Slick Chick Magazine is all about celebrating the everyday woman and sharing inspiring stories. It is not often, I meet someone who is on the same page and tries to do the same through their work. Monica Graves is the owner, founder and designer of glamjulz, custom jewellery made for women, with a big part of the ethos of the company being about giving back to the community.
The first time I met Monica, was through a common friend/colleague and I was meeting her about a project I was working on and the intention of the meeting was to talk about work, but what transpired was nothing short of magical, we made an instant connection and I was so happy to learn all about her and her work she does. A 30-minute meeting turned into an hour and half and we talk about our respective passions about being able to give back and inspire people to reach their goals. We are both passionate about empowering women.
Monica is a strong, loving, kind, generous and caring human being. She has the spirit of an entrepreneur since a young age, but she is so much more than that. At the centre of her is this zest for life and undying hope. She is ever ready to help anyone who is in need. There is a realness and rawness that is rare to come by. You get to see this in her weekly blogs, where she speaks about her life stories and experiences.
We met for coffee and proceeded to have a no-filter conversation about where she is and how she got there.
Monica’s earliest memory of wanting to be an entrepreneur was when she was in kindergarten, where she has the brilliant idea during recess to sell these gorgeous pebbles for $1 each and she figured if she could sell a million of them, she would make a million dollars and she could pay for her parents house and they would not have to work anymore. It has always been important or Monica to make money, as for money equals freedom – the freedom to have enough to do the things that make you happy.
Her want to make money rises from being a child of immigrant parents and seeing the struggle they went through. Whilst recognizing that they were blessed, she did see the downs of not having enough. Monica remembers wearing overalls from the used clothing store, while other girls in her class would show up to school in fancy dresses. Growing up as an underdog herself, she always wanted to and continues to want to support the underdog. Monica is unapologetic about wanting to make a living, and is equally passionate about sharing her wealth, both materialistic and spiritual!!
A big part of Monica’s personality is wanting to make people who don’t feel so great about themselves, feel great about themselves. That is why every piece she creates is unique and is created with the intention of bringing out the uniqueness and specialness of the person who buys it.
Monica is a self- taught jeweller and her jewellery is a true reflection of her style and personality. She gets a kick from seeing other people succeed and loves making other people feel good. As she has grown she has realized she is a people pleaser, and she owns it in the most positive way – she thrives on making people happy.
At the age of 15 she started a t-shirt business, where she sold t-shirts with music artists and bands printed on them. Monica was and is still obsessed with music and rockstars. She managed to sell enough that her school approached her to carry her t-shirts in their store and then she started to do craft shows. She was also a babysitter. Monica confesses, she never excelled at school, but she always had money and she has always been good at generating an income.
Monica progressed from t-shirts to wall murals and eventually jewellery. In her early twenties, she was in a relationship that wasn’t working out, and a friend of her then boyfriend asked her to go to a bead store together. She went to the store and gathered some beads and she just loved how they felt, they gave her power, and they were therapeutic. She ended her relationship and started to make jewellery for her friends both male and female. As she was building her jewellery business, she was working a full-time corporate job.
Twenty five years later, Monica is still as passionate about jewellery – she loves designing it and making it, but most of all she loves how it makes women feel. It gave her strength when she needed, and the fact that she can pass the same energy on to women who need it, is a big part of her passion.
Monica would love to be able to share her stories and experiences with other women and young women, so that they can excel in whatever area they choose to. Her passion to support and empower other women, strengthened in 2012, when she lost her father to cancer.
She feels for a long time, she lived in a bubble, while she was compassionate and empathetic towards other people’s stories of pain, she had never felt it, until the passing of her father. Now she is able to connect on a much deeper level with women, when they go into her studio, it is not only about buying the jewellery, but about creating a safe space for them to have that conversation of their pain.
Now when Monica hears people’s stories, it hurts her, where as before it did not go so deep. Being able to be there for people empowers her with motivation and inspiration – when she is in a slump, she thinks of these women and their stories and imagines how they are getting up and getting out and doing what needs to be done.
While the passing of her father was hard and very painful and still is, Monica has found strength in it, a new sense of inspiration and best of all a new best friend in her mother.
glamjulz supports non-profit organizations through the business. Monica is particular about the organizations she chooses to work with and she is personally vested in them. Each organization she supports is close to her heart and has a personal story attached to it:
Halton Food For Thought – through her teacher bracelets, she has always wanted to help children, especially children that are hungry – hunger affects your brain and is such an important part of a healthy child;
The Ladybird Animal Sanctuary – they rescue animals from all over Ontario – ironically Monica was never a pet person, until after her dad passed, her husband thought it would be a good idea for her to get a dog and she sees how animals can heal humans;
Dress for Success – gives women the opportunity to get out there and get jobs, they provide clothing and accessories to get out there and be successful – Monica loves that because she wants women to kick ass;
Monica and her husband, Wayne have created an NGO called Three Little Wishes – it is inspired by her brother’s best friend who had cancer in the eighties and before he embarked on treatment for it, they gave him an option to freeze his sperm, in case he wanted to have children in the future and fast forward to the future, during university he met a lovely woman and they got married and wanted to have children, so they utilized the frozen sperm and proceeded to have triplets (2 girls and a boy) and when the children were 2 years old, Tommy’s cancer was back and Monica and Wayne wanted to do something for Tommy’s family, and so was born Three Little Wishes and it is now running for 7 years and every year they pick a different family where either parent has cancer and have financial strain due to the treatment, and they donate the money to the children, who can then at least start an educational fund.
A big part of Monica’s journey is her husband, Wayne. She admits other than supporting her in her business, Wayne keeps her believing in herself and knows her better than herself. The thing Monica values most about Wayne is when she feels lost, he reminds her of who she is and is her homing beacon.
There has never been a time that I have met Monica and she has been vibrating at a low energy level, she is always happy and energized. It is not about the constant positivity, because I don’t buy into that, but she is about the hopefulness. Monica always has hope in any given situation.
“Think of what you are doing in the world and how it affects people, it means we have to have hope, there is no other option. Giving up is not an option. Also being kind and gentle with yourself. A key part of being hopeful is stepping away and allowing things to happen because that is where the magic happens.”
Plans for the future include having a YouTube show, writing a book, being a speaker and being out there sharing her life stories and experiences. Monica admits her biggest stumbling block is her own self-doubt, which she is working on to get rid of so she can get out and conquer her dreams.
Monica confesses she has always been a centre of attention and she loves the attention, but not to a point of being an egomaniac. Wanting and liking attention is not correlated to humbleness.
Monica draws her inspiration from all over. Her seasonal collection is inspired by what is happening in that moment. This past spring she designed a collection based on all music artists that had passed, telling their stories through her beads. Selecting her beads is an inward process, where she needs space and time with the beads and doesn’t like to be interrupted.
Her fall 2017 collection is about celebrating Canada’s 150 and all of the three women that work for her, got to pick a place in Canada that they have an attachment to and design pieces based on that. Each one’s emotional attachment story is available on her blog.
Monica draws her strength from her husband Wayne, her mother and her father. Her past experiences are also her strengths, like the movie Xanadu. Music is a huge part of her and always inspires her.
Monica recognizes the difficulty of walking this journey of life and striking a balance, and her pearl’s of wisdom are: “do not spend money because people are telling you to; make choices based on what is authentic for you, if you go on a path that is not true to you it leads to disaster; surround yourself with positive people and people who add value to you, people who empower you and not suck out the energy from you; and if you are not sure of yourself or lose sight of who you are, don’t be afraid to ask you friends what is it about you that is unique and original!!”