“Northern Initiatives has been pivotal to our success. They have allowed me to follow my passion and support a whole team of employees with my craft.” – Beth Millner, owner of Beth Millner Jewelry
Beth Millner Jewelry crafts stunning art jewelry inspired by the natural landscape of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Lake Superior. Each piece of jewelry is handcrafted in their Marquette studio from recycled metals and diamonds to local copper and Great Lakes stones. Their mission is to provide artisan-designed jewelry created in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
From its inception in 2007, Beth has run her jewelry business by looking forward. From the corner of her kitchen table, she launched a home-based business, selling her exquisitely crafted, nature-inspired jewelry at art fairs and music festivals. Five years later, with financing from Northern Initiatives, she opened a brick-and-mortar shop in downtown Marquette. As a small-town retailer, Beth knew she needed a creative vision and sound strategy to grow her business.
To date, one of the biggest factors in the business’ growth is their online presence and e-commerce platform. The ability to drive locals and tourists into the shop in a relatively rural part of Michigan in combination with online orders has resulted in year-over-year double digit growth for a business in its 11th year.
While a large part of the business’s success comes from being engaged with the newest trends of the handmade marketplace and a keen understanding of their customers – an integral part of Beth’s business model centers on giving back to the community. Launching a successful fundraiser jewelry program where non-profits throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are encouraged to apply annually. Selected participants have a custom pendant designed by Beth and sold online and in-store for a year from the release date. A portion of the sales proceeds is donated to the organization.
Building on relationships, community, and savvy e-commerce strategies, Beth pivoted her business successfully during COVID-19. Tapping into local artisans, Beth Millner Jewelry quickly added handcrafted face masks and mask supplies to their online product line. Soon a fundraiser program was adding to the new line. Offering 7 fundraiser masks, with a portion of the proceeds donated directly to local nonprofit organizations. A sliding price scale on the fundraiser masks allows anyone wishing to donate more funds directly to the organization to do so by paying above the mask base price in the listing.
When COVID-19 hit hard this spring and sales took an immediate dip, Beth credited Northern Initiatives for helping her grow her understanding of the importance and application of strong financial practices, ensuring she had the necessary cash reserves to manage through the unexpected crisis.
Now more than ever consumers appreciate what small businesses do for their communities – create jobs, support local vendors, give back to area nonprofits, and create vibrant communities! Beth does this in a manner as well-crafted and unique as the jewelry she creates.