From Grampy to Jampy: How Christmas Ornaments Changed this Entrepreneurs Life




Chris Smith didn’t intend to start a company.

But the creative entrepreneur has excelled in various mediums and industries throughout his varying career, with his continually growing skillset.

“I’ve never gone to school for anything I’ve made money from,” he said.

Before Jampy, Smith was working full-time in the music industry as a photographer/designer. He taught himself his graphic design skills in the evenings, and when he grew tired of using stock photos, he added photography to his repertoire. In 2003, his self-taught skills brought him to Dartmouth from his hometown, St. John’s.

“When I moved into a nicer place, my furniture didn’t do it justice,” said Smith.

Smith saw the collapse of the photography industry as an opportunity to pick up another self-taught skill: woodworking.

He began making the furniture he envisioned for his new home but had struggled to find. Three pieces in, Smith was encouraged by friends to seize the new opportunity in front of him, amidst the uncertainty within his current industry. He sold three desks in a blink on Kijiji, and from there, Jampy was born.

His great-grandfather, George French, was famous on the South Coast of Newfoundland, as Smith put it. French's work installing telephone poles eventually lead to the first operator station in his hometown. 

“My cousins couldn’t say Grampy. (Jampy) just stuck,” said Smith.

Though he didn’t get to know his great-grandfather well, his limited memories and stories of him have made their mark within Smith’s life, and now business.

“He was a modern guy for his time … and he lived a crazy life,” he said.

Woodworking became Smith’s new creative outlet, and income source, changing the trajectory of his career and launching him into entrepreneurship.

“I didn’t like how disposable furniture had become,” he said. “I decided to build what I refer to as future antiques.”

Jampy pieces were all vastly different, often showing a different mark of musical influence, made by hand, on Smith’s sixth floor apartment balcony. Despite the success of his furniture business, it was another item that would change Smith’s life.

Using his broad skillset in tandem, he created his wooden Christmas ornaments called SeaFlakes.

“It kind of changed my life,” he said.

Seven years later, he makes six SeaFlake designs, amongst others infused with Atlantic Canadian iconography and humour.

Making the ornaments allows Smith to combine his previous career with his current, using both passions to grow his business.

Jampy has allowed Smith opportunities to give back to his communities and organizations that mean a lot to him, which has been cathartic.

“When something goes wrong, we say someone should do something … well I’m someone and I can do something,” said Smith.

Jampy ornaments are sold online and in 20 stores throughout the province. The first store to sell Jampy products picked stock up from Smith at 4pm, selling out by lunch the next day.

No two snowflakes are the same, and no two stories of Jampy ornaments will be the same, either. But one thing they will share is the beginning of their journey, starting right in the Town of Pictou.

Though the move was physically exhausting, it’s one Smith doesn’t regret. His dog, Nelson, has more friends than ever, and Smith could not be happier with the gift of possibilities his new space has provided his creativity.

“I learned I don’t like being creative, I have to be.”

They’re easy to ship and delightfully charming. Hearing stories of his ornaments travels always puts a smile on Smith’s face.

“I don’t get to travel near as much as my ornaments. I’m a little jealous,” he joked.

Smith’s work is set on a trajectory to become a part of Christmas traditions around the world. The ornament your family has had for generations, the one that is hung on the tree first each year. They could become heirlooms, passed down through generations.

“Even with my ornaments, I’m designing something that will be passed down,” he said.

To view the full list of Jampy products, click here