So, in the summer of 2012, I decided it was time to start my own jewellery business and the quickest and ‘easiest’ way to get started was selling online.
Being completely honest, becoming a jewellery retailer wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I was coming from working in pawnbrokers and pay day lenders and my goal was to eventually start my own pawnbrokers but I needed a nice chunk of change to do that, which I didn’t have.
But I had enough money to start buying and selling jewellery, so that is what I did.
Now this wasn’t my first online venture, I had made some money by buying broken ipods, fixing them and then selling them on. While not a proper business by any stretch, it gave me some grounding as to how to sell stuff online and what costs need to be factored in etc.
My Ebay Store
Before taking the plunge, I had also spent a couple of months researching what kind of things were selling, this is really easy to do on Ebay. So I knew that I was going to start with gold chains, this was because I knew about how to deal with gold and had also seen that they sold pretty well on Ebay.
So in September 2012, I placed my first order with a supplier for a selection of gold chains in various styles and lengths. This was scary and exciting at the same time!
I also invested some of my start up capital in a cheap photography set up and soon learnt that photographing jewellery is not easy and is something that I would spend hours trying to perfect over the next few years.
The picture above, is one of my first product images and while not perfect, it would help me sell hundreds of that particular chain.
I put my first listing on Ebay about a week after I picked up my first lot of chains. The reason why I chose Ebay as my first sales outlet was that I knew people were buying these types of chains, getting started was a very easy process and I had sold on Ebay previously, so felt comfortable using the platform.
It proved to be a very good choice as a starting point as by Christmas 2012, I was seeing sales well in the 4 figures a month mark. Which I thought was pretty good for a small selection of chains and earrings.
Branding My Business
As someone who studied business prior to starting my own, I understood the value of branding and knew that if I wanted to grow, I needed to start building a brand.
As I didn’t have much money at this point, I had to learn how to do it myself and all I had was an old version of photoshop. But I was still very happy with my first logo and put it everywhere I could!
I also knew that social media was a big opportunity when it came to branding and marketing so I set up a Facebook page and an Instagram account. The thing was, at this point I had no real idea what I was doing on any of them so neither of them grew quickly in terms of organic growth.
One thing that I did do well in the early days was turning existing buyers from Ebay into an audience on my social media and then into repeat buyers. This was because I included a business card with every order, that had my social media accounts on them and encouraged them to give me a follow.
Expanding My Product Range
Even though the gold chains and stud earrings were doing well in terms of sales, I knew that I needed to expand and the most logical step was to add a range of gold pendants but I needed to find a supplier.
One of the things that soon come to learn in the jewellery trade is that is not so much what you know but who you know and doors don’t open all that easily within the trade. Searching online will only get you so far and understandably, wholesalers don’t advertise their prices to the public so figuring out profit margins was a challenge.
Fortunately, there was a big trade show in Birmingham called Spring Fair at the NEC and there were two halls specifically for the Jewellery & Watch show (it is now a shadow of its former self!). Going there for the first time was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, stall after stall showing everything from finished jewellery to loose diamonds and gemstones to jewellery tools and equipment. It was amazing, I still remember being awestruck after walking in.
It was here though that I began to expand my range of contacts and found some wholesalers who could supply exactly what I needed. This was my first stage of expansion and my business would continue to grow from here and the boxing glove pendant that is the cover picture for this post, was one of my most popular.
My First Website
By this point, I had been in business for around two years and while Ebay sales were strong and growing month on month, I knew that I need to expand outside of the platform, if was ever going to be anything more than just an Ebay seller.
So I set about learning how to build a website and all the different options out there. When you start looking into how do this, you are confronted with a lot of information and not all of it good or helpful but I did as much research as I could, made my decision and built my first website.
Looking back now, as with most things you do when you are just starting out, it wasn’t the greatest website in the world but it was a start. The big problem was that I didn’t understand digital marketing and had no plan of how I was going to get people onto my site or how long it takes for a website to start seeing any results.
So needless to say, my first website was a dud and after a few months with no traffic or sales. I pulled the plug, built a very basic business website and went back to focusing on Ebay.
On a side note, little did I know at the time but this would lay the foundations of me building another business that now helps businesses and jewellers start selling online, you can check it out here if you want www.ecommercegold.co.uk.
2nd Expansion – Gemstone Jewellery
After a fantastic Christmas in 2014, I went into 2015 with a plan to expand into gemstone jewellery. This wasn’t a random decision, as any spare time I had during the Christmas rush was spent researching what type of product I should stock next.
I was still doing very well out of gold jewellery and my product line was still focused on chains, pendants and earrings. The reason why I stuck to this was that although rings do sell well, people I had got to know within the industry always reiterated what I thought would be the main problem, which was sizing.
Most people don’t know either their own ring size or the person who they are buying for and this can lead to many unnecessary returns and at the price point I was at, having a ring re-sized for someone was viable financially.
Anyway, I attended that annual Jewellery & Watch show and soon found a couple of great suppliers based local to me in the Jewellery Quarter. After a visit to their showrooms following the show, I had my first stock of gemstone jewellery.
This really excited me and the new products started selling well straight away. 2015 was going to be a great year!
Website Number 2
2015 started strong and it only got better from there in terms of sales and once again, I started thinking about growing the business outside of Ebay.
Since the failure of my first website, I had spent more time learning about the different options when it came to ecommerce platforms and had tried a few out but I never really felt comfortable with them. And I know it doesn’t sound like much money but spending £30ish a month on a hosted website was hard for me to stomach, especially when you aren’t seeing any sales coming in. The accountant in me just couldn’t justify it!
So I started looking at other options and decided to go with WordPress. This was the platform I had built a simple website with following the failure of my first ecommerce website and I learnt that you can sell through it if you set it up properly and web hosting was less than £10 a month, which sat more comfortably with me.
I actually had some success with this site, not only did I start getting traffic to the site, but I also made a couple of sales! The process of building my own website was also much more enjoyable as I knew I was learning some valuable skills as well as developing a new sales channel for my business.
The Best Christmas Ever!
2015 was an incredible year for Haywoods Jewellery, it started off the back of an amazing Christmas in 2014 and I expanded the product range to include stunning gemstone jewellery and sales were continuing the trend of growing year on year.
Heading into the 2015 Christmas period, I was feeling very confident and excited the potential it held for me and it did not disappoint. October was my best month ever by far and it only got better in November and December.
I came into 2016 full of energy and determination to continue what I had already built, little did I know what was to come….