By: Marjorie Simmins
ISLE MADAME: It all started with giving up television for a year.
In 1991, when Isle Madame-based sisters Myra and Eliza Hyland were 11 and five years old respectively, their father, Frederick Hyland said he’d give them each $500 if they went a year without watching television. Their mother, Cecile Hyland, supported the plan.
“Now, we really had to think about that,” laughs younger sister Eliza, 31, now a jeweler, and co-owner, with Myra, of the jewelry wholesale business, Two Crows Joy.
“Who wants to give up Saturday morning cartoons when you’re five years old?”
The television went out the front door – and never returned.
“Our parents always did cool things with us,” explains older sister Myra, 37, also a jeweler, and now the mother of two daughters, Sage, three, and August, 18 months. “We went on hikes, had art days, painted. After the television went, they gave us lots of different lessons.”
“So we’ve always been ‘crafty’,” says Eliza, mother to a four-year-old daughter, Leola. “And anything we’ve done so far, we owe it all to our parents.”
In fact, what the sisters have done is create a dynamic new business.
“In 2015, we both put $100 into a pot to start, and bought supplies,” says Myra. “Then we started giving gifts to family and friends,” say Eliza. “It took off from there.”
Founded in 2015, the company takes its name from an old nursery rhyme.
“Our mom always said, ‘two crows joy’ whenever there were two crows together in our yard,” says Eliza. “We thought the name was fitting because there are two of us, and we like the optimism surrounding the word joy.”
“A lot of our jewelry is inspired by nature,” she continues. “We also have such an appreciation for fine art that we decided to make tiny replicas of our favourites in jewelry form. We also just love pretty, sparkly little things.”
The brilliant-hued and original earrings and necklaces are now carried at La Goélette à Pépé, and Jeantie’s Mini Mart, both in Arichat, Sisters by the Sea Spa in St. Peter’s, Celtic Sisters Gifts in Auld’s Cove, and Tart and Soul Cafe, in the South End of Halifax. This year, they hope to create a business Web site, and in future, may focus on on-line sales.
For now, they are operating primarily on enthusiastic word-of-mouth, and via a Facebook page.
When it comes to the business, “We both do everything,” says Myra, who has an honours degree in journalism and sociology from King’s College in Halifax. “Our strengths complement each other really well, though.” Eliza has an honours degree in psychology.
The sisters also enjoy working in other art forms, producing cards, mixed media, painting, and photography. Eliza has begun a novel, and Myra, along with husband Laurier Samson, writes and produces a food blog (www.deliciousonadime.com).
The business now provides a part-time income for both sisters. They also work seasonally for H&R Block.
“You have to be flexible if you want to live in rural Cape Breton,” says Myra.
“We realized that we don’t need very much,” says Eliza. “We live simply. We are content.”
The two women feel they are part of a wider change on the island.
“It’s a wonderful time on Isle Madame,” says Eliza, who is engaged to Jamie Kehoe. “A real renaissance.”
She points to the Groundswell Pub and B&B in D’Escousse, the Farmers’ Market which runs each May through October on the Arichat waterfront, businesses such as La Goélette à Pépé coffee shop and gift shop, and the Arichat Seafood Market, across the street, this along with a steady return of adult children of residents now having families of their own.
“It can be a choice to live here. You create your own opportunities,” Eliza noted.
Both women have “lived away,” for long periods due to work and schooling, and traveled extensively. They are home again in Cape Breton for good, they hope.
“We’re having fun,” says Myra. “We’re not sure what comes next, and that’s fine.”
Family played a big part in their hopes to start a successful business.
“We all live within a six-minute drive of each other,” says Eliza, of brother Simon, a carpenter, and their parents, Frederick, a journeyman carpenter and musician, and Cecile, a retired recreation coordinator for Richmond County, and a weaver. “We can see each other every day, but we don’t ever take it for granted.”
“Our Dad always told us, ‘Don’t follow the crowd,’” says Myra. “And we are very lucky, of course, to live in a digital age. This brings the world closer to all of us.”