Windy, inclement days at the Bisbee Farmer’s Market made Jessica Jurek, 24, rethink her business plan.
“I knew I had to find a place to sell my merchandise and be indoors,” she said. “I always wanted a store, but I didn’t have enough to fill the shelves. This kiosk is perfect. I love being here.”
Jurek’s small business, GYPSI is in the Copper Queen Plaza at the entrance by Bisbee Coffee Co. The cart is filled with her homemade skin care products from lotion to oils to masques and unique smudging sticks locally harvested.
She also has a rack of sustainable, multi-purpose ladies wear in a rainbow of colors which she dyes herself turning organic fabrics into comfortable fashions suitable for dress to beach. One of her favorite fabrics comes from organically grown bamboo which has a soft and stretchy feel and has a naturally occurring anti-microbial agent called kun. It prevents bacteria from growing which helps fight body odor.
The dyes she makes are from organic compound, the result of a few years of research into plants to find the perfect colors.
“I felt guilty for dumping unnatural dye water into my yard,” she said. “A friend had told me about some ingredients the indigenous cultures used in South America, so I decided to do some research and started experimenting.”
She went through several types of plants, such as ferns, hibiscus and turmeric. Her reds come from achiote, a shrub native to a region in South America. Indigo and Aztec clay also provide chemical-free dyes.
“I’ve always had a deep desire to make a positive impact on this planet, so I create my pieces as sustainably as possible. I intentionally use a variety of materials from organic bamboo cloth to pre–loved clothing. The magic of upcycling is looking beyond the present state of a garment and seeing the potential of what it can be. Shirts can become dresses, dresses become shirts and everything in between,” she explained.
“Growing up I felt very shy, so I turned to clothing as a way of expressing myself artistically,” she said. “When you wear your favorite outfit, you feel unstoppable and transformed. I loved that feeling and sought to create that magic every day.”
She wanted to be an artist and was drawn to fashion designing. She hoped to attend Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising college in San Diego, but it did not work out for her.
In her senior year, Jurek’s talent for fashion was nurtured by art teacher Judith Stafford who allowed the class to pick their own art forms. She chose sewing. Stafford brought in her personal machine for Jurek to use and her journey into the business world began.
After about five months, she was asked by another teacher if she wanted to work part time at a clothing store in Bisbee, the boutique, Magnetic Threads, which was located in the same plaza where she has her kiosk.
“Not only was the boutique hip and fun, but helping the owner sew her designs was going to be part of our responsibility working there,” she emphasized. “It couldn’t have been ‘designed’ a better way. I learned a great deal working there and even had the opportunity to assist the owner in participating in Tucson Fashion Week.”
Teacher Jacqui Clay, who went on to hold the position of county school superintendent, helped formulate her business skills through a class called Future Focus during Jurek’s freshman year and then in later years with DECA, a marketing and entrepreneurship club. Jurek’s business interests grew.
“I owe so much of my success to the teachers I had in school, especially Ms. Clay,” Jurek said. “I feel very blessed to have had her as a teacher because she is so passionate about the students and offering real world curriculum opportunities.”
Her skin care line was developed to help with a personal, constant problem: eczema. She sought medical help, but nothing seemed to work. Then she discovered shea butter. She liked the results, but not the scent. So, after some experimentation, she created a formula of body butter made from shea butter and cocoa butter.
“I recognized a need for body care products formulated with natural ingredients for people with sensitive skin, so I began creating other products to support the needs of myself and close friends,” Jurek said. “After getting great feedback and response, I decided to begin selling it officially as part of my brand, GYPSI. As of today, we have a line of 10 different body care products with over 20 different scent profiles.”
Jurek grew up in Sierra Vista and attended school there from kindergarten through 12th grade, graduating from Buena High School, and then went on to a few semesters at Cochise College.
She called Tucson home for a year or so, then moved to Bisbee in 2014 and started GYPSI.
In 2015, Jurek had the opportunity to try something new and was invited to move to the Big Island of Hawaii with her partner, Jesse Gallaher, and his family. They moved back home before the volcanic eruption of Kilauea in 2018.
“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to live there and I can now appreciate Cochise County in a whole new way,” she continued. “Since moving back, I began working closely with my mother and partner on GYPSI.”
Eight months ago, she moved into the plaza and has found success. Jurek shares that success with her mother, Tess Jurek, and Gallaher, who work the kiosk with her.
“They play a huge role in supporting me,” she added. “We’re a team.”