Summit helped military spouse transition biz for PCS
On April 12, the second HIGHTIDE Women’s Summit - Fanachu Famalao’an (Women Rising) brought together a group of women for a day of speaker panels, curated workshops, and mentor sessions, all to help inspire and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs on the island.
Held at the Dusit Thani Guam Resort, the summit also featured an on-site pop-up shop featuring products from local brands. Jessie Snyder, a jewelry designer, participated in the pop-up at the summit in 2017. Snyder runs Here & There, a traveling boutique that she started in Guam as “Love From Guam.”
Snyder is a military spouse who has since PCS’d to Alaska, but continues to run her business which she transitioned with the help of what she learned at HIGHTIDE. Get to know Snyder, a little about
Name: Jessie Snyder
Years as a military spouse: Almost 8
Service: Air Force
What type of business do you own?
I am a jewelry designer. I create one-of-a-kind customized pieces. Each piece I create is a work of art—hand stamped, hammered, polished, drilled and assembled by hand, and only by me. Some of the most popular pieces are pieces I create from pebbles and sand that we find on our family travels. With the pebbles I create sterling silver necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets. Our most popular piece is black sand from the island of Guam.
Why did you decide to open Love from Guam?
We moved to Guam in the Spring of 2014, I was 34 weeks pregnant with baby number 2! After she was born the baby blues quickly kicked in. We moved half way across the world, all the people that would be celebrating and helping with this bundle of joy were not here with us.
Six months after her birth, I was lonely, maybe even a bit depressed and feet a bit lost … like what now? My husband knew my love of photography, so he went out and bought me a new camera.
We drove all over the island hiking and photographing. Exploring our new home and making new memories. Something was ignited in me. After posting the photographs on Facebook, friends and family asked to see them as postcards and home décor. Later I would make the Guam photographs into bags, puzzles and, finally, jewelry. He truly gave me a gift that continues to give back over and over across oceans!
Was it an easy business to transition to your spouse’s new duty station?
We received orders to Alaska in 2018. I knew that I couldn’t carry “Love from Guam” to Alaska. This was something I learned at HIGHTIDE, there was a lot of talk about branding and the name you choose for your business often defines who you are, and what you sell. With a name like “Love from Guam”, you can see how I limited myself when we moved to Alaska, or anywhere else for that matter.
I knew by relocating, that I would also have to rebrand myself. That the jewelry would take a new form and I would have to infuse new inspiration. Alaska is the extreme opposite of Guam, so I decided to rebrand the business and created “Here & There,” a Traveling Boutique. So now, no matter where we go, the name can go with us.
What was your occupation before starting your own business?
I was an art major in college, studying photography at the University of Iowa. My senior year of college, Hurricane Katrina hit. My dad gathered a group of me and my friends to travel to the affected area and aid in relief efforts. It changed my life plan a little bit! That summer instead of applying for photography jobs, I applied and was accepted as an AmeriCorps with the American Red Cross. I would continue with the American Red Cross as a Disaster Volunteer Coordinator for 4 years, until meeting my husband and moving to Maryland, our first station. Believe it or not, Nick was my volunteer! I had to fire him when he asked me out on a date!
Why did you decide to open your own business and why, specifically, did you choose this particular type of business?
Art and creativity have always been a part of me and I know it was something that I would somehow always do. I thought someday I would open a photo studio doing portraits. But I had no idea I would one day become a jewelry designer. Opening the business was not expected, it just sort of happened organically. When the photographs began to sell, I had to formalize it and, the next step was to get a business license.
Explain some of the difficulties military spouses have in finding a job and/or starting a business that civilians may not know about.
It is not easy to get a new job every 2-4 years. You can’t promise an employer that you will grow with the company. So, starting my own business seemed to be the best fit. Now that I have rebranded my company it can move with me.
I know that every 2 to 4 years I will have to get a new business license in the state we live in. And fingers crossed that no one has the same business name, because then I have to change it AGAIN. I also worry about moving overseas, will I be able to still wholesale my jewelry from England or Italy? Will the stores I stock still want me? NO idea! That fear of starting over again in a new location is always in the back of my head, but it is also kind of exciting. I now reframe things from “Oh no we have to move again!!” to “Yes, how exciting I get to use new inspiration to create new collections and have new areas to explore”. Which for me means new sand, pebbles and inspiration.
What are some of challenges you’ve encountered in going out on your own and starting a business?
The biggest challenge so far is moving.
