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How I changed career in my mid forties. Part three.
Aug 27, 2020
Read part one here and part two here on how I changed career in my mid forties.
Part three. Setting up the right supply chain.By chance I had met an amazing family that could source gemstones and make jewellery too. It was and is still is a wonderful set up. Out on the outskirts of Jaipur, family run with the offices in the basement of the family home. This gave me the opportunity to start experimenting with the adjustable band idea. It took at least five goes to get the curvature right, the average finger size and enough overlap for even the largest knuckles and fingers.
Gold, but what type of gold?Now I had the curvature right, it took a few goes to get the carat of the gold right (remember I knew nothing about the jewellery industry). I started off with a completely different type of band and I was using 22 carat gold. What I ended up using and we still use today is 18 carat and a very simple adjustable band. I wanted to use recycled metals as I wanted to protect the environment as much as possible. I love the idea of breathing new life into pieces that were once sentimental to someone and making future pieces that will be precious to someone else.
Gem encrusted hurdles.So I had designed my first proper ring - a simple oval in citrine and asked for five to be made. When they were shipped to me they were all different heights, the gems were all slightly different. I asked why and I soon learnt that they were bought from market and they just chose the nearest in size as they could. Another learning. How could I get uniform gemstones for my rings without paying for 100 to be cut (for initial research that seemed to be the minimum)? My idea of adjustable rings is all about developing newness all the time, it means retailers don't have to buy multiples of the same ring in different sizes and they won't get left with dead stock - my idea reduces waste- I din't want a 100 stones cut as that would limit design and choice for everyone and if they didn't sell there would be waste.
Planes, rickshaws and a very patient driver.I spent a couple of weeks doing desk research, trying to solve the gemstone dilemma. It was impossible, no one would respond back via email, trying to communicate with factories who didn't know me in India proved to be a thankless task. I then contacted the UKDIT - U.K. Department of International Trade who put me in touch with the U.K. India Business Council They gave me some names of people in Jaipur that I could approach, but I thought the best thing to do would be to go and visit them myself. Now armed with nothing in my wallet I decided to sell things, art, clothes you name it, it got sold. Air fare in hand I set off or India again. Landed in Mumbai, had a quick meeting with the U.K. India Business Council, two planes later and a rickshaw ride later I arrived at my hotel in Jaipur (it is one of the oldest in the city. It is cheap and clean and safe).
Into the unknown and back again.I found a driver and every day I got him to meet me at 11am. I gave him an address and off we went. In the pink city of Jaipur it is impossible to drive down all the back streets, so when we got as near as we could he rang a number for me and a man from the factory came out looking confused, in fact they all did from every factory I visited. My very lovely and patient driver kindly explained in Hindi that I was there to see their factory (many didn't like me turning up on the spot - no time to show me their sparkly showrooms for western visitors). I wasn't interested in showrooms and sparkling places, I wanted to see where the work happened, I wanted to understand who worked there, how they treated their employees, the state of the factory or place of work, how they work, values, health and safety and did they meet with European standards of work and workforce? I also wanted to know whether they shared the same values in life as I do - I needed to work with someone who shared the same principles as me as I knew it would make for a better long term working relationship. I found a new factory, filled with promises they started to create for me, that Christmas was the worst I can remember. The items arrived into the U.K. late, they had been flash plated and I had paid for plating - the gold rubbed off in my hand - things didn't fit and the whole thing was a mess. I was so stressed and decided I needed to go back to India to try again - third time lucky, right? Back to scraping together an airfare, back on a plane, another plane, back in a car, back to the hotel and I started the whole process again. Every day I set off meeting all sorts of interesting people, then a chance meeting happened.
Sometimes, fate does play a hand.I met Ashok and everything changed. Just like that. In the back streets of Jaipur I was taken to a smart office and place where craftspeople worked at proper work benches, the place was cool, the radio on and I was shown around. I sat down and explained my idea of adjustable rings and how I wanted to create nothing else just rings and disrupt that part of the market. I didn't see the point of setting up another jewellery brand - the world has plenty of those. I wanted to set myself apart from everyone else. I explained the gemstone issues and how I wanted to sell. Ahh he says, come with me. Down a myriad of back streets later we came to a door and behind it was a gemstone cutting factory. He asked me to draw a shape any shape, I did and two minutes later it was in my hand. He said rarely he meets someone that has a real point of difference in the market - so after a number of cups of green tea we decided to give it a go - I re-designed my best sellers and Ashok and his team got to work. They arrived on time, perfect and I had finally solved my gemstone problem.
Know your business inside out.I think persistence definitely paid off, yes I was out of m comfort zone but I also knew in order to set up my company I needed to know every single thing about it. I needed to understand how to do business with India, how they work, how payment, product and everything else happens. I also needed to understand fairness across different cultures and continents. I stayed in India for a few months to give me a better understanding of culture and importantly it gave me the chance to work side by side Ashok and the team. We got to know each other, understand each other and we created a house style together.
Let's get going.I now had amazing artisans who understand how I like to work and I understand how they like to work. We now had a product, an amazing team of artisans that I had spent months building up trust, I had learnt the business side from my mentor, now all I had to do was to bring it all together and start selling. Discover the world of adjustable rings here We'd love you to follow our journey on instagram @svpjewellery Meet Sarah Queen of Rings here
Next time: How to sell and to who.
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