I have always loved buying things locally – food, clothing, jewelry, everything. Especially now that I have an income I love being able to support local businesses in Calgary, and even across Canada. Market Collective has become the place where I buy my art, gifts, and any knick knacks that I want to add to my house.
I especially think jewelry should be bought at markets and through local designers because then you have unique pieces that everyone can’t buy at the mall. My mom loves buying new pieces to add to her collection and everywhere we travel we end up finding a cool local designer to support.
Tribes+Society is a YYC based shop; you can find her work on Etsy and at Market Collectives. It is beautiful craftsmanship that is designed and made uniquely for buyers. My two sisters and I all have matching necklaces with a heart on one side and our initials on the other. Even though Hannah is across the world, we can all wear our necklaces to feel connected.
After I got the necklaces made, I chatted with Sophie Gabias-Moffat, the owner and founder of Tribes+Society.
“I was born in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, and grew up in our family flower shop. I was introduced very young to the ups and downs of owning a business.
After studying in Fashion Merchandizing, I set off to travel to Western Canada, then Europe. After two years away, I decided to settle in Calgary to attend ACAD and obtain a jewelry making degree. I unfortunately (or fortunately?) was put on a waiting list and decided to take some classes (silversmithing, textile) for credit until I could re-apply, and also worked for a local jewelry designer, Dean Davidson. In the end, I decided to not pursue that dream, and to try my hand at other things. I took business classes, managed a gelato shop, worked at a consignment store, a hair salon… I did it all. After meeting my husband-to-be, I enrolled in the Exploration Technology program at SAIT, and had decided to “grow up” and get a career. At that point, having steady careers allowed us to buy our first home and start a family.
I had never stopped making jewelry during that whole period, but waited until my oldest was born before I decided to turn it into a business. Creativity always finds its way in your life. I started selling locally at Market Collective, and then boutiques across Canada picked up my line. I also sell on Etsy, and I teach workshops. Once things started to get busy, I quit my day job to care for the kids and run Tribes+Society to its fullest. I can proudly say that I am a business owner and that I do what I love.”
The inspiration behind the company came from Sophie’s personal confidence in what she could create knowing that people would take her more seriously if she believed in herself and her work. “Dusting off my tools and revisiting what I had learnt at ACAD was very freeing: not using those skills was stunting my creativity.”
The design for the pieces is inspired by archaeology and traces left behind by our ancestors. When tombs or hoards are excavated often times there are hand crafter pieces of jewelry left behind. Jewelry can reveal so much about someone’s family, origins, gender, status, work, and tribe. We can identify who they are by what they were wearing. We haven’t changed much today, we express who we are by decorating ourselves with jewelry and accessories.
What is the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
It’s tough, it’s tiring, and it’s at times draining. But laying down your own foundations and seeing everything come together in the end, bit by bit, is such a thrill. Knowing that people around you believe enough in you to give you a hand, to help you build something so meaningful is a big part of why I am here. Although I am the sole proprietor, I’ve never felt alone running Tribes+Society. On the other hand, the most challenging part has been the logistics of running a business like paper work and taxes.
Describe a day in the life of Sophie.
Well, I surely cannot leave my kids out of this one… We wake up with the kids and take the oldest to her bus stop, and then I tend to my youngest and household errands. iPhones are a blessing and it allows me to stay connected, even on the go, with emails, social media, and orders. I am never really “switched off” unless I decide to take a vacation from it all. Most days there are deliveries and mail-outs; it’s always a good reason to go for a walk to the post office with the little one. Then, once everyone is asleep, I get busy in the studio filling out orders, finishing new designs, building inventory for markets. Once I go to bed, I find it really hard not to be thinking about Tribes+Society… until the next morning, when the madness starts again.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
Take it slow. Don’t compare your rate of growth to others: some people are just very lucky. Allowing yourself to grow steadily is the best way to learn the ropes and to build solid business foundations. The fruit of your creativity can only be marketed and sold if you can manage the business side properly.
What keeps you motivated?
People’s reaction to my jewelry: when I meet people who are curious about my process, and like engaging with me as an artist. Also, let’s not fool ourselves: making a living and knowing that people are ready to spend their hard earned money on a T+S piece is AMAZING.