Beth Millner Jewelry named 2020 Michigan woman-owned small business of the year

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Michigan Celebrates Small Businesses has been selecting a Woman-owned small business of the year since 2015.

For the first time, a business in the Upper Peninsula was awarded the title. Beth Millner, owner and designer, says she couldn’t have received the award without the support of her staff. She employs 7 people at the shop.

“They’re all very supportive and do such a great job, this award wouldn’t have been possible without a team like that and the countless other people that help my business,” said Millner

Part of the reason she thinks she won the award is their community involvement says Millner. The store donates proceeds from certain sales to local organizations. Some of the organizations they currently have jewelry fundraisers for are the Peter White Public Library, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and the Bonifas Art Center.

“We do jewelry fundraisers where we donate a portion of the proceeds to the organization and then we also during the pandemic have picked several organizations that we’re donating proceeds from mask sales,” said Millner.

Having something of value other than what the business sells is important according to Millner. In addition to their community involvement, Beth Millner Jewelry also uses recycled and sustainable materials. She encourages other businesses to work toward a higher purpose.

“It isn’t just about to make jewelry, just for the sake of putting pretty things out and making a lot of money, it’s actually about how can I give back and preserve the environment at the same time.”

After thirteen years of making jewelry, Millner has plenty of advice for new entrepreneurs. When Millner was starting her business, she says she didn’t know much about starting out but she found people who did to help her. Another tip she has is to ask questions and be frugal.

“Be thrifty and frugal, you know I lived in a cabin off the grid when I started my business with like a power cord coming from a solar panel and we traded work for rent,” said Millner. “So it didn’t happen overnight you know so don’t give up, try hard but you’ve gotta try over a period of time and don’t take on too much debt off the get-go”

Millner said she felt a turning point in her business after her fourth year when she was able to invest in new tools for her business. She says she didn’t have to worry anymore and it was just working at that point.

“At that point, I knew what I needed to sell to cover costs and I was able to invest in quite a bit of tools,” said Millner. “I think it was kind of at that point where you have enough money saved and you know your tax obligations covered you know you’ve got your bills covered for a while and then you can kind of bring it to that next level.”

Millner started her business in 2007 before graduating from NMU in 2008 for metalsmithing in art and design. When she was younger she made bracelets and glass beads in high school but didn’t start making metal jewelry until taking a jewelry course in college. She says she likes making jewelry because it allows her to use all her artistic skills.

“I could draw up an idea, I could bring it into reality in a three dimensional way and then I was using fire and hammers and files and things I’ve never even used before in my life for any purpose and I was just kind of hooked,” said Millner.

The store was nominated for the award by Chris Rector, who works at Northern Initiatives. Millner said she hadn’t heard of the awards from Michigan Celebrates Small Businesses before Chris told her about them.

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