Jewellery by Lora Leedham: Lora Leedham

The young entrepreneur talks about starting her jewellery business with the help of the Prince's Trust

Having gone to a school she describes as ‘pretty grim’, Lora Leedham was headed for an uninspiring career as a retail assistant. That was before the Prince’s Trust took an interest. Three years later and Lora has her own thriving jewellery business supplying boutique stores, corporate clients and even the odd member of the Royal Family.

An initial wrong turn on her college application saw Lora signing up for a range of academic courses, but it wasn’t until she changed direction and started an art and design course that she really found her feet. An end of course exhibition had created a lot of buzz around her jewellery pieces and requests started to flood in for commissions.

“There was a lot of pressure on me to go to university but I just wanted to get out there, start a business and start making money,” says Lora. After seeking some business advice from the local council she got in touch with the Prince’s Trust who partnered her up with an advisor.

“I was 19 at the time,” says Lora. “I had no experience and was completely naïve. I just didn’t expect them to take me seriously. But when I got there it was all so positive. We started bouncing ideas around and I gradually put together some structure to ideas.”

After some extensive market research Lora put together a business plan which she then had to present to the funding panel at the Trust. “It was like Dragons’ Den but friendly. They gave me a £2500 loan which I used to buy equipment and rent a little workshop.”

Although Lora hadn’t planned to rent premises, originally thinking she could work from home, she found the separation helpful and the flexible lease she negotiated meant she wasn’t tied in to anything she couldn’t afford long-term.

Change of direction

Lora’s original plan for the business was to sell low end cheap and cheerful pieces through Tupperware style jewellery parties, but a couple of years in, she’s found a completely new direction.

Early orders were obtained mainly through word of mouth. It wasn’t until she supplied a necklace worn by the Duchess of Cornwall at the Prince’s Trust 30th anniversary party that things really took off.

“That really trigged it all. There were pictures in Hello and OK!, and after that my jewellery starting making appearances in magazines like Vogue and Grazia.” The royal endorsement put Lora’s business on the map and paved the way for new areas such as the development of a corporate jewellery range, and the opening of her first gallery in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Today, Lora supplies independent galleries across the UK and is hoping to open venues of her own all across the country over the next few years. But despite her success so far, she has her sights set on the celebrity market. For Lora Leedham, the red carpet awaits.

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