Nicole Bracey launched Salt Water Tea a year after she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from the Alberta College of Art + Design. Bracey creates gemstone jewelry and crystal infused candles and runs Greater Goods – an avenue for artists to sell their work locally all year round in a store setting. She answered a few questions on the time and work that goes behind her business. The Calgary Journal wanted to see the contrast between a conventional work week and the work week of an artist. Below is Bracey’s average week for her art and business.

Nicole Bracey explains highs and lows of owning her own jewellery company. Video by Natalie Holland and Maria Dardano.

 Creating the Art

Q: How many hours a week do you spend on your art?

A: Breakdown in a typical week:

Creating the product: 25 – 30 hours

Planning art: Two hours

Sourcing supplies: Two hours

Q: What is your biggest challenge when creating your product?

A: One of the biggest challenges is finding the time to create new designs while maintaining stock levels of current designs. Each design also undergoes sort of a trial period. So designing a new piece, plus determining what supplies are needed for this design and how much to purchase can be challenging because you never know for sure what your clients response will be.

Q: What is the biggest reward?

A: Creating has always been my favourite part of the business. It’s the reason I started it in the first place, so I find creating my product to be rewarding in itself.

swt-bodyNicole Bracey with her dog, Shyla (aka the love of her life). Bracey has been enamoured with the art of creating her entire life. Photo by Sarah Beaulieu.

Managing Money

Q: How much time goes into managing the money a week?

A: 15 hours a week.

Q: Managing your online brand?

A: Three hours a week.

Q: Handling orders?

A: 5-10 hours a week.

Q: Accounting?

A: 1-2 hours a week. I outsource most to a book keeper.

Q: What is your biggest challenge when managing the money?

A: Handling orders varies so much. During busy periods, busy times like this I’m averaging about 10 hours just invoicing, packaging and shipping orders to clients. Depending on the week, the number of hours I spend working on orders can be so much more than anticipated, so it’s difficult to budget my time.

Q: What is the biggest reward managing the money?

A: Knowing that people want to purchase my items is fantastic and repeat customers are my favourite thing. It makes me really happy when individuals, wholesale accounts and re-order items.

swt-body2All Bracey’s poducts are handmade in her home studio. Bracey specializes in affordable, stylish, gemstone jewelry and crystal infused candles. Photo courtesy of Nicole Bracey.

Social Media

Q:How many hours a week do you spend spreading the word about Salt Water Tea?

A: 15-20 hours a week.

Q:How many hours a week do you spend on marketing and promotions?

A: 8-10 hours.

Q: Interacting with customers?

A: Five hours.

Q: Growing new customer base?

A: Five hours.

Q: What is your biggest challenge in spreading the word?

A: Coming up with new content for social media can be exhausting. Constantly creating new images, promotions, text, etc. to keep customers engaged takes a lot of time and creativity. This is another ‘depending on the week’ scenario. If I have a market that week, I can spend 8- 40 hours interacting with customer, depending on how long the market runs for.

Q: What is the biggest reward in spreading the word?

A: I love interacting with customers. It’s really important for me to be my own brand rep, and talk to customers, access their needs, and help them where I can.

swt-body-3Bracey is also Vice President of YYC Girl Gang an organization that provides support and networking opportunities for Calgary business women. Photo courtesy of Nicole Bracey.

 Q: What other things do you spend your time on for Salt Water Tea a week?

A: Collaborating with others? One to two hours

Booking venues for selling – One hour

Keeping customers happy- One hour

Repairs and maintenance- One hour

Q: What other challenges do you come across?

A: Keeping customers happy is important and generally not a huge challenge. However, there are always going to be difficult people out there with demands that can be so over the top. Unfortunately, there’s a few people out there who take advantage of small businesses, speaking from my own experience and the experience of my friends and will have outrageous demands. Sometimes you feel cornered, like you have to appease them to avoid tarnishing your reputation.

Q: What other rewards do you achieve with Salt Water Tea?

A: I really do love when I can solve a customer’s problem. Ninety-nine percent of my customers are really sweet and if something breaks. I’m always happy to fix it and they’re usually quite excited to be able to wear their jewelry again. So I really do love that.

Q: Other things you spend your time with?

A: Greater Goods – I work there about 25 hours a week as well, and manage the social media – and YYC Girl Gang is about five hours a week, unless we have an event. 

The editor responsible for this article is Mary Yohannes and can be reached at

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