“I just make sure I never pretend to be something I’m not. I believe being honest is key, and also great customer service is something I would say is really important.”
- Alyssa Smith, International Jewellery Designer
Alyssa Smith is an International British Jewellery designer and her jewellery company, Alyssa Smith Jewellery LTD has been a finalist for or won over 15 National Business or Accessories awards. Alyssa’s jewellery has gathered quite a celebrity following including Sheridan Smith, Suzi Perry, Gail Porter and Dawn O’Porter. In the below interview Alyssa shares how she has created a loyal fan base that’s contributed to her ongoing success…
Alyssa Smith is definitely ‘one of a kind’ as a business concept in terms of the type of jewellery you create and how you interact with your customers. You can tell you really care about your customers and do a great job of expressing your personality in your work and on social media. Can you explain how it all works?
When I launched Alyssa Smith Jewellery, I was very young and had absolutely no knowledge or experience in the business world – I hadn’t even had a proper job (other than a little shop assistant!) as I had been studying full time at university right up until I launched the company. So when I launched this new brand, I decided to run it the way I wanted to run it. I am a very hands-on type of person so interacting with my customers and getting to know them is really important for me. The better I get to know my customers and fans, the more I can continue to produce jewellery that THEY the customer, and not I, the designer, likes. I might like a piece of jewellery and think it’s great, but if there is no demand for it, it often won’t sell well. If I get to know who my customers are – so what they like, what they’re into and actually ask THEM what jewellery they would like to see from Alyssa Smith Jewellery, the reaction will be so much stronger.
I have been very lucky enough to have a group of my early customers start and run a fan club for Alyssa Smith Jewellery on Twitter, and they do this for no reason other than they love the philosophy of the brand and love to be part of the community that it has created for people. Having these loyal followers is fantastic, because not only do they introduce new people to my products on the social media platforms, but they also help design our collections!
I also love to keep the Alyssa Smith Jewellery website very interactive. My customers even have their own gallery where they send photos of them wearing their jewellery and they often help each other pick new pieces of jewellery for me, which is such a help! It’s almost like having extra helping hands!
I like to think I have a large online presence and I think this is so important as that is the way our future is heading. Most advertising is done online and we don’t really have that many ‘actual’ shops on the high-street but instead stock many online boutiques!
Tell me more about your career before starting your business?
I launched Alyssa Smith Jewellery Ltd at the age of 23 straight out of university, where I gained a degree in Applied Arts and Marketing. I specialised in jewellery design. Other than that, I had a little part time job in a clothes/gift shop and in a little local bead shop before I began my business.
What inspired you to start Alyssa Smith?
I always knew I would run my own jewellery business. It was something that I just assumed I would always do. I began making jewellery at the age of 4, from beads and buttons that my mum had kept from old clothes, and by the time I was about 7, I moved into wire jewellery, which was a little more complex. At the age of 14, I was pretty much fully trained (self taught from books!) as a jeweller, but going to university made it more ‘official’.
I was encouraged by school teachers to study journalism and was repeatedly told by teachers that I would never be a jeweller with my own business, so was heavily discouraged to leave school and study anything creative. So, I dutifully stayed on to study my A levels at school, before finally going onto college to study an Art and Design Foundation course before moving onto university.
I remember when I was about 7, I would watch Top of the Pops and tell my mum that famous people would wear my jewellery on the television and in magazines one day, and of course, her response was ‘okay darling, of course’. But to everyone’s surprise, I really did go on to do this! I think sheer determination, no back up plan or alternative career option was a real help and I just wouldn’t accept that I could possibly fail. Being a jewellery designer and creating jewellery under my own name was just something I was born to do. I live, breathe and eat my jewellery business (ok, not literally!) but this is my true passion in life.
How did you manage to build your business in the early days?
I actually worked part-time in a little gift shop to fund all of my start-up costs before launching Alyssa Smith Jewellery full-time. For the first year I worked 3 days a week at minimum wage to save as much money as possible to pay for my equipment. I also did car boot sales to raise the funds.
Another thing I did was evening jewellery parties, which gave me a small income but most importantly, it was great for market research. It allowed me to see who bought what, how much they spent and which designs were most popular! Once I had managed to pull enough money together for my jewelers tools, materials and stock, I started doing stalls at Christmas craft fares, and put myself on social media sites to try and make the most of this platform for free marketing.
What’s been the biggest highlight?
I really can’t answer this! I’ve had so many amazing highlights, but some of my top highlights would be seeing my jewellery on the TV for the first time, winning 15 awards in a single year (for business…me! Business?!) and making the jewellery for Formula 1 presenter Suzi Perry to wear whilst presenting each race!
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Finance! And getting people to believe your product is better than the established brands. Everyone has this problem with a new brand, especially when you don’t have the funds spare for advertising. You just need to make the most of the free ways to promote yourself!
You’ve had some fantastic PR, having been featured in Vogue, Marie Claire and The Sunday Times Style and of course your celebrity friends including Theo Paphitis! What’s your secret?
I don’t really know. I just make sure I never pretend to be something I’m not. I believe being honest is key, and also great customer service is something I would say is really important.
What advice would you give to other women who dream of starting their own business?
I’d say to definitely start it on the side first and build up gradually. You also need to make sure there is a demand for what you want to do. And be thick skinned. The journey is anything but easy!
What’s next for you?
Bigger premises, new staff, new designs! New collaborations!
What’s your favourite quote?
Rome wasn’t built in a day!
To check out the sparkly world of Alyssa Smith’s Jewelery just click here
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