Written by Karen Rollins

My St Lucia: Jewellery designer Nicole de Gale

Saint Lucian born entrepreneur Nicole de Gale is the creative force behind the growing Caribbean jewellery brand ‘NikkiBiedes’.

NikkiBiedes is known for beautiful statement pieces made of pearls, glass beads, silver and gold which look high end but are sold at an affordable price.

Nicole spoke to Yello about her brand which is building a strong reputation for quality and uniqueness. She told us about how she got started, what she’s learned along the way, how living in the Caribbean inspires her designs and the plans she has to make NikkiBiedes a household name.

Describe yourself in one sentence

An outgoing creative person who loves to socalise and enjoys a good challenge.

Tell us about your childhood.

I was born in St Lucia but when I was two years old we moved to Grenada, which is where my father is from, and I lived there for over 10 years before eventually moving back to St Lucia.

Growing up in Grenada was amazing – there was always an adventure to go on and its home to some of the most amazing beaches, which is where my sister Bianca and I practically lived at the weekend.

My dad was a pilot, so during school holidays he would take Bianca and I flying. We flew around, island hopping throughout the Grenadines. I loved looking out of the window and seeing the different shades of blue. I’ve always been awed by the Caribbean Sea which really does inspire most of my designs.

How / when did you become interested in designing jewellery?

Whenever I’m asked this question, I always seem to laugh because if someone told me four years ago that I’d become a jewellery designer, I would have said they’re crazy.

With that being said, I’ve always been quite creative since I was a young girl and loved jewellery. In fact, I worked for two years in a jewellery store when I was 19. I would try on all the pieces and dream about owning them, however I have expensive taste and could never afford them!

Then when I just started dating my husband, I found myself not going out as much and with quite a bit of free time on my hands so that’s when I really tapped back into my creative side again, which was something I hadn’t done in years.

One day I found a shop that sold glass beads and I sat at home making necklaces, stringing one bead at a time. Sometimes it would take me an hour just to make three, and before I knew it I had over 50 necklaces, all different colours and lengths. I decided to wear some of them to a friend’s daughter’s christening and that was where I got my first order, which was something I wasn’t expecting, as I was doing it purely for fun.

Now NikkiBiedes makes affordable quality pieces, so persons can get a high-end look at an affordable price.

Why the name NikkiBiedes?

After my first order, I soon received another, so then I thought, “why not do nice packaging to go along with it?”. My husband Shimon gave me the nickname “Nikki Beads” and before you knew it, everyone started calling me that too.

My sister Bianca, who was also very supportive and saw the potential in the product, would help me quite a bit, so naturally when the decision to create a business name came along, I wanted to incorporate her name into it, hence the spelling ‘NikkiBiedes’ which is unique and stands out. I’ve never looked back since.

What was the toughest challenge you faced setting up your business?

My biggest blessing has also been my toughest challenge – which is residing in the Caribbean. Here we don’t have a lot of craft stores to supply designers with good quality materials so sometimes it took me years to find what I needed for the designs I wanted to create.

It’s also tough when you’re sourcing things online and you’re not there in person to feel and look at the materials. There’s been a lot of trial and error.

When I finally found satisfactory materials, it then became a nightmare shipping them into the island because the duties and taxes are horrendous and that could really deter young creative minds. So, it was hard, but I kept my eyes on the prize and focused on what I wanted for the brand and kept pushing.

Today, just about four years later, I sell in three different countries – Barbados, Grenada and St Lucia and I am actively looking to expand throughout the Caribbean.

What is your company’s unique selling point?

Every single piece of mine is made with love and they all have a timeless and classy finish.

The end of every necklace I create also has a small fresh water pearl, which has become a signature for my brand and makes it immediately recognisable as a NikkiBiedes creation.

What do you wish you’d known before you started?

Funny enough, I really can’t think of anything right now. I’m self-taught, and I learn more every single day. I always wanted to go to fashion school but unfortunately, I never got there but maybe if I had, I’d have known a bit more about the industry and a variety of beading techniques.

With that being said, I’m really lucky to be surrounded by so many friends and family who have a wealth of knowledge in fashion. I’m also a quick learner and have learnt many lessons during my journey so far and I know there’s so much more to learn.

Whats been your proudest achievement so far?

Creating a brand that persons recognise and appreciate. I’ve been able to launch NikkiBiedes in other Caribbean islands and it’s truly an amazing feeling when I have a launch and persons show up excited and ready to buy my pieces because they love what I’ve created.

These are the things that make me feel extremely blessed and prove that with vision and hard work, your dreams can truly turn into a reality.

Where do you get inspiration from for your designs? 

To be honest, so many things inspire my designs. Caribbean women, the Caribbean Sea, but I would say right now my designs are really focused on reinventing pearls.

Pearls are thought of as being very serious and automatically associated with work or church, but I’d like for women of all ages to see the true beauty in them. I want women to have fun with pearls, so I’ve got many designs where I mix them with semi-precious gems such as blue topaz, turquoise, blue chalcedony, pink quartz and green onyx.

I also use metals such as sterling silver and 14 carat gold filled chains and wires, making them more fun to layer but still maintaining their beauty and elegance.

Tell us about your current collection.

My new collection is called ‘Caribe de Fleur’. Most of my collections feature French names because in St.Lucia we have a strong French influence.

The concept for this new collection is a little different and I’m still currently working on it as we speak, but it’s going to be a collection of earrings only and I love it so far.

‘Caribe de Fleur’ is really inspired by the Bougainvillea which is my favourite flower. It consists of hand-wrapped pink topaz, orange topaz and amethyst, paired with freshwater pearls onto 14k gold filled hoops. It’s absolutely beautiful. I would wear every single piece within this collection!

What do you love about St Lucia?

The warmth of our people. St Lucians are the friendliest people in the Caribbean.

How is St Lucia different from the other Caribbean islands?

I think what makes St. Lucia different is its beauty and charm. I believe anyone who has been to the south of the island would agree. There’s something so magical about Soufriere and our Pitons – it’s ever so peaceful. Just a weekend there can rejuvenate your soul.

What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?

I enjoy the thrill of growing the business, overcoming obstacles and learning something new every day. I also like the fact that I can be flexible with my time.

Where do you go to relax / eat when you have time off?

I currently live in Barbados so when I have time to relax I usually head down to the beach with my husband. We usually go to The Boat Yard in Bridgetown. The staff there are wonderful and there is always a good vibe.

We also enjoy socialising and dining out. My husband and I had our first date at Tapas, so we tend to go there as its a special place for us, but we also love Tides, Champers, Cin Cin, Fusion and the list goes on because there are so many great options on this island.

Where do you hope NikkiBiedes will be five-10 years from now?

I certainly would love to see NikkiBiedes become a household name in the Caribbean and for it to be a port store brand within the region. Who knows, maybe I can tap into North America and Latin America!

I’m aiming to create and build an all-female team that’ll be able to take this brand to the next level, because as the business grows, I’m going to need more help.

What advice would you give anyone looking to start their own business?

It’s easy to dream, but it’s not always easy to do the work hard. You have to persistently work hard in order to succeed.

No matter how hard the journey becomes, especially after rejection (because it can happen), if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never make your dreams become a reality.

Stay focused and keep believing!

Visit NikkiBiedes on Facebook to see more unique jewellery designs.

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