Birmingham-based jewellery designer Lora Leedham talks to YHP about her life and journey as an entrepreneur.
Lora creates ethical, contemporary jewellery, all handcrafted or finished, making each piece unique and subtly different to the next. She uses high end materials such as sterling silver, gold, platinum, conflict-free gemstones, Kimberley diamonds and handmade Venetian glass.
Hello Lora, How has been your day been so far? Thank you for taking time to be on YHP
Absolutely no problem, and I am very well thank you, at the moment, it’s Christmas season with the orders, so everyday is extra busy!
Can you give us some brief background of yourself?
I started off believing that interior design would be the field which I would go into, however for my final project at college I had to base it on something which had no relevance to interior design. Something else which I really enjoyed doing was metal work and working on small scale pieces, so jewellery seemed like the obvious choice for me. I absolutely loved it from day one and knew that this was what I wanted to pursue.
What inspired you to start your business?
I wanted to create my own designs and be free to create what I wanted, as oppose to other peoples designs. My dad had his own business so I had an insight into what it involved. It seemed perfect for to set up my business and be known as an independent designer.
Can you explain to us what your company does and the roles you play in it?
I design and handcraft ethical and bespoke jewellery. I currently have 7 collections with a new collection being released soon. I supply stockists around the UK and sell internationally also. My sales come through my website but I also have my own gallery in Stratford-upon-Avon. I have a lot of roles in the business, I not only have to design and make the jewellery (although, I do have staff helping me with finishing on the metals, stone setting etc when I don’t have time) I also do all of my own PR, which means working on press releases and keeping an eye out for potential features, and I also do all of the day to day admin work. I have staff in the gallery but I also have to keep and eye on that side and work on press with that too. I meet with customers and discuss their requirements and I work on a very one-to-one basis to create a very special and personal piece.
What are your process in making sure your jewellery are unique?
All of the jewellery is handmade and therefore has the designers own style added to it. I particularly take my inspiration from my hobby of photography. I enjoy photographing nature and looking at the textures and forms which I find, the jewellery therefore has a very organic feel to it.
How did you get finance to fund your business?
I was set up with the help of the Prince’s Trust and was awarded £2500 to get started, I had to prioritise where to use the money and buy materials, business literature etc. A lot of the funding went into equipment and raw materials to produce my first collections.
What’s your USP?
The USP for my jewellery is that it is all individually handcrafted, care and attention go into every one of my pieces and I create the jewellery so that the customer is completely happy with their piece. I also use conflict-free diamonds and have an ethical ethos to my work, even the packaging is from recycled materials. Another USP would be that the jewellery is bespoke, you can change designs to your own requirements and change gemstones, etc. I also work on customers own designs or take old jewellery and create something new with it for the customer.
What do your range consist of?
I have 7 ranges of jewellery which are my main ranges. The collections are varied in themselves, one collection focuses on intricate wire work, whereas other collections are more solid, involving components making up the piece and have gemstones added for detail. The collections all use precious metals with gemstones and Venetian glass
Who are your competitors?
There are a lot of fabulous designers out there; however each designer creates something so different to the next. Every designer goes down a different route, depending on what they want to achieve
Who is your target market?
My target market is quite broad, the jewellery is purchased by all age groups and although women may buy the pieces for themselves, I have a lot of male customers buying for wives, girlfriends etc. The jewellery is very individual and anyone who loves and appreciates handcrafted jewellery are my ideal customers! I have created jewellery for the Royal Family and various celebrities, so this is also a target market and getting my pieces into catwalks, etc is vital for raising my profile.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy?
Generally talking to people, I find out what it is that people want and approach that area. I market the jewellery in higher end galleries and magazines as this is what my customer will be reading or going. My story usually is a great marketing strategy and gets a lot of PR, so it saves me paying for advertising, I have jewellery worn by celebrities, who the media are always interested in and so I get to market my work with a story.
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
I hope to carry on raising my profile as a designer, I want have more celebrities wear my jewellery and then eventually create jewellery for celebrity events. I don’t necessarily want to become famous, but just respected as a designer, I want my name to be known for jewellery design and the unusual designs which I create. On the retail side, I hope to build up the website and also open more galleries around the country.
Apart from your company, what other company do you admire the most and why?
I can’t say that I have a company which I particularly admire, but I do hear of business people who have either started with absolutely nothing or lost everything by becoming bankrupt, and then picked themselves up and started again to then become successful. I admire any businesses who can overcome problems and difficulties and I think they are an inspiration to us all.
Do you have any favourite business related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
I have recently read a book called ‘Self Promotion for The Creative Person’ by Lee T. Silber. He is an American author and talks about how he promotes himself, usually for little money too. This is great for creative businesses, I always find that artists are fabulous at what they do, but when it comes to promoting themselves and generally the business side, they tend to lack business acumen. This book demonstrates the importance of promoting yourself and getting your name out there.
What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur starting their first business today?
I have some sayings which I always stick to, one is that ‘you get out what you put in’ and I definitely agree with this, sometimes you may need to motivate yourself, or get out there and sell, but basically if you put in as much hard work as you can, the rewards will follow. Another mistake which I often see is that people open a business to suit their lifestyle, whereas your lifestyle should suit your business. Don’t open a business for the wrong reasons, if you can put in the hard work, especially when it is new, then put in the extra hours, keep working hard and don’t forget to have fun!
What was the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
It’s a bit of an obvious one, but really just to not give up. You take a lot of knock backs with a business and especially in the fashion industry. You have to learn not to let your confidence suffer, because it is a key feature which you can have. You have to get up dust yourself off and go again. Persistence can be difficult at times, but there are times where your hard work pays off and it makes it all worth it.
What is been your proudest moment so far?
There have been a lot of proud moments so far, such as seeing my jewellery on live television being worn by a member of the royal family, but winning the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Award was a moment which I was really proud of. You don’t often get time to stop and think about what you have achieved, but when someone nominates you for an award, it is very flattening and winning the award makes you realise all of the hard work which you put in and being recognised for that is fantastic.
What should we be expecting from you in the future?
Hopefully a lot more! I hope that my designs will be seen in large high street stores soon, and I hope that my name becomes known as a designer. As I mentioned, I don’t personally want to become famous, but I would for my designs to. I would like to take part in more catwalks and get my jewellery at some really high profile events.
Thanks for your time Lora.
Contact Lora Leedham