Sue Henderson started her jewelry collection, Suetables, as a part-time hobby (FYI: Sue was the first person to personalize jewelry on the spot in Canada). Then her divorce forced her to re-think her casual business plan which had already gained steady momentum among friends and family within six degrees of separation. Instead of going back to her former life as a PR director for media channels like HGTV and the Food Network, she turned her hand-stamped designs into a full-time gig. Her sons, Thomas and Charlie, are now teens and while her business grew, so did her personal life. Now, they’ve grown into a big blended family with her fiancé (and unofficial CFO of the biz), Tony Carter, and his children, William and Annie.
With her home in the full-on chaos of family life, her exclusively online business was finally gifted with a brick and mortar home last year. “My home office just got too busy. I had 30 to 50 weekly customers looking for the outdoor pick up box at my door,” she says. Her joyful progress has been marked by major renovations in her home and at her new store all thanks to her willingness to reimagine a work-life heartbeat on her own terms.
“I’ve had the business since 2004, went full-time with it in 2008 and I only stopped working from home and opened a store a year ago. I don’t know that I made all the right moves. Looking back, it would’ve been nice if I had grown quickly and reached bigger milestones like having the shop within three years. I just couldn’t stomach the risk. I only spent what I made and even though I had a line of credit, I never borrowed from it. I think as moms we have to adjust our lives to fit in with our kids’ lives to a certain degree, and I was a single mom trying to juggle it all. Going into debt or taking on a shop felt like too much to handle, so I went at my own speed.
What I do know is that divorced moms should go for it. They should go out there and get a job and build their lives again; I believe everybody has a talent and something to offer. I know some lawyers advise women not to work so they can get more money in a settlement, but if you don’t work for many years, then it becomes tough to go back to work and this can play on women’s self esteem. Divorce can be a gift because it allows you to reinvent your life, so find something you love and make it happen. One of my favourite necklaces is stamped with the word ‘evolve’ because it’s important to keep stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s why I love my business so much. I could focus on something positive while I went through all the complicated feelings of watching the kids go back and forth between two houses.
I never used to tell people I was divorced. I felt like I needed to keep that private. I thought ‘I’m going to have to hide this because I sell a family product.’ I talk about it now though. I recently wrote a blog post about how my divorce started my business and the next day I received all these emails from women thanking me for my honesty. I really believe people smell the truth and I think everyone around me was relieved that I was finally putting it all out there. We all want connection, especially moms, whether we want to talk about what we want more of in our lives or what mantras we would like to wear on a necklace.
What is most exciting to me is connecting. The business is so much about conversations with our clients. The nature of jewelry is to mark an occasion, whether it’s a birthday or even losing a loved one. It’s a very personal business. I think that’s what fuels me. I started this because I was lost and I know what we do helps people feel better. I’m fueled by their stories and their words and I think that’s what has brought me success.
I would advise new business owners to stay true to their vision and core brand. It would have been easy for me to replace hand stamping with a machine (there’s less wastage and less time spent on our craft and training) but I remained committed to hand-stamped jewelry and soulful accessories. Sure I’ve made my share of mistakes like flying all the way to Prague to meet a potential supplier, only to arrive and find out I was invited by the intern to come and visit. (Needless to say, I gained nothing but the experience). What matters more is that I’m really and truly happy to get up in the morning to see who I meet next and what experiences and challenges the day may bring.”
HOME TOUR A farm-to-city style that looks right at home
“My personal style is a mix of traditional and modern and I bring that aesthetic to my jewelry collection too.” Her dining room table, a flea market find, is juxtaposed with Philippe Starck for Kartell Ghost chairs, antique dining chairs from her grandmother and a modern brass light fixture from Elte.
“I love this painting. You can’t tell if the sun is coming or going and that’s how life is, isn’t it?” Painting by James Lahey. Custom-made up-cycled fur pillow; print pillow, By The Bunch; couch, Style Garage.
An enclosed porch with a view of the backyard was a must-have after she sold her farmhouse. “We weren’t there often enough with 4 kids and our work, so I tried to bring that outdoors feeling into the city.”
“We bought this painting for the farm. It’s so soulful. I feel like she’s looking straight at us.” Couch, Style Garage. Painting by Andre Petterson.
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
“This lipstick is a gift from my future sister-in-law. The colour name, Tony, is my fiancé’s name too.” Lipstick, Tom Ford; By Killan travel perfume set in Forbidden Games (Sue is a seasoned globetrotter for work and play); Coqui Coqui perfume in Tabaco, a find from a recent jaunt to Tulum; and Makeup Forever HD Cover Stick Foundation which she says is the perfect balance of coverage with a texture that’s not super thick.
The books that inspire her life, business and design decisions: The New Entrepreneurs by Allan Gould which features valuable know-how from her dad, Mark Henderson; Love x Style x Life by Garance Doré and A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.
She fesses up that she has an inner-boho personality that still loves a vintage find like this fringe suede bag. Instead of high-priced designer goodies, she admits she would rather spend her budget on travel instead of her wardrobe.
Her go-to shoes are a find from Spain and have trotted the globe with her. “I’ll hold onto things forever especially if they’re comfortable and easy-to-wear.’
Keepsakes inherited from her grandmother, like this pendant bracelet and family signet ring, stay close to her heart and style. “She was a very beautiful and stylish woman with old world charm.” It’s easy to see that her business is in her genes.
Passed-down treasures. “My grandfather said my grandmother always looked like a flower and bought an engagement ring in the shape of one for her.”