CREATIVES: Entrepreneurs to Watch – Claire Bruce from Missouri
We love meeting new inspiring creatives via The Southern Coterie’s social network and our Summit events. We met Claire Bruce at our event this past fall in Nashville. The story of her tiny shop, Sloan + Themis, located in the historic downtown of Cape Girardeau on the banks of the Mississippi captivated us. Claire not only designs jewelry there, she sells upscale fashion jewelry created locally and nationwide. Claire is embracing digital sales as well as her brick and mortar at Sloan + Themis so be sure to go check her out!
A girl after my heart (I publish Bulldawg Illustrated for UGA), she launched a new line of luxury college spirit jewelry named after the Southern college towns. This new line fills the need for school color jewelry that is subtle and elegant enough to be worn during and after the big game. Claire says, “So far our most popular pieces have been Athens (for UGA), Hillsboro Village (for Vanderbilt and Belmont), and Fayetteville (for U of AR).”Left to Right: Athens features freshwater pearls, gemstones, crystal, and a vintage red glass and sterling silver Athena pendant. Hillsboro Village features freshwater pearls, crystal, vintage heavy goldplate acorn cap with peacock South Sea pearl. Tuscaloosa features freshwater pearls, crimson garnets, and a vintage brass elephant charm. Fayetteville features a hand-sculpted pigs ear large sterling clasp and freshwater pearls.
Get to know Claire better here as we asked her to share what inspires her…
I grew up in Mississippi and the Missouri Bootheel and spent much of my childhood in traveling throughout the South. My folks went to Ole Miss so they had this obsession with checking out cool Southern towns. We would go all over: Memphis, Nashville, Oxford, Ashville, Paducah, Mobile, Knoxville, Little Rock, New Orleans, Athens, Atlanta and every place in between just to see what was there. On these trips would always stop at roadside flea markets and antique stores. The vintage jewelry that I found was incredible both in design and construction – rhinestones, jet glass, brass, sterling, bone hairpipe, and faux pearl. I use these element in my designs today. I also was fascinated by beautiful communities surrounding the shops. So I started my new collection with the ideas of using new and vintage materials to represent each town that I had visited in my youth.
We quickly found there was a big demand for pieces named after college towns because our customers were looking for an elegant option to school spirit jewelry.
Wow, I love music and choosing one is difficult. I would say the “Girl from Ipanema” because it always seems to come up on my Pandora.
Fave book or author:
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, it’s a great vintage read that has everything from romance to murder mystery!
Anything to do with revitalizing historic neighborhoods. I work and live in Cape Girardeau’s historic downtown, which until recently was rapidly declining. Our local preservation organization, Old Town Cape, was a big part of the change in bring our downtown back to life. (More info can be found at www.oldtowncape.org.)
#1 skill/attribute needed to be an entrepreneur:
This is another toughy. If I had to pick just one, I would say being industrious. As an entrepreneur you are forced to innovate everyday just to survive. A little known secret is that I opened my downtown boutique/atelier for less than $5,000 – that’s build-out, fixtures, marketing, signage, and inventory. It was very tricky to keep the quality of merchandise and in store experience top-notch. So I would look at something like displays or marketing for instance. I would say “how I can get the same effect for half the cost or even a third? What about a tenth the cost?” The answer wasn’t usually glamorous, but the end result usually was.
My friend and business neighbor, Miss Paula owner of Somewhere in Time Antiques because she is the very definition a life-long learner and kind of a legend in our area. She opened her shop right before her 60th birthday — at the same age many of her friends were retiring. Paula quickly took to social media as a way of promoting her business and was one of the very first business owners in Missouri to get on Pinterest. Her knowledge of antiques and business is so vast. She literally teaches me something new every day. (More info about Paula and her shop can be found at www.shopsomewhereintimeantiques.com.)
Favorite Social Media:
“What’s a weekend?” – Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey. I think most entrepreneurs wonder about this too. 🙂
Interesting tidbit about you or your business:
The Sloan + Themis boutique and atelier is located in a historic building that is only 6’1” wide and 34” long. That’s all. I would not trade it for the world. It’s small size is not as big of a drawback as one might think. The store has a hosted neighborhood fund raiser, many girls-night-outs, and once we had about 1400 people visit within two hours at last year’s Holiday Open House. It is also a brilliant place to design. I have to be very, very careful about what I bring into the store because I just don’t have the storage space. So it’s a little extra incentive design pieces that will catch on quickly. The best part is that it is located half a block from the Mississippi River.
The Southern Coterie is a social network (tscoterie.wpengine.com) with events (thesoutherncsummit.com) that connect influencers, entrepreneurs and marketing professionals with an affinity for the South.
Enjoy this series where we introduce you to Southern creatives we find inspiring-
- Nan Myers, Jay Ducote and Jane Pope Cooper
- TJ Callaway, Natalie Evans and Javacia Bowser
- Marquin Campbell
- Putt Weatherbee
- Jamie Meares
- Molly Jane Gravitt
- Ursula Reynolds
Co-Founder of The Southern Coterie