I had planned on closing the business for one month during our PCS, I kept most of the material with us and worked out of our small hotel room in Alaska and Guam. But it was just so stressful.The kids struggled with the move they really missed Guam and wanted to go back— it was clear that for that moment my family needed to be on the front burner and family was priority.
I closed the business for 3 months. Not to mention our last pack out of my office materials was LOST enroute. So, one skill I’m so grateful to have as a military spouse is resilience and flexibility things WILL happen and I have learned to roll with it and ebb and flow — that’s my strategy to surrendering to the stress and panic!
That work life balance is sooo hard, especially when you add the stress of moving, transition for kids, news schools, finding a new network of friends and support.
This is where the HIGHTIDE women’s event really spoke to me. Many women were asking the same question. How do we take it with us? How do we start over? We discussed marketing tips, social media strategies and website development. One speaker, said that rebranding is OKAY! That many companies get a facelift, and that communication with your customers is important during these times. Stacie, who has a PR firm also encouraged me to tell my story, share the move on social media, it’s part of my story and it will resonate with customers— and it’s true, my customers whole-heartedly supported me.
HIGHTIDE gave me the confidence to research next steps for our transition to Alaska and embrace change. The nature of that event is I had real access to experts, I was able to walk up to experts that I felt could help me and ask real questions. I got such priceless advice — I don’t think I would have had that opportunity at a huge conference in the states.
What advice would you give other military spouses looking to start their own businesses?
If the product you make is something that you are passionate about and it makes you happy, then do it. Ask a lot of questions, listen to your peers on advice and positive criticism (but don’t always take it). Flops will happen but learn from them. And lastly, do it the right way from the beginning. Get a business license, set up an accounting system (I use Quickbooks – which was also a suggestion I received at HIGHTIDE). If you have business questions, it is great to contact your local Chamber of Commerce. I was lucky Guam had Women’s Chamber of Commerce — I attained such great skills from their workshops. Often, they hold courses on accounting and taxes. This helped me change my hobby into a business.
Give me a little background about your involvement from HIGHTIDE and how it helped your business thrive.
HIGHTIDE was a wonderfully-curated event, from the speakers to the really unique and extremely creative decor and branding of the overall event.
It was something we never saw on Guam. Meeting other women in the same situation as me, worried about moving, was helpful. We could chat about our goals and problem solve together. The speakers were present before and after the event, and really wanted to talk to us. They didn’t just stand at the podium but had a drink with us and shared their triumphs and failures as business women, mothers and wives. Today 2 to 3 of them still email me, I know I can ask a question via email and I always get an answer — that is a gift I will treasure always.
Stacie Krajchir-Tom, the founder of HIGHTIDE, was also an amazing influencer as well. Stacie found me on Instagram and messaged me, asked if I was interested in being in the Pop-Up Shop —and before we even met in person she also asked if I was interested in creating some custom pieces for the event that she thought would be great sellers —she understood the Guam market, and that many of our pieces had already been seen, so I was excited to take her suggestion. She made a point to meet with each of the vendors, giving her advice and extremely positive insight to our products. While at first, I was doubtful, thinking “Why would this woman I just met want to change what I do!?” But – it worked! Sometimes we get so narrow minded on our craft, we need a little outside motivation. And Stacie is that motivator. Even now she sends me feedback and ideas. I appreciate her so much, she made me aware that my little business could expand past Guam. And with her guidance, I know it can. She is now teaching me how to do my own PR and I am excited to learn something new!!
My favorite speaker was Chelsea Matthews, founder of Matte Black. Chelsea held our attention for the full 40 minutes. Her expertise is social media and my mind was blown. I had no idea that hashtags were relevant, what the power of a great photograph could do, and that these social media apps use an algorithm. Changed my entire approach to social media. I now spend time trying to cast my net farther with social media, something I wouldn’t have considered prior to HIGHTIDE. She really helped me harness the power of social media!
Even if you were not there as a business owner, there was so much to do. One area of was set up as a beauty lounge — a pampering section. Makeup and hair styling were offered for free. After you were glammed up, photographers took a professional head shot.
Another room was a creation station where attendees could make their own dyed scarves and God’s eyes with yarn. And if you like to shop local – the Pop-Up Shop was packed with incredibly handcrafted and unique goods made on Guam.
HIGHTIDE’s goal is to educate, elevate and inspire our community of women on Guam in creative and engaging ways and continue to grow GWCC membership—including women on base. More information: https://www.hightidecollective.co/
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