Cycle Breaker and Jewelry Maker: April Mitchell Boudreau’s Entrepreneurial Path of Healing and Bling
“I never intended to start a business,” April Mitchell Boudreau, the CEO and lead designer for Lofftan Convertible Jewelry, confides. Lofftan stands for all the initials of her nieces and nephews and the company came to be when she was pregnant on bed rest and started making jewelry to pass the time. She gave things away that people loved but in the back of her mind, she didn’t want to leave her children behind and work outside the home. Her primary focus was family in wanting to work from home and do something creative working from home.
“We often call the business our third child because it came along on the heels of our baby and started growing.”
“It just kind of unfolded…I was making things and people were responding and wanting to give me money,” Boudreau recalls. Initially, she wasn’t making any money paying retail to purchase supplies at the bead store. At her first country craft fair, people she didn’t know buying her jewelry helped her see that this business could be successful.
“I love what I do and I'm so grateful that people respond to it. When you're doing something like this, whatever your idea might be, think of it as you are in conversation with the world.”
In a slow, gradual way, Boudreau built a sustainable business because she didn’t want a big busy business that would take her out of her home. She got into a juried show in Ottawa and sold out, with the top seller being a lariat necklace her husband was making. Driving home, they realized that the business could be a success and that they had enough support from extended family to be able to travel as needed.
“To this day, I'm just always learning.”
Jewelry wasn’t in her original plan, after having started off in journalism school. She left higher education disillusioned and decided to curate her own education by reading and listening to podcasts. Through a series of coincidences, Boudreau ended up working at one of the biggest picture framers in North America at a young age.
She worked on paintings like those of Indigenous Woodland painter Noval Morisseau. “It was all about, in my mind, creating context for a piece of artwork, so that no matter where it went, it maintained its integrity,” she reflects. People would come in wanting their framing to match their furniture, but she would encourage people to frame art for itself so it looks wonderful wherever it goes.
“This idea is now expressed with the jewelry that you are the masterpiece that we're framing, and we want to create the best context for you so that you look good, no matter what. It's not about matching your clothes. It's about framing you,” she elaborates.
“A very, very unusual background, but it has served me so well.”
The transferability of skills is something she shares about when speaking with young entrepreneurs. “I worked inside this very creative business and I got to understand their systems and what made sense and what didn't,” she remembers. Boudreau learned to be a buyer, manufacturer, how to price things and honed her design skills. She taught framing as part of continuing education at a college and lectured about design.
“A lot of people don't start businesses until they're in their 30s and 40s. There's a tremendous amount of pressure and glamour around being an entrepreneur and it really is like having a baby. You want to be super ready for that baby when it comes because it will keep you up at night,” Boudreau imparts.
“We are here to break the cycles, and to show new ways of being and to do that, it requires presence, and just being so kind to yourself, moment by moment.”
“The other thing I always say to entrepreneurs… is that success is an inside job. When you're an entrepreneur, you are asked to heal so much. It's why many people in our communities are the cycle breakers, the Wayshowers. Because there's so much conditioning that we are breaking down, that we're not good enough, we should be ashamed, all of this BS that we came loaded with. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to do your work because there's a lot,” she says.
“There's a lot of internal work that will present itself for healing, for you to be that cycle breaker. That is the work of being an entrepreneur.”
When she wasn’t making money in the beginning, she didn’t see her own value because she hadn’t healed enough yet. “I knew I was having fun and I wanted to make the world a shinier, prettier place. I had a really hard time struggling with ‘Was I worthy to be paid?’” she recalls. Boudreau struggled with pricing even though she knew from a technical perspective how to do it. She recommends selfcare through ceremony and doing whatever is needed to heal.
“Don't let someone else tell you who you should be, or what you should be doing. Don't be afraid to color outside the lines.”
Her advice for a young Indigenous person trying to figure out what they want to do with their career is “Those big decisions are not made, they are discovered… Be patient, be gentle with yourself, and trust those inner nudges. I didn't know when I was 18. I just knew that I loved art and I loved being creative and I stuck with that.”
She never intended to start a business, but that’s just what April Boudreau did. A cycle breaker and jewelry maker, she shares semi-precious gems and extra precious life lessons she’s learned along the way. She invites Indigenous youth to reach out to her if they have questions she can answer. After giving birth to two kids and bringing a convertible jewelry company into the world, Boudreau built a life on her terms by healing herself. Following her heart and her passions, she’s leading the way.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.