Put a ring on it: how millennials are changing ‘I do’

Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, Gastown, is home to a small community that is intent on supporting local independent designers, artists, start-ups and boutiques, who in turn symbiotically support the community that is helping them to thrive.

One business that has cemented itself in the heart of Gastown – both literally and figuratively – is a custom jewellery store with an unconventional style: Cavalier. The Prevail Project recently sat down to speak to the founders to learn more about what makes Cavalier tick.

Keith Seabrook founded Cavalier together with his co-founder, Dane Stevens, when he was only 24 years old. The former pro hockey player and his musically inclined childhood friend are adamant that it was only with the backing of the local community that they were able to grow, eventually become the shining example within the new generation of sustainable business they are today.

Their success lies in their desire to actually understand their customer; instead of just selling jewellery, they build relationships with their clients and let the products speak for themselves. The genuine bond they are able to cultivate, in a relaxed and informal setting, guarantees their clients are comfortable and ultimately happy.

Cavalier’s founders travel the world selecting the finest ethical, sustainable diamonds and gemstones before local designers work personally with the client to design the perfect ring. Knowing we can go into a shop, sit back with a scotch, and understand the history and background of the materials being customized inspires trust that we are responsibly buying something that also positively impacts the world.

GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

As the desires of a new generation of consumers mature, new business forms, like the one Cavalier has adopted, also come into their own. In contrast to our parents’ trust in authority and big brands, we now question; we expect more from the companies we patronize and so we investigate and we share our findings, often at lightning speed via the internet. We want a relationship with a brand, to feel an affinity with them and to know that they share our values.

Because we want to be the change we hope for in the world, we engage with brands before even deciding where to shop. Aware of this, companies of all sizes are implementing strategies to help draw the attention of the millennial market. On a large scale, companies like TOMS have famously created programs to help provide services and resources to people and places in need. Smaller businesses however – again, like Cavalier – are also stepping up to creatively serve their own local communities in a variety of ways.

As consumers look to connect with companies that care about supporting local to positively affect change, Vancouver’s small businesses embrace this and lead the charge. Bandidas Taqueria, for example, holds regular fundraising events, sponsors local community events and donates to local causes. They also support the burgeoning Vancouver art scene by showcasing the work of local artists in their restaurant. In a competitive and shifting market, it isn’t good enough anymore to simply sell a delicious taco; we now want to know that our purchases help to support our community.

AND THE COMMUNITY, IN TURN, GIVES BACK

Luckily for businesses, supporting the community isn’t a one-way street. Many businesses are founded and are flourishing as a direct result of community support. This is coming in a range of shapes and sizes – social media promotion, crowdfunding, word-of-mouth gone electronic, or even financial investment.

SheEO is a prime example of the community giving back to businesses, and especially entrepreneurs. In 2015, they launched a pilot project that saw $1000 invested by 500 women, which was in turn distributed to 5 female entrepreneurs in the form of 0% interest loans, to be paid back over 5 years. Through collaboration and community support, these 5 women have been able to take their businesses to the next level, and as the loans are to be reinvested perpetually, the next wave (and the next) are coming in close behind.

GLOBAL WARMING HEATS UP THE MARKETPLACE

With environmental awareness and action at the forefront of our generation’s social and cultural responsibilities, it’s only logical that economics comes into the equation as well. We are concerned about the environment, and this reflects in how we live our lives, including where we decide to shop.

The impact of this is widely apparent; instead of buying cars, many have turned to car share programs like Car2Go. We reject fast food in favour of the slow food movement and locally farmed and sourced ingredients. Instead of buying disposable products, we are supporting a zero-waste and circular economy. Rather than wearing mass-produced clothing made cheaply in overseas sweatshops, we favour clothing made with sustainable resources using ethical labour practices, with local designers giving us the added bonus of individual expression. As consumer attitudes change, enterprise creates to adapt to the market.

As our generation consumes more thoughtfully, more considerately, and with more hope than ever before, established businesses are slowly adapting to our values through new sustainability programs. However,  the most creative, immediate and evident change can be seen in frequenting the small, local businesses that are created by the community for the community.