Posted on May 29, 2020
How would you explain your business to someone who has no knowledge of it?
Independent Fine Jeweller.
How long have you been in this business? And in other businesses?
I established the business fourteen years ago, and have run it in London and Amsterdam. Prior to that, I worked in professional services and finance.
Why did you choose it?
It chose me. Jewellery is part of my DNA- I live and breathe it, and always have.
How did you get started?
I studied for several years with the Gemmological Association of Great Britain to become a qualified gemmologist and diamond specialist. During this time, I also secured a six-month placement with the Diamond Trading Company (formerly the Sales & Marketing arm of De Beers) where I graded rough and polished diamonds and studied the diamond pipeline from mining and recovery to retail. I was awarded the prestigious Deeks Diamond Prize in recognition of outstanding achievement with diamond exams.
My business began as a natural evolution of my studies. Friends and family approached me to source or create jewellery for them. I research and test everything. A great service requires a great skill set. Over many years I have cultivated relationships with true industry artisans who enable my clients’ dreams to be fulfilled.
This extraordinary network includes specialist
- gemstone suppliers,
- lapidaries (stone cutters),
- wax carvers,
- CAD designers,
- and jewellery illustrators.
All are vital participants in creating fine handcrafted jewellery. Like any industry, the jewellery sector is subject to constant change, and I continue to study and research to acquire new skills as well as develop existing skills.
How do you attract your clients?
The best form of marketing is existing clients having great experiences and happily sharing their experiences with other people.
This is the best sort of endorsement. I have a presence on a number of platforms where my client base is active. I also do a lot of professional networking to continually expand quality connections. I collaborate with select partners who advocate the same values and ethics that I do and operate in a similar luxury space- but in a non-compete way.
Can you describe your customers?
Predominantly, but not exclusively female. Well educated with a curious mind and financially independent. They usually keep fit and have an interest in the arts. They are not desperate for brand validation.
They value service, credentials and artisanal skills and craftsmanship, and prefer to define themselves by seeking unique and personal items which convey their personality.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years?
Covid-19 has created an interesting set of challenges which inevitably has consequences for short and long term goals. Navigating a new path which is sensitive to consumer’s revised circumstances and behaviours will be essential. Demand for luxury products will be altered. I will focus on supporting clients in different ways. I posted considerable content via blog and video which was lockdown relevant and will continue to be sensitive to the client’s personal circumstances. It will be important to explore cost-effective options with clients during this uncertain time- perhaps encouraging them to re-imagine some old or inherited jewellery.
Also, suggesting pieces which are timeless and offer a multi-functional purpose, thereby offering great value for money. Exploring and suggesting ways to economise but still achieve their goals. Jewellery is very visual and historically has thrived in environments which enable personal contact. This was impossible during the lockdown and will continue to be curtailed for some time, so I have embraced other forms of communication. Consequently, a “new normal” was created in how consumers can gain trust in both the brand and the product. I will continue to use video conferencing to service clients who can’t or won’t travel to London. I have a strong digital presence with an online jewellery shop on a great e-commerce platform, and I will work on raising brand awareness across a range of platforms to direct interest to the website. Over the longer term, my intention is to develop and release some in-house collections within five years.
Which things make you happy as a small business owner?
Freedom, collaboration and creativity. The freedom of directing the business according to my vision and values without having to compromise. Jewellery is a language which communicates aspects of our personality. In order to create or source jewellery for a client, it is essential to get a sense of what the client wants their jewellery to convey about them. It is a collaboration, and a pleasure to share this journey with them. There is something unique about presenting a jewel box to a client. The sense of anticipation and expectation before lifting the lid is palpable. The joy on their face when seeing it for the first time is very special. I get a sense of leaving a small legacy in other people’s lives.
Which is your best-selling product or service and why do you think your clients love it so much?
Whilst bespoke jewellery has been ever-present since inception, I am acutely aware that bespoke jewellery is not universally affordable.
So, I meticulously research exclusive ready to wear collections which are beautifully crafted, and usually customisable. This represents a hybrid between bespoke and ready to wear, as clients can often personalise it and have it made to order.
I also write and present workshops and masterclasses for corporates and private members’ clubs. This is a growing and important part of my business. Clients love them because they are fun, interactive and practical.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
The level of personal service and expertise is unparalleled. Our network of artisans has been developed over many years and represents the best skills that the industry has to offer. As a small business, we are nimble and the client is the focus of everything we do. Maintaining excellent communication and delivering within budget and on time are key.
Customer Retention: how do you keep your customers happy?
By exceeding their expectations. Every time.
Which challenges did and do you face, running your business?
As a small business, it is difficult to be heard in a noisy and competitive retail (and digital) landscape- particularly as larger operators have substantial marketing budgets. I need to be innovative and strategic in how I raise brand awareness and communicate clearly what makes my business unique.
Is there any business lesson you learnt through experience that you wish you knew about earlier in life?
Being prepared to fail. I have always been a perfectionist, and this can be limiting. I am more relaxed now about experimenting, and usually take the view “What’s the worst thing that can happen“, so I can take a more educated view on risk. If something goes wrong, it’s only a failure if I don’t learn something from it.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
I have a very supportive family which keeps my perspective and priorities clear. I am militant about getting a good nights sleep! I don’t function well if I’m tired. I also exercise regularly as it clears my head- it’s my form of de-stress.
Which is your best strategy for time management?
I religiously keep lists and prioritise tasks. I also limit meetings to ensure that I am productive each day and not distracted.