Just Started Catch-Up: Alyssa Smith Jewellery
A year on, Startups catches up with first-time entrepreneur Alyssa Smith
Company name: Alyssa Smith Jewellery
Founder: Alyssa Smith
Staff Numbers: One
Date started:September 2009
Predicted turnover (Dec 2010 – Dec 2011):A profitable £55k
Last August, young entrepreneur Alyssa Smith had Just Started her namesake jewellery business. As she approaches the end of her first full-time year of trading, Startups found out how the company is doing now and what the last 14 months have taught her.
How has your business been getting along since we last spoke?
It started off slowly and I felt a bit disheartened, but with perseverance and dedication, I am now recognised nationally as a jewellery brand, which is fantastic.
Putting myself out there and really focusing on what I wanted to achieve has opened a lot of doors for me. I have managed to get my jewellery worn by lots of celebrities, including Caroline Flack – a presenter on The X Factor this year – which has been great publicity! I am also regularly featured in local and national newspapers and magazines, and am continuing to push myself to the limits with what I want to achieve for my business.
I have recently acquired the role of resident entrepreneur at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, where I am on hand to support and mentor young budding entrepreneurs. I also take part in regular public speaking and was lucky enough to be chosen to speak at a big entrepreneur festival called MADE in Sheffield this September. Other speakers included past Apprentice contestants, Melody Hossaini and Claire Young, as well as Peter Jones from Dragons' Den.
I have also started up a second business, Alyssa Smith Social Media Consultancy, to tutor other entrepreneurs on how to make Twitter and other social networking sites work for their business as a powerful and free marketing tool. This is going very well.
What do you feel you have learnt about running a business and yourself in this time?
The biggest thing I have learned is actually how Twitter can be an amazing marketing tool for your business. When I started up, finances and cash flow were a big problem, but Twitter allowed me to market my business for free to my followers, who helped spread the word.
I've learnt a lot about myself too – I am tougher than I thought! I don't give up and am constantly thinking of new ways to explore the jewellery market. I have also discovered that I am quite a good public speaker – although this is something I hated doing back in my school years!
What about being your own boss? Has it turned out how you expected?
Yes, exactly how I expected it to be – not easy! You have to stay motivated, disciplined and focused. That is so important and they are the three things I would recommend anyone focus on when they are considering starting a business.
Finding a work/life balance can be difficult, especially during busy periods, but I am trying to get a better balance now.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement since starting up?
My biggest achievement since starting my business last year definitely has to be the moment I found out I was nominated for an award at the end of September.
I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted for the Women of the Future awards in the Entrepreneur of the Future 2012 category – which is so amazing this early on in my career! The award ceremony is in November.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
There have been a few disappointments in my career so far, but nothing that has ever made me want to give up.
I always think that things happen for a reason and, if you miss out on something one time, just keep going or find another way to do it. I always try to turn negatives into positives.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I don't think I would change anything, because everything I have done has shaped who I am today and has made my business what it is.
How close have you stuck to your original business plan?
My original business plan is nothing like the shape of my business now. When I started, I intended to supply my collections to shops and boutiques around the UK, and potentially further afield. As it turns out, my business has taken another route.
I now specialise in bespoke jewellery, which is designed to each customer's requirements. I also have several ready-to-wear collections, which are sold on my own website. The demand was there for bespoke jewellery, even though I wasn't offering it when I first started up. I changed the direction of my business to what the public were looking for, and now my bespoke service is very popular and highly recommended.
How have you managed your finances?
I have an accountant!
How have you promoted your business?
I am quite lucky as my business is featured regularly in magazines, newspapers and on websites – which is great, free publicity! I also promote my business through Twitter, and celebrities tweet about my jewellery and wear it on the television.
Where do you see your business in a year's time?
Bigger and better hopefully! I plan to add scale to the business by using my website as a portal for other reputable, funky jewellery designers to sell their work.
I will also be developing several new collections to launch next year and I have other plans too – but they're a secret!
How many hours are you working now and how has this changed since you started?
I'm working long, long hours during the week, but I am now taking most weekends off, to give me time to reflect and relax.
I have always worked long hours, even before launching the business. I would work on my collections, sketches, market research and ways to launch.
I don't mind long working hours when I am living my dream. It doesn't feel like work to me! This is a hobby which I loved so much that I turned it into my life.
What tips would you give someone who is thinking of starting up their own business?
I get asked this question a lot by students, aspiring entrepreneurs, and also by magazines. I always say be prepared to work hard and for long hours – you can't give up at the first hurdle. It's not an easy path, but with hard work, dedication and passion, you will succeed.
I like the expression ‘fire in your belly'. If you have fire in your belly, then you've got what it takes! Never stop believing in yourself, because if you don't believe in yourself or your business idea, then no one else will either. If you have a good idea and the passion and drive to succeed, then take it and run like the wind.