What is your business called?
My business is called LillyLocket Fingerprint Jewellery
Can you describe it in one sentence?
Personalised solid silver finger, hand and footprint jewellery
When did you start it and what inspired you?
It started in January 2013 – my 40th. I had a list of ‘40 things to do at 40’ and one of those things included making my own piece of jewellery. I was also starting to think about supplementing my part-time income – I got the feeling at work that changes were afoot. I’d had a pair of fingerprint cufflinks made for my partner for his 40th and wondered if it was something I should look into. I did a few months of research before finally making my own piece or fingerprint jewellery. I shared it on my facebook page and got loads of lovely comments. Then I started making pieces for friends and family as gifts before taking orders. In October 2013, a redundancy opportunity presented itself at work and I thought ‘why not?’ I took it and on 29th January 2014, I became officially self-employed and launched LillyLocket Fingerprint Jewellery.
How did you fund your start up?
I had assistance from New Enterprise who put me in touch with a business manager who helped me with my business plan and costings and we had fortnightly mentoring sessions. I also got a small allowance for the first 6 months which helped. I’d financed it all from my part time wages the year before – buying bits of equipment and silver and findings each month and getting by without the ‘proper’ kit (even now I use playing cards instead of spacers and straws for cutting holes!!). By the time I started up, it was a case of trying to market as I had everything I needed to make the actual pieces of jewellery – I just needed customers. My facebook page grew steadily and I had a website done.
How do you manage working around your children?
Both my boys are at school now – one has just started Y7 and one just started Y2. When I was working/hobbying in 2013, I would make jewellery of an evening. Once I started working for myself, it was pretty easy to work during school hours – although there are still never enough hours in the day. I’m quite strict now with my boundaries and state my working hours on emails and facebook. I’m doing this so I can spend time with my family, not instead of being with them, so I work 9-3 Monday – Friday. I don’t generally respond to messages, texts or emails outside this time, but I do say that clients can call me if they need a more urgent response than 2 working days. You can end up – especially when working from home – where the lines cross and it’s very easy to say ‘I’m just going to …..’ and then the kids be left in front of the tv for an hour. Of course, if potential clients need me to call them of an evening then I do make allowances for that.
Can you describe a typical day?
Mondays/Tuesday are paperworks day. I try and schedule my facebook posts for the week, do my accounts, check surveymonkey to see if my clients have completed their customer satisfaction survey and if they want to join my mailing list, I update mailchimp too. Last week of the month I write my enewsletter – my biggest headache!! I have a to do list that I work down and try and tick off small jobs as I go. The majority of my time is spent on paperwork/networking/marketing rather than actually making pieces!! The rest of the week I will spend on making jewellery, photographing, packaging, ordering supplies but it really does depend on what work I have on. Coming up to Christmas the paperwork will go out of the window until the New Year – fortunately this year I did my tax return before the Summer holidays (cue smug face!!) as I’m not playing tax return roulette on the 30th of January next year again!
What have you found the hardest?
I find it hard to focus. When you work on your own and have no-one to chat to or bounce ideas off it can be lonely. Luckily I am totally fine with my own company and the radio is background noise enough. Sometimes the overwhelm is overwhelming – loads to do, what to do first, so little time and no boss for direction. I try and write every little job down on my a4 ‘to do’ list and pick one that I can do in the time I have available, bearing in mind ‘will this job make me money’ – if not then it slips down the list. You end up feeling achieved if you can see what you have actually completed. Its also hard not having anyone to discuss ideas with. My hubby is great but he works hard too and sometimes I just don’t want to bug him with ‘what do you think about this and that’. So it takes me a while to figure stuff out by myself but I’m in a few select FB groups where I can always go and ask a question.
What is the best thing about being self employed?
The best thing is the freedom. If I want to have an hour off to go and watch my little boy’s play, or go on a school walk with him – I can. No more holiday forms and waiting to see if I can have 1.5 hours of my annual leave then wondering if I’ll have enough leave left to go on holiday. No reliance on holiday clubs or childminders. I’m here to take them to school in a morning and there to collect them at night and free at the weekends. If I’m really busy, I’ll work in the evenings when my youngest is in bed. I work one day a week during all school holidays when my boys go to a sports camp for the day. Even in the Summer holidays as its usually quiet then I still only work one day a week – my business, my boundaries, my rules.
What are your plans for the future?
I really want to set up a national network of fingerprint jewellers who will come together and commit to gifting one small piece of jewellery to bereaved parents. Not sure how I’ll do this yet but I’m looking at the various bereavement and memory box charities that exist with a view to linking up with them. I’m looking at branching out into the bridal jewellery market – cufflinks for the men, bridesmaids and Mother gifts along with leaf pendants made out of the actual bouquet leaves for the brides to remember their special day. I’m looking at a range of non-print pieces, I’d like to provide online jewellery making courses too and I’d love to do a silversmithing course to make wedding rings too that can be engraved with fingerprints. I’m a one girl show though so it will all take time but lots to keep my busy over the coming year or so. When I feel comfortable I will ditch my enewsletter, social media/marketing and accounts to a VA, but I’d love to be able to help my local economy and employ an apprentice someday. I think I’ve just written my next 3 year plan!!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Know your ideal client and market to them – this is so important. As Claire Mitchell from The Girls Mean Business says ‘you can’t market to everyone so you may as well market to the people most likely to buy from you’. Network – a lot. Then network some more. And some more. It’ll take at least 3 months before your networking and marketing could even start to pay off. Price properly – you are running a business. Don’t be everywhere – pick one or 2 social media platforms and concentrate on them. I don’t do Twitter and a lot of my clients seem to like Facebook, so I do Facebook. I don’t do Instagram and G+ or Etsy because I haven’t got time and haven’t needed to. My clients find me on by word of mouth, facebook or my website. Have a presence and fill your profile in on networks you don’t use – my LinkedIn profile says ‘I hang out on facebook – check me out over there’ and I think my Twitter does too. Set goals – I want to make £5K this year, £10K next year. Then you can ask yourself how you are going to do it and break it down so you have achievable goals and targets. If you are working for yourself, then you’re probably making money out of doing something you enjoy, so make sure you do have fun and enjoy it!!