Montana-themed jewelry and apparel wholesaler Made of Mountains last month opened a store in Bigfork. Initially operating as a wholesale business, the new Made of Mountains location now offers products for retail.
For Made of Mountains owner Brittany McGillivray, creating jewelry started out as a hobby during college. Her hobby continued to grow as she became inspired by the outdoors after moving to Montana.
“I had this calling to move out West,” she said.
McGillivray, a Memphis, Tennessee, native, moved to Montana in 2006 to work in Glacier National Park. A month later she met her husband who was working as a draftsman and project manager.
She started working as a bartender when her husband lost his job in architecture in 2008 during the recession. McGillivray had gone to school at the University of Memphis for journalism and advertising, and she had worked in graphic design and ad sales, but she was starting to consider a new career path as a teacher. She enrolled in classes at the University of Montana through Flathead Valley Community College and began working toward a teaching degree in 2009.
While taking classes at FVCC, McGillivray took a metal-smithing class for fun. She knew she liked making jewelry, but the class helped her to channel her passion into creating her own line.
“I’ve always been creative in a sense, but in college is when I really got into it,” she said. “It was much different than what it is now; it definitely started as a hobby business.”
McGillivray then got a job with Meissenburg Designs in Bigfork, and realized that being a teacher wasn’t what she wanted, either. She continued working on her hobby on the side — working full time as the sales director at Meissenburg during the day and making jewelry at night. At first she was sawing her jewelry designs by hand, one at a time, but she quickly learned that she needed to find a way to pick up the pace. She worked with a local metal-works and welding shop and was able to start creating her jewelry in large batches.
She started bringing her art to summer festivals, and during that time received several requests for wholesale purchases.
“I didn’t go full time until I knew I could support myself,” she said.
In 2013, McGillivray felt she had finally reached that point and left her job to go full time with her jewelry brand, Poinsonberry Jewelry.
“My business was big enough I knew I could grow it if I just spent more time with it.”
McGillivray worked out of a studio at home as she continued to grow her jewelry business. While pregnant with her daughter, she started thinking about an apparel line.
“I was super creative when I was pregnant,” she said. “I started thinking about what she would wear. … Now, I like to make things I would wear or that I’d like to put her in, stuff she can wear that I know she’ll get dirty in.”
She started making apparel for moms and kids — with shirts that say “Mountain Momma” and onesies that say “Mountain Babe.”
McGillivray started apparel as a separate line, Made of Mountains. It wasn’t until 2016 that the two merged into one and she streamlined the products with a more outdoorsy theme.
Her jewelry and her shirts feature Montana-themed images such as mountains and trees, and wildlife such as bears and elk. Her clothing also features text such as “Camp hair don’t care,” “Adventurer at heart,” and “MTN Life.”
McGillivray said what really helped her to grow were the many female mentors she had along the way, including Laura Meissenburg, her former boss and owner of Meissenburg Designs.
“[Laura] taught me so much, especially about working as a woman business owner,” McGillivray said, adding that Meissenburg had been the one to suggest that opening her own store was the next step.
The first week of May, McGillivray opened her new store offering apparel and jewelry at a retail location. She already had more than 40 wholesale accounts and over 20,000 followers on social media, and now she finally had a place where people could go to see her stuff in person.
While for many a retail space comes first and wholesale second, when McGillivray moved her production operation into the new space in March, she said a retail space happened “organically” from there.
McGillivray said she tries to stay ahead of trends, and an active social media presence is key in helping her do that. It’s also brought people into her store — and she often has customers mention that they’ve loved following her online.
“But I still have people who met me at the Bigfork Arts Festival come in,” she said. “The valley and the community have been so supportive of me and the brand.”
While Glacier Park is what first drew McGillivray to Montana, she felt it only fitting to try to give back to the park, she said, adding that 5 percent of her retail sales goes to the Glacier Park Conservancy.
As she expands, McGillivray has also added mugs, pennants, hats, stickers and decals to her Montana-themed products.
Made of Mountains is located at 7571 Montana 35 in Bigfork and is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. To find out more visit https://madeofmountains.com/ or find @madeofmtns on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Reporter Alyssa Gray may be reached at 758-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.