“Designing, making and wearing my jewellery helped my mental health no end. And mental health really is central to my brand,” says stylist and B Happy founder Bertie Bowen. Here, we talk beads, business, dreams and SQ…
Bertie Bowen is a stylist for Loose Women, co-founder of Mother Shoppers and B Happy is her jewellery brand.
Tell us about the B Happy studio, where did the idea originate from?
I had seen some designer beaded jewellery and loved it but couldn’t afford it. Especially as at that point we were living on my husband’s furlough (it was lockdown 1 and I was freelance at that point). I had some spare time and energy as I wasn’t working so I ordered a very cheap jewellery kit and taught myself a few basic techniques.
The necklace I made really cheered me up. Like lots of people, I was wearing casual trackies and not making much effort on my appearance and had started to lose my sense of style and just putting on a bright necklace helped my outlook somehow.
I’m a stylist and clothes are everything to me. Not having a reason to get dressed was actually pretty hard for me and I hadn’t realised this until that moment.
I really enjoyed making the jewellery too. It helped my mind focus and my body relax. It was also very creative.
So designing, making and wearing my jewellery helped my mental health no end. And mental health really is central to my brand.
When did you start, and how was the launch process?
Initially the jewellery was just a hobby but as soon as I put a photo of myself wearing my necklace on instagram it became very obvious that I could also sell them. I was lucky enough to have a decent following already @mothershoppers and I got over 100 email addresses from potential customers within the first few weeks.
I very quickly created my brand using Etsy and Canva. I knew time was of essence and I’m an impulsive person! I don’t give myself time for doubts. I’d rather try something and fail than not try at all. I’d never have thought I’d still be going two years later.
It feels like it quickly took off, why do you think this was?
I have always wanted my own business. I just needed to find the right thing for me and my lifestyle. I’ve tried so many creative avenues over the years and done loads of courses (including some of yours!) I’m always learning. For example, when my eldest was a baby I made tiny toddler moccasins out of vintage leather scraps. I found a load the other day – they were so cute! But took hours to make.
I’m passionate about my business being sustainable. Reusing whatever is on the planet already rather than creating more waste: upcycling was always going to be a part of my business model, whatever I did. It may seem from the outside that my biz took off quickly but it really was a long process of experimenting and failures. ‘Success’ is just about not giving up.
Are you running this business around your styling work, or have you gone in full time?
I am still a stylist at least three days a week. I am now on the payroll at ITV (after working for them for over a decade as a freelancer). Plus I take on freelance styling when I can. I also get a few paid ads for my Instagram @Mothershoppers.
At first I naively thought I’d love to just do the jewellery full-time. After the first year I realised running a business and relying on that income alone is stressful. The orders are very up and down. And at first that was hard. I’m more used to it now. And I’m very glad I have my other work so the jewellery stays more pleasurable and creative.
Tell us about a day, or session, working on B Happy: what are you doing, how does it feel?
I love my days dedicated to B Happy. I can drop the kids at school, have a leisurely coffee with a mate then go home and get on with my orders. Or I might get up at 5am and drive to a vintage market to look for beads and pearls. Sourcing, designing and making is still the most fun part of the job but there’s also the content creating (I have a love/ hate relationship with this) and the admin stuff – I HATE the technical stuff, website/SEO etc.
I finish by taking orders to the postbox which still feels so unreal – people will get these little parcels in the post and feel excited opening them. It’s mind blowing. And very satisfying. I love getting feedback from my customers.
What’s going really well, in terms of the business?
Erm… that’s a difficult question. The fact it’s still going, I guess. I recently did my accounts and financially it’s been pretty good – definitely still a side-hustle but a worthwhile one. We recently purchased our first home which I am not sure would’ve been possible without B Happy. A big chunk of the deposit is my savings from those sales.
Where do you get most of your sales from?
Instagram! Which is worrying because IG is such an enigma. It requires so much time and attention and consistency – I’m terrible at organising and planning. And I never wanna be tied to my phone. I make it work for me somehow. Well it is right now. No doubt it won’t work forever.
Is there anything you are struggling with?
Time management. I truly think if I was better at planning and organising (less impulsive, more consistent) my business would thrive and maybe I’d feel more in control. But also, that’s my personality. And maybe having that honesty come through my online presence and my designs is what has made the brand successful.
I’ll never understand it.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
I’m obsessed with colour. I think I always have been. It’s why I love clothes too. Combinations of colour especially. The vintage beads themselves inspire me too. I source first then design based on what I’ve sourced. Or very rarely a design idea will hit me BAM suddenly and I’ll need to sit down immediately and draw it or make it. I LOVE those moments.
What’s the dream, for your business?
A slow and steady progression to world domination! Ha.
Ok, maybe not… just a decent income and a strong brand with loyal customers. A steadier income would be good. And some good PR. I’ve never made it into a magazine (I’ve not really tried) so seeing my stuff in print would be exciting.
And for you: where are you living, who are you with, what are you doing with your days?
I’ve wanted a studio shed for years. Way before B Happy. I did one of your courses back in early 2020. We had to create a mood board and think about words which described our ideal career: integrity, balance, creativity were mine – I still have them pinned to my cork board.
I could visualise this beautiful light-filled space where I was free to be creative. I wasn’t sure what I was doing but I felt fulfilled and calm. My very own studio shed. Maybe I’ll be there experimenting with beads or maybe I’ll be doing something else. I like to keep an open mind on the future but that free feeling is what I know I am aiming for.
How do you raise your SQ?
I’ve dabbled in tarot and palm-reading and read up on witchcraft – it all fascinates me. But in particular visualisation/manifestation is something that’s always been a part of my life.
Before I’d even heard it described as ‘manifesting’ I would often visualise an ideal future situation. Sometimes a strong vision would pop into my head on its own or a vivid dream would stand out and I’d recognise it as something special. A feeling and situation I wanted to happen. Then I’d focus on it. Repeatedly go to that happy place.
It’s such a crazy feeling when you look at your life and think, this is what I envisioned 10 years ago – I’m living it NOW. It’s good to remind myself that today’s reality was my past self’s dream and appreciate how far I’ve come. Gratitude is important but also shows it works – I can manifest anything into my life, it’s truly powerful.