Product idea #7: keep me jewellery
After creating designs for Harry Potter and Where the Wild Things Are, Tom Blake shares why he decided to turn his talent for creation into something physical and launch a jewellery business
Founder: Tom Blake
Date launched: September 2014
The product: Collectable figurines with sterling silver collar-rings
After moving into 3D animation following a successful career in television and film, designer Tom Blake spotted an opportunity to fulfil a long-established desire to launch his own business – inspired by technology developments.
With a lifelong passion for jewellery, Blake became fascinated by the advances in rapid prototyping for jewellery making and with existing knowledge of the relevant software, the beginnings of an idea for keep me jewellery began to take shape.
Made entirely in Britain, each piece is handmade by Blake who also manages the design, CAD, prototyping, mould making, jewellery finishing and website development. And although managing the entire manufacturing process alongside running a business is challenging, Blake emphasises that the idea of creating a sustainable business “by selling something that you have designed and made yourself is a very appealing one”.
The keep me jewellery idea took two years to come to fruition, and the ever-evolving product has changed considerably from the initial designs; transforming from an early concept of small metal ornaments into a collection of colourful animals with uniquely designed rings that are attached like collars. It’s a fun, thoughtful and completely unique product offering and Blake’s past in animation can be clearly seen in the quirky characters.
While artist Blake has no previous entrepreneurial or jewellery business experience, the products have clearly struck a chord with consumers with the jewellery sold online and via a number of high street retailers, global interest in the collection and ambitious plans to scale-up production. Read on to hear more about the entrepreneur’s constantly evolving product, the challenges of getting customers to point of sale and running a business without a team…
Can you briefly describe your background Tom?
My background is in film and television, making and designing animatronic creatures for films such as Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I then crossed over into 3D animation, working as a digital sculptor.
This was all on a freelance basis but I have always wanted to set up my own thing.
Where did the idea for keep me jewellery come from?
I have always been into jewellery and I became fascinated with the advances in rapid prototyping for jewellery making. I knew how to use the relevant software so it was relatively straightforward to get started.
At first I planned to make small precious metal ornaments and the keep me jewellery concept developed from there.
Describe how your jewellery is disrupting the marketplace?
Keep me genuinely has a strong USP in that it really is unique, there is nothing like it in the marketplace. It also ticks a lot of boxes: it has colour and sparkle, animals, it’s jewellery but also a collectable. Furthermore there is a lot of choice and it is well-priced.
What market research did you conduct to learn more about your potential sector or industry?
I started learning about the jewellery industry by subscribing to retail jewellery publications. I visited trade shows and regularly visited jewellery shops and gift shops and department stores to get a thorough idea of what products were out there and how they were priced.
I also became a member of the British Library’s Business & IP centre, and I attended seminars and workshops and used their market analysis resources.
What have you done to protect the IP of your jewellery?
All of my designs are registered at the Intellectual Property Office and keep me jewellery is a registered trade mark.
My designs are also registered with ACID (Anti Copying In Design) and with the British Jewellers Association. I have catalogued everything from day one but this is ongoing and I am currently working on strengthening my IP further.
How did you finance keep me jewellery?
Now I am starting to stock keep me in a lot shops, I obtained a loan to get things set up but up to that point keep me had been self-funded. I have been fortunate in that I have been able to continue freelancing for periods to raise funds.
Describe your business journey to date, from having the idea for your collectables to bringing them to the market.
As soon as I had prototyped the concept for the very first time, I thought it was just too good an idea to let go and it has taken three years to develop the product to where it is now – being sold in shops.
There have been many challenges, one being the sheer volume of work. There has been a lot to do and I have done everything myself in developing the product to this point – all design, prototyping, mould design and making, website design and building etc.
The product is still evolving, but very subtly, small tweaks here and there to make it more efficient and cost effective in production but there is still an awful lot more to do.
Do you manufacture the jewellery entirely yourselves? And if so how did you source suppliers?
The jewellery is cast at a foundry and then assembled and finished by myself. I am currently looking into making this process more efficient, but still made in the UK.
How do you distribute keep me jewellery – is it exclusively online or is it currently stocked elsewhere?
Keep me jewellery is available online and also through 10 high street shops, including locations in London, Kent, Suffolk and Brighton.
Do you have plans to take keep me overseas?
I think keep me jewellery definitely has global appeal – we have had enquiries from the US, Asia, Australia and several countries throughout Europe so far.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs considering launching their own jewellery product business?
I still need plenty of advice myself but what I am learning is that the jewellery business is incredibly competitive and it’s not just about having great jewellery – it’s about how you are going to get people to buy it.
What are keep me jewellery’s future plans?
The keep me range is currently handmade in small volumes but I want to get keep me jewellery into larger scale production and for it to be available and accessible to everyone, everywhere.