It began as a way to connect during COVID, and ended up taking siblings around the world
Like any young entrepreneurs, Tiffany and Bethany O’Connor have taken a real leap of faith.
They spend countless hours researching product ideas, devising a prototype for feedback and quality control, all while determining how much each item will cost to make and ship to customers.
“We wanted to cater to all age groups from babies to grandparents with a bit of a focus on young people as we felt there was not a lot available for them.” – Tiffany O’connor
Unlike most business people though, their final step in the production process is prayer.
Success is not determined by how many units they predict they will sell but whether their products reflect the beauty of God. Far from your average teenagers, the accidental evangelisers make Catholic jewellery and gifts they say are “divinely inspired”.
Called Blessed Bling, the girls are hoping to contribute to rebuilding Catholic culture with their one-of-a-kind products painstakingly handmade from their Central Coast home.
Instead of playing sport, hanging with friends or spending countless hours scrolling through Instagram, the home-schooled soulful sisters make products they pray will “resonate in God’s world today”.
From earrings, iron on cloth patches, bags, badges, night lights, baby rattles and rugs, the extensive collection is the teens way of living and wearing their faith.
Established to share religious pieces with friends and family while Churches were closed during last year’s COVID lockdown and with their Parish Priest’s blessing, nobody including Fr Greg Skulski SDS could have believed how far their business would go.
After only six months, their products have become a hit worldwide selling in The Philippines, USA, Canada, Ireland, France, South Korea, Germany, UK, Sweden, Finland, Hawaii and even Guam.
Catering to everyone from the young to the young at heart, the collection has a specific focus on the contemporary which they believe is not readily available in the marketplace today.
“We wanted to cater to all age groups from babies to grandparents with a bit of a focus on young people as we felt there wasn’t a lot available for them to grow in their faith,” Tiffany, 17, said.
“We started Blessed Bling to enable us and those around us to develop our faith and love for God and could never have dreamed this would happen.
“Our family, friends and people in our parish really loved what we were doing and encouraged us to make our products more readily available so we did.
“We thought about what people use in their everyday lives and went from there. For example, people use keys everyday so we thought Catholic keychains with little Bibles on them, for new mums and grandparents we designed blankets, rattles and heat packs with religious icons, we thought younger people would like earrings, bracelets, bags, cloth patches and hair clips with saints on them while for families we designed jumbo Rosaries and night lights.
“We don’t see ourselves as evangelisers as such, but if our products start a conversation, and believe me they do when I wear them, then that’s a title we’ll proudly own.
“We actually do love wearing our faith literally, so things like earrings and iron on patches were something that really interested us, we just didn’t know how many others would feel the same way.
“My faith has shaped who I am today and this is my way of celebrating that.”
With very little experience, the girls took to the internet and watched countless hours of tutorials and instructional videos on how to make each product in their line.
Younger sister Bethany, 15, said their inspiration for their products is only to express their love for God and his beauty. She said both girls had chosen a Holy life and despite being so young, believe they have found their true vocation.
“My faith is my centre, it’s a beautiful way to live life. The traditions and culture of the Church are so beautiful, we are just using that beauty and making it appealing and accessible to everyone,” she said.
“Making our products is so much fun while glorifying God and his beautiful Church.”
Fr Greg at St Patrick’s East Gosford said he’s so proud of the teenagers and what they have achieved by being such public witnesses of their faith.
“These two young girls have such pure souls, you can see they are part of a family where their faith is at the centre of their lives,” he said. “When they came to the parish two years ago they joined our youth group after Sunday night Mass and I could see that because they were home schooled they really enjoyed spending time with other young people and building friendships.
“Since then, their mum Raelene is the catechist coordinator in the parish and the girls help run the coffee shop after Saturday morning Mass and are involved with the community dinner committee, they are a very engaged family in the parish.
“I am really proud of them because they are such a lovely, faith-filled family who have truly committed to this kind of evangelisation and we are so fortunate to have them here in our parish.”
Proud mum Raelene said at the end of the day she hopes all her daughter’s hard work and devotion result in people igniting their faith.
“When we started doing this, it really deepened our faith and we want to do the same thing for others,” she said. “We have embraced the beauty of the Church in a modern way which people are loving because we make things that are important to us and our faith, not what’s popular.
“I am so proud of the girls and what they have achieved in the name of God, at the end of the day, if each product we make reflects the beauty of the Church, we have achieved our goal.”