Alyssa Smith Jewellery: Alyssa Smith Jewellery
The jewellery designer on sourcing suppliers and how to juggle work and home life
Company name: Alyssa Smith Jewellery Website: www.alyssa-smith.com Founders: Alyssa Smith Age: 23 Based: Hertfordshire Staff Numbers: 1 Date started: September 2009
Tell us what your business doesI create beautiful handcrafted jewellery in gold, silver, pearls and gemstones. I like to think of my designs as a mix of contemporary and quirky, with the essence of nature thrown in. Romance and fairy-tale themes also run throughout my collections. I create jewellery to make women feel and look good. Alyssa Smith Jewellery is now sold in outlets around the UK and virtually on my website.
Where did the idea for your business come from? I have always had a passion for creating things, especially jewellery. I decided upon my career path at the age of 14 when I began making basic beaded jewellery for family and friends. I then went on to college to study design and then to university where I studied for a degree in jewellery and marketing. After working for a short time with a well-known jewellery designer, I realised I wanted to create and design my own jewellery under my own name.
How did you know there was a market for it? Obviously the recession has strongly affected luxury businesses like jewellery, but I believe there will always be a market for gifts, in particular special pieces of jewellery. My pieces are designed and handcrafted to a high standard by myself in my workshop in Hertfordshire. I can offer unique and beautiful jewellery to all kinds of women and there is something for everyone's taste. I offer a bespoke service to my clients, which is another great selling point. My packaging is eco friendly which I believe is very important.
What were you doing before starting up? I was fortunate enough to gain a position as a junior jewellery designer at a well-known company when I graduated from university, but soon realised I needed to take the plunge into self-employment. Some called it madness to leave such a fantastic job given the economic climate, but I knew it was something I had to do sooner rather than later.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Always! I have wanted to run my own business since my early teens, to enable me to design and create my own jewellery with my name on it. I thought it would take longer before I had the opportunity to do this, but I felt unfulfilled in my graduate job and felt it was time to take a chance and start up on my own.
What planning did you do before you started up?Before starting my business, I attended free courses from the government funded ‘Business link' organization, which I would definitely recommend to anyone considering starting a business. These courses covered market research, business planning, advertising and marketing.
How did you raise the money? Raising money to start my business was anything but easy. I was lucky enough to have some financial help from my family, and I work a part time job to help fund my business. I also held jewellery parties and stalls in the run up to Christmas to increase my income.
How did you find suppliers? Finding suppliers for my jewellery has been the hardest and most stressful part of starting the business. I supply to boutiques and jewellers around the UK, but at first I had to offer my jewellery on a sale or return basis just to get my name out there. This was difficult due to lack of funding but it seemed the only way. I still exhibit on a sale or return basis at exhibitions and galleries, but now I mostly contact new suppliers by email or post, showing them my jewellery through a small catalogue or samples. I also have a stand at the ‘Spring Fair' at the NEC in Birmingham next February, which is attended by a lot of suppliers, so I will hopefully gain new contacts from that.
Where is your business based? As a new business, I work from a workshop at my home. It is difficult to balance home and work life, and I have to be disciplined with myself. I try to keep Sundays free and some evenings.
How have you promoted your business? I have tried to keep advertising costs to a minimum by writing features for local and national magazines and publications. So far I have been featured in three local magazines and have several more due soon. I have had my jewellery in Marie Claire magazine, and had a piece in Vogue magazine in July. I have also recently created bespoke pieces of jewellery for three international celebrities, one of whom will be wearing her piece on a television programme this Autumn. I am hoping that this will promote my business and make my brand more nationally established.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? Finding funding for my business and sourcing suppliers to sell my jewellery has been and still is the hardest aspect of starting up.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? Rome wasn't built in a day! I believe that aspiring entrepreneurs should enter the arena with confidence. Success is hard. If you are passionate about what you do and determined to succeed, I believe you can. Have a goal or a vision and stick to it!