Challenges of running my own business
The crazy thing for me is that running my own business is all I have ever done. After I graduated and won my award I set up straight away in business. I had a small amount of money from my prize and that was it. In hindsight this may have not been the best way to do it, but I had nothing to lose and a lot of ideas and enthusiasm.
So how have the last 12 years been?
Well the last 12 years have been a challenge. They have been rewarding, exciting, infuriating, upsetting and fun, and not always in equal measure. When you run your own business, and it is only you, it’s a hard battle sometimes. It’s only you who can do the work, only you who can strive forward, and only you that can make the mistakes. And over the years I have made mistakes, but you have to forget the mistakes and remember the lesson. It is the only way to learn and strive ahead. Some are harder to take than others, but as it is only me who can power on, I have to dust myself off and get going again.
Other people’s perceptions
One of the hardest challenges I find is other people’s perception of what I do. I love this illustration as it sums it up really.
Its difficult to say all the things I have to do in a day to keep my business going, but making jewellery is probably only about 10% of the time. So much time is spent doing the paperwork, invoices and emails; but there’s also the marketing, social media, website updates and selling to do. None of these things have I been trained in and I have had to teach myself and learn along the way.
People always think jewelers have lots of money, but the raw materials and tools cost so much, so does the getting to market i.e. large exhibitions and websites. And designing and making jewellery takes time, which in itself costs. So in reality the goods are expensive but the profit margin is low.
When you work for yourself you don’t have the support of a large company. I love this quote by small business rocks
“When you are buying from a small business you are not helping a CEO buy his 3rd house or fast car. You are helping a little girl take dance lessons, a young boy get his teams football shirt, a Mum and Dad put food on the table, and pay the mortgage, or a student pay their way through university.”
One other thing people think, is that it is easy! From an outsiders perspective it looks as though you have just come up with a great product, exhibited in incredible places, have work owned by celebrities and that you all did it whilst out for a walk looking at beautiful things whilst getting inspiration. No one sees the sleepless nights, the missed social occasions, the money poured out, the hours sat at the bench or the endless emails. It may look easy but it really isn’t!
Running my own business and being a working Mum
I am a Mother so my work really does help our family. People often think its easy running your own business; that you can do what you want when you want. In fact it’s the complete opposite. It often means you have to work longer hours and trying not to take time off, as you don’t get paid. On the flip side I can be flexible and work different hours, which helps, but it doesn’t mean less hours, it just a later start means a later finish. I try and cram a 5-day week into 3 days so I can have a balance of both but often this is a very tricky juggle. This is often difficult as I am a Mother, so sometimes when I am officially not working, I still have to. This means I have a nagging little one asking “Mummy when will you be finished?”
It’s always a tough one being a working Mum whether you work for yourself or not. The guilt that comes with it is always a hard one to manage. I try and remind myself that it’s a great notion to be demonstrating to my Daughter, that women can be successful, you don’t get things in life for free; you have to work for them. You can’t give up, and that if you put your mind to something you can achieve it. I just hope I can get the right balance!
Handmade vs Mass Produced
Most people understand that there is a difference between the handmade items I do, and those that are mass-produced. But it sometimes is very difficult when the prices can be so varied. I sell my jewellery via several means, but I have seen an increase in items claiming they are ‘handmade.’ The sad thing is that many people out there are stating handmade items are ‘handmade’ when infact, they are mainly mass-produced, but the last touch is done by hand, like adding the chain.
Or, often items are ‘handmade’ in India or China, but still on a huge scale, in factories where people are paid low prices and the quality is low too. So if you think a price is too good to be true, it usually is! What I do is truly handmade. Each design is my own and every piece is handmade by me, filed, soldered, polished, boxed and sent out to my customer, by me and only me. It is British design and made.
Being a Creative Entrepreneur is hard in itself
One thing I struggle with is the self-doubt that often comes with being creative. It’s very difficult to be sure you’re doing the right thing, as you have to keep moving forward, and this often means you only look ahead and forget what you have achieved. You always want to do your best and you often feel that your best isn’t good enough. So it’s an emotional rollercoaster.
One minute thinking ‘I’ve got a great idea’ the next – ‘will people like it?’ I have had some terrible times for example: standing at an exhibition and not selling a single piece of jewellery. A customer who nudged her friend and said ‘its not worth the money, you could make it out of tin foil’ (I’d like to see her try!!) And shops taking my stock and never paying for it. These things have really hurt and often filled me with so much doubt that I have almost given up. But luckily I have a superb husband and great family and friends around that they help to buck me up and give me great support.
Remembering the achievements along the way.
But within all this mixed emotions, there are some wonderful highs. And because it’s only me who runs the business, all the achievements are mine, and mine alone. It’s these that help me keep going. Whether it’s the accolade of winning an award. Still one of the best moments of my life was winning the New Designs Award for Jewellery. Being recognized for the hard work and love that I put into my jewellery was incredible. I still remember when my Dad came to see the exhibition, and he knew I had won, but he thought it was just out of my University. I said ‘no Dad its out of the 600 others here!’ He was speechless and had to walk away with tears in his eyes, a very proud moment for me!
Or the fact that my jewellery has taken me to some pretty incredible places, like London Fashion Week, the Dorchester, the Tower of London, The Grosvenor, and the Sky Garden to name a few. I have also been lucky enough to see a lot of the world with my jewellery, from exhibiting in New York, cruising the Caribbean and Mediterranean to sell my jewellery, travelling to gemstone factories in Jaipur and most recently to Texas and Arizona for a very exciting new design venture. Also I have the privilege to say celebrities such as Cate Blanchett and Sir Ian McKellen own my jewellery. It’s been a whirlwind. And this is something I try and keep in mind.
Attitude makes an ordeal an adventure
One of my worst habits is getting too stressed and worrying about what comes next and forgetting the achievements I have had. But one thing that always spurs me on is hearing from my customers. Telling me how much my jewellery has meant to them, and what special gifts its made.
Thank you so much for the locket. Mum mum opened it and said it was “perfect” and it made such a difference having it on the day so we all wanted to say thank you for going the extra mile to get it to us. It really is a beautiful piece
Just wanted to say a huge thank you- my niece loved her little bird bracelet. Not only is the bracelet itself so lovely, the way it was packaged and presented….just gorgeous, thank you.Have a great weekend xxxx
I am extremely lucky to do what I do, and love what I do. It has its challenges, but it allows me to be creative, and still be a Mum!