So it’s safe to say the small Irish directory of businesses has been a huge success. The businesses are still rolling in and it’s becoming a wonderful resource for people especially now in the lead up to Christmas. To compliment the directory I’m going to do a Meet the Maker series – a short questionnaire that gives some insight to the people behind the brands and businesses listed. That’s half the point of buying from a small business, you are not only investing in a beautiful, quality product you are investing in real people who use that money to pay their bills, or pay for dance classes for their kids, it’s a win win for everyone involved.
First up is Chiara Hayes Jewellery who I have met before at a Dreaming Always event in Cork. She’s a Mum, she’s an accountant and she designs jewellery which is elegant and beautiful. She is involved in every step of the design and creative process and I really love how she uses her social media accounts to showcase not only the brand but also what happens behind the scenes.
- Who is involved in the business and where are you based?
I set up this business a couple of months ago with the help of my husband, Darren, so it’s just the two of us involved in the business. As I come from a family of six children and have three (very different) sisters, they are always there for me to bounce ideas off. We are based in Douglas, Cork.
- Why did you start the business?
To have something of my own, if that makes sense! I always liked the idea of owning and developing my own business. I studied Business Studies in college before going on to qualify as an accountant. But being an accountant was never my intention, I just kind of fell in to it. Saying that, it has given me a great basis for setting up this business! But I wanted to do something for me, something that I would really enjoy doing – and Darren encouraged me all the way. It might sound like a bit of a cliché, but I also wanted to do it for my children – to build a brand and have something that they could be proud of. Why did I pick jewellery? Well, my uncle was a goldsmith and a very talented one at that so he definitely influenced me and, also, I love simple pieces of jewellery but I just found them hard to come by.
- What is your favourite thing about running a small business?
Being my own boss! I love the fact that I don’t have to run anything by anyone. Obviously, I will ask for advice and opinions but at the end of the day the decisions are all my own. I still can’t believe I did it. It might sound crazy, but the excitement of someone, who you don’t know and have never met, buying one of your pieces is just amazing. I don’t think that feeling will ever fade.
- What are the challenges in running a small business?
There are definitely a few:
- The initial costs were a lot higher than what I anticipated. I wasn’t eligible for any start-up grants, and so all the money we invested was our own – and that can be a little scary in particular for someone with a young family.
- Finding the time to get everything done can also be a challenge. As I am still working part-time with the same company that I have worked with for the past 18 years, most of my work for this business gets done in the evenings after my children have gone to bed.
- Getting my “brand” out there is a lot harder than I expected. Social media is definitely the way forward and just from following other bloggers and influencers you really need to put yourself out there which, I suppose, can be fairly daunting, initially. When I started out, I thought it would be better if my social media pages were just specifically about the business, but I’m learning now that people actually want to know more about the person behind the business.
- What is your design process? (Do you handmake each product? Do you design them and get them made abroad? etc.)
I only design the pieces myself, and then I have them made by a company abroad. Each time I want to add a new piece to my collection, I will email my production team a sketch of what I would like made along with the measurements of that piece. I want the pendant to be the main focus of my designs so I have stayed with the same, simple, delicate chain for the majority of my necklaces.
- Where do you source your materials?
It’s just over a year ago now since I first decided to start this business venture. At the very beginning, I spent a lot of time researching precious metals and the best place to source silver. The same place kept coming up – Thailand. Initially, I was a little reluctant; I wanted somewhere closer to home, but as Ireland doesn’t have any precious metals of its own, I knew I had to go further afield. I found a company in Thailand who were willing to make my designs for me. The two company directors are from France and living in Thailand and are very well qualified in their trade. Once my jewellery reaches Ireland, it goes straight to Dublin to the Assay Office (a government body) where each piece is hallmarked to prove its authenticity. This is, obviously, a great reassurance in itself knowing that all my pieces are genuine sterling silver.
- Where do you see the business in five years?
I would love to keep expanding my collection. Initially, I just started out designing necklaces, but over the past few months I have had a few people contacting me wondering if I would be designing bracelets and earrings. So, as of now, we have one of each currently in production, and we will see how that goes. I also hope to have each of my pieces made in 9ct gold, too. We are currently just an online business, but I would love to get my collection into some shops in the future.
- Where can people find you? (website and social media links)
I started a blog recently which included a feature on how I went about setting up this business. You can find it on our website. It is relatively new so I have just a few posts up, but I will continue doing it for as long as I can and, hopefully, some part of it may help someone else down the line who is considering setting up their own business.
I just want to thank you, Eimear, for giving me the opportunity to do this. We aren’t even up and running a year yet, but the people I have met along the way have been so supportive and encouraging. It’s great to see people with such an influence helping out new businesses, and I definitely appreciate all the help I am given.