Editor’s Note: The story below was filed just before the COVID 19 pandemic hit hard. Subsequently, the business involved has been impacted by the storefront closure, while online sales have continued. Although summer trade shows were canceled, wholesale orders have begun to pick up and they saw an uptick in sales after federal stimulus checks were distributed. Superior Woman wanted to present the original pre-pandemic story of how this business partnership began with the hope that more normal times will be in our future soon.
By Dale Hemmila
Two women, a business, and a plan: that’s inspiration right there. So, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that their business is called Be Inspired UP.
The women are Jackie Bessner and Stacey Willey, their shop is a small storefront in downtown Ishpeming, Michigan, but their business is much bigger than that.
The shop is filled primarily with laser-cut jewelry. Most of those are Bessner’s designs and they feature images related to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with an eye toward the natural beauty outdoor activities.
The shop also features the books written by local authors that are part of Willey’s book publishing business. With some additional local art on sale, and a few other odds and ends related to the 906 area code, there is a lot to take in once you step inside.
But that is not the only place to find their unique items. With a presence on Shopify and Etsy, they reach a much larger audience, and their own website features 24 pages of unique earrings, pendants, bracelets and a whole lot more.
Recently Superior Woman met with Willey and Bessner to learn a little more about their inspiration:
So, how did this business come about?
SW: I opened the gift shop and I still run the book-publishing part, and I’m still pretty busy with that. This location has been open about two years. Jackie, a couple of years ago, started her own jewelry line business. So she approached me about helping her with this stainless steel line of Be Inspired jewelry.
JB: I had my own little jewelry line and I would do a craft show here and there and some gift shops started reaching out asking can you make us some things, but it got to be too much. Getting up at 5 a.m. to package jewelry, making jewelry, working again after I got home from my regular 8 to 5 job, so I built a website, I did Etsy, I built a Shopify site, and realized this could be something, but I don’t have the time to dedicate. I needed help.
You kind of found each other then?
JB: Stacey did jewelry and I got to chit-chatting with her one day. I was at the point where I either needed to sell it or bring on a business partner who has a vested interest in it.
SW: At one point, Jackie really broached it as looking for rental space.
JB: I was looking for rental space to get it out of my house. I just knew Stacey sold jewelry and she filled the other piece from the graphic art point that I needed help with, as well. So I approached her and at first, she said, ‘Well, maybe I’ll help you a little bit,’ and I showed her what I was doing, and what the potential was, and she said, yeah, and here we are.
And how is all of that going?
SW: Organically, I think things have fallen into place.
JB: This is a ‘labor of love,’ is a good way to put it, because the amount of hours it takes to get where we’re at, if someone would have told me how much labor I would put in without any monetary value, most people would say, no thanks.
SW: Neither one of us is getting a salary at this point.
JB: It’s dumbfounding how much work it is, but we’re at a pivoting point right now, and I think it could be a successful business.
A lot of your products are U.P.-based, but you also have expanded, right?
JB: The U.P. is limiting so that’s why I’ve branched out designing the kayak, the skiis and even the full Great Lakes.
SW: As far as our online orders, we get orders from all over; it’s not just the U.P. We’ve even shipped to Finland. We’ve had to get a little bit out of the box of the U.P. You have to push it; you have to push the reach. You can’t just build it and they will come.
So, there is a lot more to this than just the designing?
JB: Our goal was to build it, and work as hard as we can to afford to bring in staff so they can do the filling of orders. We’re still working on the infrastructure and the website, but the designing is the fun part.
SW: The designing is a lot of fun.
JB: And we keep coming up with different designs. Stacey will message me and say, “What do you think of this design?”
SW: I had my own jewelry that I was doing prior to Jackie, using gemstones and wire wrapping, that kind of thing, too.
Beyond a business partnership, this appears to offer some creative satisfaction as well?
SW: I do what I do because I love it. I love my job. I feel like I have been totally blessed to be able to help people with the creative process. I love doing what I do.
JB: I’ve always been crafty in some capacity; this just kind of had its natural progression into another realm, and it took off. But in order to bring it to the next level, I realized it wasn’t going to happen unless I partnered with someone else who had the same creative end drive that I have.
So, how has this partnership worked out?
JB: I think it’s phenomenal. We work really well together. We each bring differences, we work together, I think it’s worked really well.
SW: It’s kind of just naturally fallen into place. The things that she has been able to do at home, on the computer, have naturally kind of fallen to her responsibility, as far as the day-to-day responsibility, that kind of falls to me, and if I don’t have a book to design, then I can help with the website, too.
How nice is it to see people enjoy what you create?
JB: It’s really exciting to see somebody with your jewelry on, or have someone tell me that they wore one of our glass pieces on a trip to France and received all these compliments. It’s something Stacey and I built together, and it feels good that somebody is enjoying it.
That’s the kind of inspiration any business partnership can appreciate.
To shop for their artwork and jewelry, visit: www.beinspiredup.com