The Entrepreneur: Tobias Kormind, 77 Diamonds

Co-founder of an £18m jewellery business, Kormind talks highs - growing to 72 countries - and lows - over-hiring and taking his eye off the ball...

Co-founder: Tobias Kormind
Company: 77 Diamonds
Website: www.77diamonds.com
Description in one line: Europe’s largest online diamond jeweller, delivering finely crafted diamond jewellery direct to consumers through a luxury service that offers great value
Previous companies: 77 Agency, Interactive Investor, Credit Suisse First Boston, Morgan Stanley
Turnover: £18m
12-month target: £25m

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We empower the consumer through choice – offering the largest selection of certificated diamonds in the world, sourced directly from diamond cutters
  • Providing a luxury jewellery experience end-to-end, with our Mayfair showroom, online and on mobile, offering superb customer service, and luxury packaging
  • With our own workshop, we are able to offer superior craftsmanship on our jewellery

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Sealing the European market leadership position in online diamond jewellery without any third party investment within the space of 10 years.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

I am a numbers driven person, so I look at as many as I can every day. These include marketing spend, sales, leads, response times, SEO (search engine optimisation) rankings, etc.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We sell to 72 countries, but the UK is still our core market. We have big plans to expand overseas to various European, Asian and North American territories.

Describe your growth funding path:

Beyond initial seed capital which I lent the business and has since been repaid, we have grown organically and we hope to grow much larger, perhaps even list (IPO).

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

One of our main competitive advantages is having built a custom IT infrastructure, which has allowed us to be innovative and nimble.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

Our ambition is to be become a major global jewellery brand with over £100m turnover within five years and showrooms across the globe.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

We over-hired while suffering from growth pains. We had to let a few people go, a really painful and unpleasant process that I hope not to have to repeat.

What was your biggest business mistake?

We once took our eye off the ball with marketing budget allocation, which caused a dip in sales.

Since then, we have been obsessed about our marketing spend and as a result, have a much better performance than before.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

In general, the business environment in the UK is excellent, with very little red tape. The only obstacles are the HMRC, which in my opinion takes a far too adversarial position against small and medium-sized enterprises who are just trying to survive.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Trying to get things perfect. I live by the 80/20 rule; sometimes you just have to throw it out there and see what happens. Waiting for something to be perfect can cause you to miss opportunities.

How will your market look in three years?

It is very difficult to predict as it depends on a balance between supply and demand. Supply is predictable but demand can fluctuate wildly with global economic turbulence.

Diamonds were formed billions of years ago in the earth’s core and brought up to the crust millions of years ago, so they are bound to run out at some point, but not in the next three years!

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Do not try to do too many things at the same time, pick a few … the right few and do them well. Learn to prioritise and build a strong team around you to help execute.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

A boys hiking trip once per year away from business and family to switch off and have some fun! British country side, exercise, good food and lots of wine…

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learn it on the job. The academic side is important but the most crucial business skills have to be instinctive and the rest comes down to execution.

What would make you a better leader?

More empathy and an ability to listen to my team.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

Anyone who thinks the grass is greener on the other side, think again! You had better buckle your seat belt and prepare for a long and bumpy ride.

Business book:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

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