As part of our Independent and Inspiring Women Series, we are connecting with and celebrating women in our community who inspire us, who are doing fabulous things, and who, as we say, talk the talk and walk the walk. We thought Cheryl Labbett of the Canadian boutique, Bluboho (specializing in a curated collection of handcrafted fine jewelry and designers who “ignite a sense of connection and joy”), would be the perfect gal to kick things off with. We sat down with Cheryl (via Skype) to pick her brain about what inspires her and the key to the success of her thriving boutique.
Good Charma: How did Bluboho begin? What’s the origin story?
Cheryl Labbett: [My partner] Maggie [Aurocco] and I both had such a love for unique and inspiring pieces of jewelry. Me, as a mom, a friend, and a woman, when I want to give something to a woman that I love, I want it to hold some meaning… I want it to become a piece of jewelry that they will carry along with them through their entire journey through life. Where we are, there wasn’t a place to find those pieces of jewelry, so we wanted to create a space where people could come, to tell their story of what they were looking for and who it was for, and then we could help them find that perfect piece that would be meaningful to someone. So we decided to open Blubho! We spent a year talking about it: what our space would look like, what was important to us, what we wanted it to feel like, what kind of experience we wanted women or men to have when they came into the store… who we wanted to be in our community and who were the designers that would be in line with what we were creating. Then, the perfect space opened up… you know you are on the right track when things open, doors open and it becomes easy. It was amazing. It was magical. Good Charma was one of the original lines that we carried and continue to love. We have guests who come in with arms from their wrists to their elbow of Good Charma!
GC: How has the store evolved?
CL: Early on we started to see the impact of the experience we were creating. People search for a connection and we became really clear about our mission… creating a movement of love, humanity and connection and we do that through our retail experience. I guess how we’ve evolved is we get more and more clear on how we do that. We are so clear on what our core values are, that all of our decisions are in line with those values. All the girls that work for us [use our core values] when handling a situation. People always experience a loving feeling when they come in… acceptance, and we build on those relationships… the relationship that started as a guest walking into a store to buy something turns into a deep friendship. They [guests] come in in times when they have celebrations and also in times when they have bad news. What we create is something magical. We are always willing to try things and make mistakes… to figure out what didn’t work so well and what else we could do. We want to be two steps ahead but we always keep in mind what we are creating. The big, big, big picture, [which is] creating that movement of love, connection and humanity.
GC: I’d love to hear about when you first met [Good Charma creator and designer] Pam!
CL: Yes! From the moment I got my first set [a Good Charma Love Set], I had this pull, this intrigue to find out more about the line. When Maggie and I very first started, we decided to track down Pam. We emailed her and said we were coming to New York City and we would love to meet. For us, it’s so important to have a connection and a relationship with our guests but also so important that we connect with the designers we are carrying. It’s so much easier to speak to their stories if you have personal friendship and connection with them. She said she’d meet us [at the Time Warner Building in NYC] and it was such a big deal to meet Pam. She was one of the first designers we were actually going to meet face to face, so we planned our whole day around the meeting. It was pretty easy to pick her out… we knew who she was and she knew who we were and there were big hugs all around. She said there was a nice bar upstairs with a view of Central Park, so we sat in front of these big windows… it was such a fun meeting and so nice to hear her story. We love Pam and we love Good Charma…that first meeting… that first hug with her at the bottom of the escalator.. it was great.
GC: What resonates with you the most about Good Charma?
CL: It is such a beautiful line. Whether it’s the tree of life symbol that, for me, is about being grounded, growing your roots and focusing on being strong where you stand, we are able to speak to the meanings of the symbols and the charms. It’s always one of the first cabinets we take people to when they come in with a specific [story]… I have a friend who lost her father, or my niece is going through a tough time, or my daughter is getting married. I think the Good Charma line speaks so easily to all these moments in life.
GC: What is your favorite piece of jewelry?
CL: Honestly, one of my most meaningful pieces is my [Good Charma] Love Set. It was the first piece of Good Charma jewelry that I received and wore and loved and cherished and it is how I first experienced the whole power of putting out good energy. I have given away 4 of the 6 original strands and I’m saving the last two for my daughters, because they will each get one to those, many years down the road! I really feel that the Love Set was a little bit of a turning point for me. Love is one of Bluboho’s core values, and as corny as it sounds, its all about finding it in our hearts to love everyone that we encounter and to treat people in a loving way. It’s basic but it’s everything.
GC: You started as one store and you opened a second store… how do you maintain your mission and core values as you grow?
CL: It’s a daily conversation and I don’t think we are growing too fast. We are five years old, we have two stores and now we are looking for a third base, but I think the timing has to be really right and we are very specific in our hiring. Over the years we’ve developed a way and a list of questions. We are very slow to hire people and it’s so important that we hire people that live those values and align [with our mission] so that even when Maggie and I aren’t in the stores, the guests are still getting the same feeling… the energy is constant. I really think it’s the wonderful beautiful people that we are hiring and that are being attracted to working with us. They really believe in the power of what we are doing and what we are creating on an everyday basis. I’m so grateful… we have an amazing team, and it’s slowly growing, from the first two people we hired in Toronto who are still with us and growing into their roles. Again, I think it’s making sure you are growing your team with the right people and we definitely have the right people.
GC: What have found the most surprising about this endeavor?
CL: Ohh.. Good question. Well, as someone involved in a small business… I don’t think it surprises me, but it’s hard. But passion outweighs how difficult it is and I think it reaffirms that when you are involved in something that you are passionate about, for me, it’s almost like I feel, and this is just for me, I’m not speaking for Bluboho, like “ok, this is my purpose, this is what I love.” So, surprising? It’s surprising how everyone is looking for a connection and we know that because that’s what we stand for. Just a little bit of kindness can shift someone’s whole day. You know, just a positive touch on the arm, or really listening. People walk into a store and you say “How are you doing today?” but do you ever really listen? To the nuances when they say “I’m great” or “I’m ok”? Just being able to make a small little difference… that creates a ripple effect. If someone walks into the store and they walk out feeling better, the ripple effect [that has been created] is not surprising, we read about it all the time, but to actually have it happen, is a beautiful thing.
GC: Any last thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
CL: I love what Good Charma is doing. I love [to see] small businesses supporting each other and wanting to make an impact and to put good energy out into the world!
Interview conducted & written by Julie Webster
Visit the online store: www.bluboho.com. Visit in person: OAKVILLE STORE, 293 Lakeshore Road East Oakville, Ontario L6J 1J3, YONGE STREET STORE, 2616 Yonge Street Toronto, Ontario M4P 2J5
Images courtesy of Bluboho.