Bloomington teen launches ‘Tiny Turtle’ jewelry brand

Published: Sep. 25, 2022 at 5:45 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - When the pandemic began, Joli Duquenne and her fellow 7th graders started their own little businesses at home. She began out making leather jewelry, but she couldn’t get the hang of it. She switched to polymer clay instead.

“I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said. Her parents helped her buy supplies, but from there the operation has entirely been her own. She named it “Tiny Turtle Jewelry,” after the small turtles she, her mother, and her father carry around with each other. They’re a small family of three, but close.

“That’s kind of our family mascot,” Duquenne said. “I was trying to think of cute things and I was like ‘oh, turtle! Tiny Turtle, perfect. It represents family, and it’s a cute animal.’”

Now 14 years old and in her freshman year of high school, Duquenne balances competitive dance and other activities. Her mother, Stephanie Duqenne, said she’s always been a “busy human,” thriving on a packed schedule and lots of activity.

“We’re just along for the ride,” Stephanie said. “It’s really fun to be her parents and it’s great watching her grow.”

Stephanie and her husband, Jacob, provide behind-the-scenes support for her business. Joli can’t drive yet, so on free weekends, the family goes to local fairs and markets to sell her jewelry.

The jewelry and accessories are designed, made, marketed, and sold by Joli. She starts by rolling out the clay and designing a pattern. From there she cuts and bakes the clay, then sands down the edges and smooths them out. Lastly, she adds hooks and studs for the accessories.

Her designs are full of pastel colors, flower designs, and minimalist shapes. From large, dangling leaves to simple flower studs, she experiments with all types of designs and patterns.

At the events, her parents and hang back and let her talk to customers. Stephanie, senior director of alumni relations at Illinois State University, studied communication in college and loves seeing her daughter work with people. Jacob is an artist, which is where Stephanie believes Joli’s artistic abilities come from.

Joli said speaking with customers is one of her favorite parts, which is why most of her business is focused on in-person sales. She has an Instagram and website but encourages potential customers to contact her to make a sale.

“I think a lot of people when they sell just put out their product and sit back,” Joli said. “I like to tell them about it and get them as interested as possible.”

She has some downtime between now and her next event in November at Destihl Brewery. As she and her business grow, she’s experimenting with new elements like gold accents on her pieces.