‘I didn’t want to sit through a recession in Dublin’
Wild Geese: Jewellery designer Jennifer Kinnear closed her shop in Temple Bar in 2009 and now lives in Spain
A lover of water sports and sailing, Kinnear was already aware of the tourist coastal town of Tarifa.
Jennifer Kinnear began making jewellery and selling it in Cow’s Lane Market in Dublin in 2001. In 2004 she opened her eponymous shop on Crow Street in Temple Bar and had several successful years in jewellery retail before recession hit and she got out – heading to Tarifa on the Costa de la Luz in Spain where she taught kite surfing, became a mother and is currently working to grow her jewellery brand once again.
Kinnear says her Dublin store was going well. She had cleared any loans she’d borrowed to establish the business and her profits were up year-on-year. Then she began to notice a change in consumer patterns.
“Just before Christmas 2007, I noticed that the increases from previous years weren’t as good. I sat in the shop on Christmas Eve and realised that something was off. I wasn’t sure what was happening but I decided to put a stop to spending.”
Kinnear started to keep a very close eye on her books and says it quickly became obvious that 2008 wasn’t going as well as previous years.
“Then Lehman’s went bust and I saw zeros in my daily balance sheet for a couple of weeks. I did one last Christmas in 2008 and got out.
“It was a very difficult thing to do but I had to be realistic with myself. In hindsight, people have congratulated me on what I did because it took guts to close the shop.”
Kinnear says she didn’t want to sit through a recession in Dublin at the period she was at in life.
“I was in my early 30s, I had no kids, I could see the recession coming and I always thought I could go back to the jewellery when things turned around,” she says. “You might be doing everything right but things can happen beyond your control in business.”
She made the decision to shelve her business and left Dublin, having sold the lease on her Temple Bar shop. As a lover of water sports and sailing, Tarifa was on her radar and she headed out to Spain.
“Sometimes in business, it can be difficult to remain stimulated,” she says. “A focus on the bottom line can lead to a dip in creativity. The business gets serious and it becomes about making things that you know will sell. I didn’t want to be like that.”
For winter 2009, she designed a jewellery collection whilst in Tarifa. “The difference between this and previous collections was that I didn’t care whether it sold or not. It was a very creative process and, of course, the collection went really well.”
There followed a period in which she obtained her kite surfing instructor’s certification and began teaching kite surfing, continuing right up until the birth of her son, Luca, who is now three years old.
Having “fallen out of love with jewellery” because of her recession experience, she is now reinvigorated and is taking on the business with gusto again. She came home at Christmas last year to showcase her designs at the Design and Craft Fair in Dublin’s RDS and now has a sunny studio around the corner from her home in Tarifa Old Town.
“An average day means rising early and taking my son to crèche,” says Kinnear. “Then I head to the studio where I work on design, on jewellery commissions, on my website and the online sales aspect, head to the post office, work on producing the look-books, deal with suppliers and so on.”
The main difference where she operates now is in the light on Costa de la Luz – the “Coast of Light”.
“Compared to the dark shop in Temple Bar, I’ve got plenty of light in my studio now. It’s a small shop and studio space – customers can phone me and stop by for appointments. My working life is more flexible than it was in Dublin where I had to be in the shop eight hours a day.”
While she is almost fluent in Spanish, she still attends refresher classes every year to enhance her knowledge of the language, but says the unique dialect of the region as well as the smalltown atmosphere of Tarifa were challenging in the early days.
“Everyone thinks that you’re living the dream when you move to somewhere warm but sometimes it can be a nightmare, especially if you don’t speak the language. Only this year am I in a position to have a shop and speak to people about my jewellery.
“It’s a tourist town and I previously didn’t know enough Spanish to speak confidently to a visitor from Madrid about my jewellery,” she says.
Despite the challenges, the Dundrum native says Tarifa is a wonderful place to rear her son, who speaks three languages and enjoys the outdoor lifestyle. Her parents, who are retired, stay in Tarifa for five months of the year and live nearby for the winter months.
Kinnear returns to Dublin twice a year and says she misses her friends and “the craic” in Ireland but says, for now, with a young son and a renewed interest in her jewellery business, this seaside town and kite surfer’s heaven is the place to be. www.jenniferkinnear.com