Tourists are often fascinated, understandably, by the minutiae of daily island life. Here they are in a place that seems pretty damn close to paradise, populated by people seemingly just like them except they’ve figured out how to make a life in a locale most only vacation in. It’s no wonder they want the inside scoop – How do you live here? What do you do for work?
For those of us already living in the tropics, while we’ve sorted out some of the particulars, I find that we’re all still intrigued by how our fellow islanders make their living. You befriend people in jobs you wish you had and wonder, How does one get an island job like that?
This new series, Peek Into My Island Job, will feature island women and their jobs on a rock – how they came to work in the profession that they do, insider details on what the position is really like, and more.
If you missed the first post in this series, featuring a Pizza Boat Manager, be sure to check it out!
Today’s featured islander has found herself fulfilling women’s island fantasies – with gemstones and precious metals.
MEET NICOLE GARIEPY
Island: St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
Business: FantaSea Jewelry
Job title: Owner / Designer
FantaSea Jewelry is located in downtown Christiansted, St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.
Their unique jewelry is designed and manufactured on St. Croix, inspired by the spirit of the islands and nature, using gemstones and precious metals.
Nicole Gariepy moved to St. Croix over 25 years ago when she was in high school. Since then, she’s spent the past 20 years in the jewelry business on the island, the past four of which have been spent running FantaSea Jewelry, which she purchased from the original owner at a time when she was looking for a new career direction.
I recently got the opportunity to ask Nicole a few questions about what her island job entails…
How has your background/previous job experience helped you in your current position (if at all)?
I am a jewelry business lifer! I have worked in retail jewelry for many years, so it has allowed me to take FantaSea Jewelry from a mainly online shopping experience and transition into an in-person retail setting.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
I am a morning person, so I get up early in the morning. My morning routine is super important, and I love seeing the sun come up, spending some quiet time in meditation, and working out. This all gets me in the right mindset for the day! I am in the studio by 10am and most days are a combination of working with clients, computer work, and time on the jewelry bench creating.
What surprised you about your job once you were in it that you didn’t initially expect?
In this day and age of the internet and social media, I spend about as much time on the computer as I do on the jewelry bench!
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
I just love it when my customers are visibly thrilled and excited when they receive a new piece of my jewelry. I love sharing my art, my passion, and making people happy with it. It’s absolutely the best feeling, and my favorite thing about what I do.
What’s your least favorite thing about your job?
Accounting, taxes, bookkeeping, and paying bills! I’m contracting this out in 2020. Finally.
What are the most challenging aspects of running a business on an island?
Running a business in a seasonal economy definitely has its challenges; it’s very “feast or famine,” but over the years I have learned to plan accordingly. Getting supplies and things I need can be a challenge as well; pretty much everything I work with has to be ordered from off-island, so it takes a lot of planning and close inventory management. Oh, and WAPA – our power goes out a lot and that always makes business interesting!
Outsiders often glamorize “working in paradise.” What do you say when people say you’re, “living the dream”?
I say, “I absolutely am!” Of course I do work hard, it’s not all fun and games, but I live in the Caribbean and have a business doing what I love. I AM living the dream!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to move to an island and attain a job like yours?
If you are coming from the US, don’t expect things to work like they do on the mainland. Island life and running an island business is different – very different. Bring your patience and a whole lot of acceptance. As for jewelry specifically, St. Croix is a very artsy island and we have a wonderful community of jewelers and artisans. It’s a special place in the sense that we all pretty much get along, support one another, and aren’t really in harsh competition.
Any funny island-related stories to share from your time on the job?
I am not sure if this falls in the category of funny, but definitely fascinating! In making conversation with vacationing customers over the years, I have very often found that we have friends or acquaintances in common, from all around the world! It happens a lot! It really is such a small world, and I think it is fascinating to see that kind of connectedness through our island visitors. I even met a distant relative who walked into my shop while on vacation, saw my name on the wall (we have the same last name), and it ended up that he was my grandfather’s cousin!
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Do you have an island job that you’d like to share more details about? Send us an email for a chance to be featured in this series!