually needed more work.

Jubilee Trading Co. is the ethical trade brand that I built to create opportunities for others, the same way I found opportunities in selling goods online. I currently partner with a group of leather artisans in Morocco. We collaborate on product designs, and I import their goods to sell to the American market. It’s been so rewarding to grow this new business and see the impact of creating jobs for people who really need them!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Starting your own business is full of challenges, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I had a few years of experience in e-commerce and product development running Highland Ridge before starting Jubilee, but the international aspect of Jubilee has been a whole other learning curve, especially working in a developing country.

There are funny quirks, like working through a middle-aged male translator who doesn’t know what a “tassel” for a bag is, much less how to translate it. (My translator is an absolute God-send, do not get me wrong!) But there are also hard hurdles. For much of 2020, my artisans were on strict lockdown and couldn’t get to their workshop. After we started up again, we hit a good groove in 2021, only to have another strict lockdown for the Omicron variant Nov. 2021-Feb. 2022.

I had thousands of dollars of inventory made and sitting in a postal service warehouse unable to ship during Christmas. But hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it! In spite of these challenges, our business continues to grow, and with that grows our impact. Because of Covid, my partners needed my business even more than ever, and it’s been so rewarding to be able to create opportunities in this way.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
While many handmade businesses lean toward jewelry, I’m proud to fill a gap in the home decor area. We make an effort to design elevated pieces that not only elevate your space but elevate the lives of the people who make them. This looks like making high-quality goods that last, as well as taking time to design items that are unique in the marketplace.

I am most proud of our impact. I was able to visit my partners in Morocco in fall of 2021, and it was such an inspiration getting to stay with them, see their workshop and share a meal. I met family members and got to see first-hand how the jobs my brand provides are making a real difference in lives.

I am most grateful for our customers. Without everyday people making the effort to shop with intention, choosing brands like ours over fast-fashion, cheaply made goods, we would not be able to do this. It’s so fun getting to be the mediator between conscious consumers and skilled makers. I get to supply amazing goods to consumers and life-changing opportunities to my artisan partners. Win-win!

How do you define success?
I want the world to be a better place because of what I do. That’s success in my book.

I want to know that what I show up and give myself to every day matters in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, this looks exciting like grabbing a flight to visit my partners and learn about how I can best help them, and sometimes this looks like digging into spreadsheets (I hate spreadsheets) to sort out taxes and evaluate pricing strategies.

Monetary sustainability is important FOR this success, don’t get me wrong, and not every day is glamorous, but each little step helps me be wiser and develop practices that strengthen my business. My hope is that because of the sweat equity I put in every day, my work can grow beyond me and impact many lives for the better now, and for generations to come.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Laklin Messer

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1 Comment

  1. Sarah

    April 14, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    What a wonderful article! Thank you for sharing good news about good things people are doing.

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