The Collective Boutique: Hanna Nicholson

Jewellery enthusiast Hanna Nicholson shares how she launched her dream business with just £5,500

Name: Hanna Nicholson
Age: 39
Company Name: The Collective Boutique
Staff numbers: 1
Location: South East
Date Launched: 19/08/2013
Website: www.collectiveboutique.co.uk

Tell us what your business does:

The Collective is the latest online destination for high quality, affordable jewellery and fashion accessory brands. What makes us edgy is the collection of designers we bring together from the UK and further afield – we actively seek out talent not yet widely represented. The Collective launched online in August 2013 and the plan is to now bring the experience to life, test it and gain exposure via innovative pop-up channels like Boxpark.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I have had an eye for jewellery since my childhood. Observing both my mother and grandmother’s love for antiques, Art Deco buckles and jewellery contributed to my evolving appreciation and love for all things sparkly. I had always wanted to set up my own jewellery business, and was always researching brands and designers for my dream company. When it came to going it alone, I had my business plan ready to go!

How did you know there was a market for it?

In the words of Anna dello Russo, “Accessories are like vitamins to fashion” – nowadays a statement necklace or bracelet is as important as the rest of an outfit. The market is competitive, whether it is luxury designs or cheaper high street designs – but The Collective is championing beautifully handmade, high quality products with an affordable price tag.

What were you doing before starting up?

I worked in Marketing & PR for City law firms and fuelled my love for jewellery with evening classes at Central Saint Martin’s. When I moved to Brighton in 2005, I worked for contemporary jeweller Jeremy Hoye and then luxury costume jewellery store Union Jewellery. Working on website and e-commerce development projects throughout my career has also given me the knowledge and insight into how to set up my own online business.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes, definitely.

How did you raise the money?

I had some savings which I decided to invest in setting up the business – the set-up costs for The Collective including branding, website development and stock have totalled £5,500 so far.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

The challenges I face are probably similar to many start-ups – limited budget and not enough hours in the day! I also have a son so juggling family and my increasing workload is a big challenge for me. The fact that I can do so much on my smartphone means that I can tweet, email and Instagram on the go! It’s also such a competitive market that I always have to try and think innovatively about how to market the business and gain followers and customers.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

The Collective will make money from selling stock with a mark up on wholesale prices. The key success to this is selling a high enough volume of products to enable me to replenish stock with new products so we are always bringing the latest designs to our customers and not getting stuck with last season’s designs. Designing exclusive pieces with each designer also allows me to create limited edition must-have items which become sought after in the press and across social media.

What was your first big breakthrough?

I think in these first couple of months of business, my big breakthrough has been connecting with the press and the blogging world. The Collective has already featured twice on Made in Chelsea star Rosie Fortescue’s fashion blog which has a huge following. This was as a direct result of me contacting her and has led to further blogger collaborations and direct sales. Being featured in the jewellery industry’s major publication, Retail Jeweller, in the October edition has also been a big achievement and breakthrough for me.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

It’s a cliché but I really believe that you should pursue your dream and trust your instincts. Research your competitors and the area of business thoroughly so you have a clear idea of where you fit in the marketplace…and then go for it!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

In five years’ time, my plan is to have grown the Collective to include more amazing brands, designers and graduates who are not widely represented by other etailers. My plan also includes designing and making my own Collective range of jewellery. If I can make The Collective a successful pop-up concept in the next five years, I also plan to open my first bricks and mortar store.

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