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Jewellery designer Alyssa Smith on creating a successful brand

close up of Alyssa Smith
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How did you get the idea behind your business?

Starting my own jewellery company is actually something I have had dreams of since I was about six years old, believe it or not. Getting any other kind of job was never an option for me.  I started actually making jewellery when I was five years old, where I would sit on my parents living room floor and thread all my mum’s old buttons and beads onto string and make bracelets for friends and family, and by the time I was 11, I was creating wedding and bridesmaids jewellery by using simple beaded jewellery techniques.

I taught myself by using books from a very young age and all of my pocket money went on beads. I started my business after I graduated from university in 2009. There have been times when it hasn’t been an easy ride, launching a business in the middle of a recession can be tough - so I worked in a jewellery shop part time to help fund my start up costs and basic jewellers tools.

In December 2010, I left my job at the shop to launch Alyssa Smith Jewellery full time.

Setting up my business wasn’t hard at all I spent a lot of time on the internet researching what I needed to do in order to start up, and asked as many people as I could about what I needed to do. The difficult part was coming up with a collection that people would want to buy, and also getting myself and my new company noticed in an over-crowded jewellery industry. Funding was also a huge issue when I started up.

I raised start-up money by working in a shop, hosting jewellery parties and doing car boot sales. I virtually sold everything I had at car boot sales to help me get enough money to start my business. I was already in thousands of pounds worth of debt as I launched the business straight after graduating from University, so launching the business really wasn’t that easy.

Have there been any moments of doubt since you began trading?  

Yes. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t swap my job for the world, but there are times when it’s not easy. I think we all have ups and downs with various things, but you just have to remember the positive times. After all, if we didn’t have the bad times, how would we recognise the good times?

When I feel like I am struggling whether it be emotionally or physically, I just have to take a step back and remind myself why I do what I do, and how passionate I am about my career.

What marketing tools do you use to promote Alyssa Smith Jewellery?  

I think for start-ups, any money you have is so precious that you feel like you can’t justify wasting it on an expensive advert in a magazine or newspaper, especially when there is no promise that it will generate money.

I find that free advertising is best. Using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest for your business to advertise it, make people aware, and generate word of mouth referrals is the best way to spread the word about your business.

It’s also great to go along to networking events and try to mingle with the right people. It’s important to find like-minded people for a support network, because starting a business can be very lonely at times.

What have been some of your business highlights?

I’ve been lucky enough to have so many.  I’ve got a great support network around me now, and some amazingly loyal customers who continuously help spread the word about my jewellery. I also have several high profile celebrities who wear and promote my jewellery for me.

These include Dragons Den star Theo Paphitis, Suzi Perry from the Gadget Show, singers Jamelia and Beverley Knight, Dawn Porter - celebrity journalist and many more. I have also had my jewellery featured in press such as the Independent, the Guardian, Vogue and Company magazine. I’ve also been lucky enough to win various awards recognising my achievements – including the 2012 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards.

Staying motivated can be difficult for women in business. Can you tell us how you stay motivated?  

Personal motivation is hard especially for those who have an office at home. I do find it difficult to get motivated sometimes. I think the best way to stay motivated is to focus on what you’re trying to achieve and why. Try to remember how amazing the ‘good times’ feel, and when you’re experiencing a slow time, remember it won’t last forever.

Confidence can be a struggle. How do you stay confident when times are challenging?  

I definitely have had some confidence issues along the way and I must say, I still have the occasional blip now and again. I do believe the worst time was when I just started the business as I was so young. It was so hard to really believe in myself and in my business and this was portrayed to my clients. If you don’t believe in your business – who will?

After becoming a bit more established, people began buying from me and my confidence levels went up. Realising that people knew who I was and were talking about my jewellery actually felt amazing. I don’t think confidence can be built over night in some people, and I am quite a shy person, but slowly you become more comfortable in your new role. It’s good to mix with like-minded people to keep your confidence levels up and to also make you realise you are not alone.  

Do you set yourself business goals? How do you measure these goals?

I always set myself business goals! Most people make New Year’s resolutions, but for some reason, I like to set my goals by age. I always find that a week before my birthday, I start panicking and trying to tick off the crazy things on my list that I haven’t completed yet - like trying to get Lord Sugar to wear my cufflinks. But you know what? Setting yourself high goals feels good and lets you push boundaries. I think it’s great to have achievable goals, but it’s also good to throw a few crazy ones into the mix just to test yourself.

Do you have a business routine?  

I do try to write lists every day. I like to write a list of what needs to be done that day, what needs to be done that week, and another list of what needs to be done sometime in the near future. I have Post-it notes all around my walls in my office with various reminders or motivational phrases - I like to call it organised chaos!