Gracie Elbel and Ella Saunders are two of Calgary's inspiring youth entrepreneurs. Between attending high school, working, and playing sports, this crafty duo has created Corksis- a sustainable jewelry company where they sell up-cycled and hand crafted wine cork jewelry. Ella and Gracie have established a brand that is inspired by the beauty of nature, while embodying an Eco-friendly approach to jewelry production. These young jewelers re-use materials that have been scavenged from their parent's cork collection, or donated by other wine connoisseurs. We were lucky enough to spend a morning with Ella and Gracie to learn more about the history of Corksis, and how it has evolved.
What inspired you to start Corksis? What is the origin of the name?
Gracie: Corksis started as a small craft project 4 years ago when we were in grade 6. We would hang out together and make cork jewelry out of corks we'd find around the house. We have been best friends for a really long time, so we incorporated “sister” with “cork”. As our collection grew, we decided to start selling our jewelry pieces to friends, family and at local events.
How long does it take you to make one piece of jewelry
Ella: Depending on the detail and design of the pendant, some necklaces take 20 minutes, others can take up to 45 minutes.
Where do you find the supplies?
Ella: We get most of our corks from our parents wine cork collection. We find a lot of our natural supplies while we are out and about for walks along the river, and sometimes we will get donations.
Who are your greatest supporters?
Gracie: Both of our Grandmas are our number one fans. We get a lot of support from our friends, as well as Bridgeland locals. Luke's Drug Mart has supported our sales by sponsoring a youth table at the Bridgeland Farmers Market, where we are able to sell our jewelry and promote our business.
Where do you see Corksis in 1-2 years time?
Gracie: We just hope to continue making jewelry. It would be really cool if we could create an etsy shop, or sell our jewelry at more locations- but the big thing is just to continuing to create jewelry together.
What advice can you give to other young entrepreneurs?
Gracie: Just stick with it. Experiment and have fun with it. People might not always like what you're creating, but keep going anyway. Keep evolving and be confident in your ability to create.
Who do you look up to the most?
Gracie: Xavier Rudd. We always listen to his music while we craft. His lyrics inspire us to maintain an earthy theme. We follow a lot of other designers and upcycle artists like Georgia Okeef.
How do you balance jewelry making with school, work and other activities?
Gracie: We always want to continue to create, but we want Corksis to remain a project on the side. School and sports will always come first- so during our busiest times we just create jewelry when we can.
Ella: We usually try to get together on Friday evenings to plan and create, but if we don't have time, we don't stress it.
Can you see yourselves making jewelry long-term?
Ella: We love making cork jewelry, so we can see ourselves continuing with this project long-term. We aren't sure if we want it to be a career because we have other interests. I am really interested in studying Architecture, and Gracie would really like to study photography or fashion design.
How do you support other local businesses?
Gracie: As local vendors, we understand how difficult it can be to make sales, so we try to buy products from other local shops and vendors. We partner with local businesses like Sisters Boutique in Bridgeland, where we like to shop and where they sell our jewelry.
How do you stick together and support one another as friends and business partners?
Gracie: We are really open to each others ideas, though if something is completely crazy we can still be honest with each other. The best way to work together is to communicate while having the ability to listen.
Ella: We don't focus too much on the business aspect of Corksis because making cork jewelry is our way to stay connected, especially since we are both starting at different high schools this year.
How would you like Corksis to evolve as a business?
We just want to take it as it comes- so long as there is passion.