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In Pictures: School spirit, sustainably manufactured

Jewellery maker Erin Fitzpatrick's small company is outgrowing its space. Should she outsource?

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These bracelets are made for students at McGill University in Montreal by Erin Fitzpatrick’s company, Bel Ami School Headbands, which is based in Toronto. The firm makes customized jewellery and hair accessories for private girls schools and three universities. She launched the company in 2009 in her parents’ basement with mentoring and a $3,000 grant from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment’s Summer Company Program, which is geared to student entrepreneurs.

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Erin Fitzpatrick has two to four employees, depending on workload. Her company is expanding, and it will soon outgrow her studio in the Toronto Fashion Incubator, a non-profit group dedicated to nurturing small entrepreneurs. It’s a “beautiful spot in a heritage building with lots of windows and lots of space,” she says.

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A St. Margaret's School charm bracelet from Bel Ami. Ms. Fitzpatrick says she is proud to offer a clean, safe work environment, a hands-on approach to management and fair wages – in other words, a sustainable variety of manufacturing. Continued growth, however, could necessitate the outsourcing of manufacturing to a place where she would not be able to monitor the work environment and conditions.

Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

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These cufflinks are made for students of St. Andrew's College, an all-boys preparatory school in Ontario.

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Ms. Fitzpatrick would like to continue ethical manufacturing practices, which are a selling point with a young demographic that is increasingly embracing sustainability and fair trade. But she is not sure exactly how to define her goals.

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“From the beginning, it has always been important to me to produce an extremely high quality product in a socially responsible way,” Ms. Fitzpatrick says.

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