Ginger Neilon’s mom was rushed to the emergency room. It led to a shocking cancer diagnosis, a major surgery and an emotional hospital stay. “If anything happens, I’ll raise the girls,” Ginger promised. She was in her 20s and adored her two youngest sisters—ages 8 and 10 at the time. She cared for them like they were her own. She’d spend time with them as often as possible, invite them for sleepovers at her house and chaperone their school field trips. Ginger knew that kind of reassurance was what her mom needed. And she meant it.
At the time, Ginger was working a full-time job in health care. She thought a lot about parenthood how she could grow in her career. Becoming a registered nurse seemed like the next logical step, so she went back to school. And then something unexpected happened. After taking a required elective course in art, Ginger realized being a nurse wasn’t at all what she was interested in. She’d always been artistic—making jewelry as a hobby for most of her life. Now she was inspired to put her creativity to work as an interior designer. But there was just one problem: The university where she was enrolled had discontinued its interior design program.
Ginger took matters into her own hands, connecting with a local Mankato, Minnesota interior designer and owner of Salvage Sisters, a boutique that showcases gift and home items from a variety of makers. Ginger inquired about an internship, thinking it would help her decide if interior design was the right path. While she learned the ins and outs of the business, the owner learned Ginger was a jewelry maker and asked if she’d like to create some original items to sell in the store. She began creating one-of-a-kind pieces and customers loved them. As demand increased, she realized what she was truly meant to do and that it could be a viable business. She officially launched Baubles and Bobbies in 2014.
Today, Ginger creates handmade jewelry and welcomes shoppers by appointment at her studio space in downtown Mankato. She also offers her products online, to wholesalers, and at special events and pop-up shops. Ginger’s collections are nature-inspired, and each piece is designed to make a statement. She puts her heart and soul into every design—and a few of her signature snort-laughs for good measure. She hopes women who wear her pieces feel unique and powerful.
Though Ginger’s mom beat cancer, she experienced ongoing health issues. After an extended stay in the hospital and returning home to begin hospice care, she asked Ginger if she and her husband would follow through on adopting the girls. Ginger had received many wonderful traits from her mom, like the ability to create beautifully handcrafted items and the drive to run a thriving small business. But most of all she’d inherited a deep devotion and commitment to family. She assured her mom she would make good on her promise to adopt her sisters.
After losing their mother, and in a new role as mom herself, Ginger began to see the world through a different lens. The girls were her main priority and she wanted to make sure they were well cared for and safe. Then she learned how common sex trafficking is—particularly for vulnerable girls in rural areas. As Baubles and Bobbies continued to grow, Ginger realized she could use the business for good, to support causes that were important to her. She chose to donate a portion of her proceeds to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and its Minnesota Girls Are Not for Sale initiative.
In early 2019, Ginger was asked to be a part of a new retail venture at Rosedale Center in Roseville, called Six for Good, with five other female founders—Lauren VanScoy of EssenceOne, Anna Hagen and Nikki Hollerich of Hagen and Oats, Robyn Frank of Thumbs Cookies, and Sairey Gernes of Towel Topper and Urban Undercover. Each of the businesses is committed to putting people and planet over profits. It was a perfect fit and the right time for Ginger to expand her business. She describes the women—all of whom are as passionate about giving back as she is—as her soul sisters and an extension of her own big family.
Photo: Baubles & Bobbies
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