Mind your Business: Jenny Rijke, Ontario

Around these parts, we like to learn about and from people who are running their own businesses – business we love and admire, and the women who are running shit behind the scenes. This week’s interview is with Jenny Rijke, maker of beautiful and functional ceramic pieces - that would make great Christmas presents, by the way. In our chat she tells us about her inspiration, and the importance of doing what makes you happy, regardless of the pressure of outside influences. 

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milieu: Tell us a bit about your background.Were you always into ceramics/design? What made you decide to start your own company?
Jenny: I always wanted to have my own business, and there were several things that interested me: photography, cooking, floral shop. But I ended up choosing to do a degree in Human Nutrition, because I felt society’s pressure to attend University and get that ‘smart’, ‘good’, ‘well paying’ job. After my degree and having a hard time finding working, I decided to take the leap and start my own business. Do what I really wanted to do all along! I had taken ceramic classes when I was in high school and for seven years too as many lessons as I could. I worked as an apprentice and an assistant to two different potters and fell in love with clay.

milieu: What kind of research did you do for the business side?
Jenny: I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so the business side came more naturally to me. I understand more seeing my family pour their heart and soul into growing a business. I did take a short entrepreneurial course that taught me about book keeping, which I wasn’t familiar with.

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milieu: What inspires your designs? 
Jenny: Nature inspires a lot of my designs. We live in the country and I love the outdoors. Plants are a big interest of mine, and I always love adding new plants and flowers to our home. I feel a lot of my designs are inspired by this inner love for nature.

milieu: What’s the most challenging part of running your own business?
Jenny: Balancing. It is so hard to spend almost every minute on my business and not leave time for personal down time, friend time, family time, and looking after and cleaning our house. I get so consumed with working. I did start taking more time to cook dinner for us, because I love to cook. And that enjoyment has helped. But I should still get better at balancing and not always being glued to my business. It’s just hard when you want to grow your business, especially when just starting out.

milieu: How do you get your name out there/promote your work?
Jenny: I use Instagram mostly, which has worked great so far. With so much to do in creating and just managing and maintaining the business it can be very hard to find the time to really market yourself. In the New Year I plan to make it more of a priority to spend time marketing myself by beginning blogging and using Facebook and Pinterest more actively. I also attend craft shows which is great in gaining exposure and gaining repeat customers.

milieu: What’s your favourite piece?
Jenny: Oh I love so many! How can I just pick one? I love my little texture white and gold ring dishes. They are so cute, delicate, classy and are perfect for those treasured pieces of jewelry.

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milieu: Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would change if you had to start all over again?
Jenny: Probably not. I really stretched myself this year. I can’t say I should of worked harder. I am attending a lot of very large crafts shows that were a huge jump for me and they are going well! So I am happy with all of the hard work that I have put into my business so far.

milieu: Can you give us any insight into new collections, new projects or collaborations?
Jenny: I would like to add more pieces to the marble collection for sure. I see more serving wares beginning, like platters and bowls. I do have one collaboration that is in the works, and I have an idea for another that I think would be great. But you will have to stay tuned for the reveal of those secrets!

milieu: What advice would you give someone who is looking to go into business for themselves?
Jenny: It is a lot of work. I knew it would be a lot of work, but it is even more work then I thought. Be prepared to pour a lot of energy, time, and money and not reap the rewards right away. And try even though its a lot of work, and you want to pour a lot into your business, try to take a little personal time for yourself too. Your body and family with thank you!

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