Studio 13 North
Hagåtña, Guam 96932
By Morgan Legel
In March 2017, Sarah M. Boucher opened Shining Shores Sea Glass in the Chamorro Village in Hagatna.
Known today as Studio 13 North, the retail gift shop sells handmade products including Guam surf tumbled sea glass jewelry, local wood home decor and jewelry, as well as breastmilk jewelry — a unique modern keepsake. Studio 13 also offers engraving services to customize pieces.
Boucher first began making jewelry in 2015, shortly after her husband was stationed on the island.
“My mother was always into jewelry and I used to go with her to all the gem,
fossil and mineral shows,” she says. That’s what really began her interest.
Once in Guam, she began a collection of sea glass and thought, “I need to do something with this.” Originally, she wrapped the sea glass with wire and sold those, and then “it just took off,” she says.
Further expanding her business, in March, Boucher was asked by the Naval Exchange on Naval Base Guam to set up a table of products in the exchanges local gift area.
Before the pandemic began, Boucher was brainstorming ideas for another “unique” store, but says Coronavirus put a halt to that thought.
How did you start as a businesswoman?
Sarah M. Boucher: I began my journey into becoming a small business in 2016. I was bored during the day when my husband was working and the children were in school. I would wander the beaches and pick up sea glass. Used to working a full-time job back in Connecticut, I needed something to occupy my time and maybe make some money. I had made a few necklaces and wondered if anyone else was making or selling things like I had, and I didn’t find anyone who was. In February I decided to get my peddlers business license and sell at the Wednesday night Chamorro Village market. I bought a little pop-up tent and a table and crossed my fingers, hoping people would like my necklaces. I sold out that first night and knew I had something special. Then, I started to go to the vendor fairs and kept thinking of new products to make with sea glass. My brand got bigger and bigger, and the following year I was able to open a brick and mortar store – right there in Chamorro Village where it all began.
Where do you get your inspiration when making new pieces?
Boucher: My inspiration comes from Guam in general; this island is gorgeous — from the beaches to the jungle. I want people to feel like they truly have a piece of Guam … for a lifetime. I even named a signature “Bonita na Isla” bracelet after Guam, which means “beautiful island.”
Once an idea comes to me, I draw it in my notebook.
What is the most memorable piece of jewelry you ever made?
Boucher: I think my favorite piece of jewelry … was my tree of life, made with tiny blue pieces of sea glass.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from operating a small business on Guam?
Boucher: The most challenging thing about operating a small business here on Guam is sourcing some supplies I need — waiting for things to arrive by mail, or in some cases they never show.
Does business in Guam differ from other places, like the U.S. mainland?
Boucher: I think business in Guam differs from that in the mainland because people are looking for unique products that are locally-sourced and made; handmade items are favored here.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
Boucher: I had to shut the store down for many months, which stopped the tourists from coming. I now work mostly on custom orders and by putting my products on my Etsy store. Sometimes I’ll do a live video on Facebook to show people what’s currently available for purchase and then they can pick up orders at my door. Just learning how to adjust has been an issue, but luckily sales are still great.
What is your advice to those who want to venture into owning a small business?
Boucher: My advice to those who are wanting to start a small business here in Guam is to do your research first. Find out what people are looking for or need. Get feedback from friends and family. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Trial and error is okay; just do what you love.
Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Facebook: Studio 13 North