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ICYMI: Yello Interviews St Lucian Jennifer Jhala St Louis, Founder of ‘Poetry Kisses’

by Karen Rollins Apr 1, 2024

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Jennifer Jhala St Louis

St Lucian businesswoman Jennifer Jhala St Louis became interested in art and fashion from a very early age, mainly due to the influence of her mother, who she calls ‘the queen of fashion and crafts’.

Jennifer always loved to draw, sketch, and paint but later she also started making jewellery for herself and then close relatives. 

In 2014, after she lost her job, and following encouragement from her sister-in-law, Jennifer decided to turn her jewellery-making hobby into a full-time business and launched ‘Poetry Kisses’, a form of wearable art that is practical, unique, beautiful, and makes a statement!

In 2022, Yello asked Jennifer to tell us more about her life as a Caribbean entrepreneur, so in case you missed it, this is our interview.

Describe yourself using three words.

Free-spirited. Creative. Soft.

Tell us about your background.

I was born in Morne Du Don in St Lucia. Surrounded by family. I have many aunts (divas in their own right). I’ve also been surrounded by makeup, jewellery, and fashion for as long as I remember. 

My mother, the “queen of fashion and crafts”, passed down to me her love for crafts, fashion, colour, art, our Caribbean heritage, and most of all, jewellery. 

I studied Visual Arts at the Convent for the first few years, but I’ve always drawn, sketched, and painted. 

Poetry Kisses

When / how did you realise you had artistic talent? 

My mother always encouraged our creative exploration as best she could. She introduced us to art and music, and her love for colour and interior design. But I really began exploring art at school and then creating jewellery when I was much older. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? 

Yes and no. My mother owned her own business which was a dream of hers for a long time. She inspired me to embrace the possibility of working for myself, but I never knew what type of business I wanted to get into, although I knew it would surround the arts and fashion. 

However, it wasn’t always that way, with life and getting out of school there was a lot of pressure to find work. So, I put it on the back burner for some time, until I lost my job. Then it was no longer a hobby and became a part of my livelihood. 

Poetry Kisses

When did you start your business ‘Poetry Kisses’?

‘Poetry Kisses’ was established as a company in 2014, after I spent a couple of years creating jewellery as a side gig, which was something that I enjoyed doing for myself at first, and then for close family members. 

My sister-in-law gave me the idea to start selling the pieces and her generous investment helped get things started. 

What is the story behind the name ‘Poetry Kisses’?

‘Poetry Kisses’ existed long before the business was created as the name of my personal blog and then later my email address. It was inspired by a poem by Elizabeth Browning. I took the liberty of adding my own spin to it, about the creator, or a lover, kissing my hands and from that sprang forth love and creativity etc. 

What type of wearable art pieces do you make?

I create statement necklaces, bracelets, earrings, waist beads, barefoot sandals, and jewellery to adorn both men and women and speak to their soul. Wearable art that makes a statement. 

Poetry Kisses

Where do you get inspiration from?

I get inspiration from everywhere. From our Afro Caribbean history and culture; nature, art, and music.

I’m inspired by poetry, colour and of course, people. You can tell a lot about someone from the jewellery they wear. And what they don’t wear. I find myself seeing someone dressed up and imagining a piece that would complement their outfit or their skin colour. 

My art speaks to people. They are drawn to the pieces. It’s actually remarkable to watch. If I have them on display, it will catch their eye, and literally draw them to the table for a closer look. Those bold enough will ask about it, and the fearless try them on and purchase. 

What is the unique selling point for ‘Poetry Kisses’?

That each piece, whether jewellery or artwork, is uniquely crafted and artistically created to appeal to art lovers and to say something. Wearable art that is affordable and durable. 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner? How did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges for me was sourcing the capital I needed to start. As well as not having a home where I can market my products. Not having the visibility. 

I had many investments from dear friends and family to assist. I did a lot of pop-up shops, trade shows etc to gain the exposure I needed. I also sourced a few retailers and did promotions and marketing on social media. 

Poetry Kisses

What has been your proudest career achievement so far?

One of my proudest achievements was participating in CARIFESTA 2019 which was held in Trinidad. I was one of three chosen artists and entrepreneurs who travelled as part of the St Lucian delegation for the event which lasted two weeks. It was all expenses paid and such a wonderful experience. 

Which local, regional, and international entrepreneurs / artists do you admire?

Some of the artists I admire are mostly visual artists, like St Lucia’s Rahana Dariah, who is a good friend of mine and a tremendous illustrator. I also admire the illustrations of Afro Latina, Reyna Noriega. 

What advice do you have for aspiring artists / entrepreneurs?

My first piece of advice is one I take for myself every single day – never give up! Even though you may rest or take needed breaks. Never give up. Regain your momentum and cover more ground. 

Nothing happens without smart work and consistency. Rome wasn’t built in a day and though we may get discouraged, we just have to keep at it. 

Poetry Kisses

What do you love about St Lucia? 

I love the culture and the art. The people are so colourful in so many different ways and dynamic! I love our nature, the flowers, the views, the beaches. So much colour and texture. 

Where do you go on the island to relax with friends? 

Primarily, the beach or anywhere there is music. Mostly I enjoy staying home, inviting company over for some food and wine, and definitely music! Maybe a movie and just chill. 

What are your career plans over the next 12 months? 

With COVID being what it is, I am even more mindful of how making plans can quickly deteriorate or change. But I have promised myself to be ever more fluid, flexible and to seek out opportunities for growth, and when I find it to grab it. 

My plan concerning ‘Poetry Kisses’ is to expand into other areas like I have with my merchandise and art, and to start advertising and selling on a wider scale, both locally and internationally. 

What is your philosophy / motto in life?

My philosophy in life is to remain humble. Soft but not pliable, teachable. To remain firm in my resolve for what I believe in. To do the things that make me happy which will help those in my life who I love and anyone else I meet. 

See more of Jennifer’s wearable art on her website – Poetrykisses.com – Jennifer is also contactable on all major social media networks, including Facebook and Instagram.