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Linda Manziaris is a fifteen-year old from Toronto who runs her own jewelry company, Body Bijou. The body chains, necklaces, and bracelets she makes are more than just beautiful – 50 percent of Body Bijou’s net profits are donated to Girls Helping Girls—an organization, founded by Linda’s sister Susanna, which helps girls in the developing world get an education. Linda talked to Like a Boss Girls about starting a charitable business, getting things done, and giving back.
When did you first start making jewelry?
It started back in grade seven. We had an art unit at school where they taught us the basic jewelry making techniques, like how to make earrings and stuff. I really liked and I took to it. I’ve always been a crafty kid, so my mom took me to buy some supplies. I taught myself a lot through YouTube and I got a lesson with a jewelry artisan. From there, I started designing presents for my mom and my aunts, and I started selling one-off pieces to people that they worked with. After that, I started putting it on the website, and designed a whole collection.
How long have you been selling to the public?
It took a year to get the website up and running, so about two and a half years I’ve been selling now.
Tell me about Girls Helping Girls.
Three years ago now, my family and I took a vacation to Kenya to build a school in the Masai Mara region. While we were there, my sister and I had a real opportunity to see the difference an education makes in the life of a girl.
We saw the girls who live in the village who had no access to education and were really marginalized and had no hope for the future. We also had the chance to go to a girls’ secondary school in the region, and the difference between those girls and the girls who weren’t getting an education was profound. The girls who were getting an education had aspirations for the future, goals, and they just seemed so much more happy.
My sister and I were curious as to how can we make education more accessible for more girls, and we found that when you educate a girl, you not only educate her, but you educate her family and the community as a whole—and the cycle of poverty begins to break. We took what we learned in Kenya, and my sister decided to found Girls Helping Girls. One hundred percent of what’s given to Girls Helping Girls goes to helping fund scholarships and building schools. To date, she’s provided 24 scholarships, teacher training in Afghanistan, and help to two schools in Jamaica. What I do is donate half of my net profits to her—we pair together like that; it’s really great.
You’re still in school. How do you balance that with running a company?
I think for me, it’s a lot of time management. When I have an hour or even a half hour, I’m like, “I have some time, I’ve got to get things done.” I never let tasks get too big. I try to stay on top of my schoolwork and stay on top of my Body Bijou stuff. I use all the time I have, and I stay pretty busy.
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out with a business?
I think perseverance is a really big thing. I know I’m still a pretty new business, but even at the beginning, even when we were buying the website, it was hard to really know where to start. There are so many tasks to get done that you sometimes don’t know where to get started. For me, I found that just picking a point – any point – and just starting to work was the first step and most important step. Just get started and from there it gets easier.
Has anybody given you any good advice lately?
My parents are really encouraging, and really supportive, and if I’m feeling down about something, they tell me to keep trying, and that what matters is that I’m trying my best and working as hard as I can; that’s really encouraging for me.
Is Body Bijou jewelry available in stores?
Some of the body chains are in a store called Treasures in Yorkdale, and my whole collection is available on shop.ca. All our jewelry comes in pretty packaging and it’s free shipping to Canada and the U.S.
What is your favorite piece that you sell?
The body chains, because they’re really unique. You can wear them four different ways – three different ways as a necklace, or a body chain.
What is your best selling piece?
It would be one of the body chains – probably the Rosalie body chain.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to expand Body Bijou into different parts of the fashion industry, with more accessories, or even clothes someday as well.