Jewellery designers Alyssa Smith talks to Professional Jeweller about her rapid year of growth, what makes Alyssa Smith Jewellery stand out from other brands and how it feels to be named an ‘inspiring female entrepreneur’…
What innovations have you been pushing this year?
We’ve definitely been pushing the boundaries on what jewellery can be this year at Alyssa Smith. As the company continues to grow, I am focusing more on producing wearable miniature masterpieces, including origami inspired designs no bigger than a finger nail, and jewellery with moving parts. We’ve expanded our motorsports themed jewellery too, to include mini silver motorbikes and racing cars and formula 1 inspired tyres which spin on the chain – these are incredible and our customers can’t stop touching them! It’s great to add the element of ‘play’ to our jewellery in the new designs.
You recently moved premises in order to continue expansion, how do you see the business growing in the next 12 months?
We did indeed! Which unfortunately (or fortunately!) we have now outgrown again. During Summer 2015, I took on my first members of staff including a young apprentice, and a social media butterfly, who flits around helping keep all of our social media platforms tip top and up to date every day. This is a full time job, as our social media platforms are so busy! We also have part time help with two other members of staff as well at the moment, as well as myself. I’d like to take on another apprentice when we can – it’s a great way to support young people and is also a huge asset to the business.
We obviously still have a long way to go to reach where I’d like to be with the business, and of course my head is always full of so many new designs, so I’d like to continue to expand the business and produce the designs my customers are asking for. My business is my one true passion in life so putting time into it to watch it grow is something I am always more than happy to do!
You saw 180% growth in 2015, what would you highlight as the key factors driving that growth?
I think our sudden growth was down to a few factors actually – firstly, I had a true focus on what I wanted to do with the business and the direction I wanted to take it in. I started investing in advertising for the first time – which really started to pay off on facebook and opened us up to a whole new audience who we weren’t able to reach organically.
We had a new ‘all singing and all dancing’ website built which launched in 2016, and of course new and innovative collections were launched, which were demand driven.
There are little things that help as well, such as publicity, which has driven sales up, making top 100 lists and being in the public eye. I was also on a TV show last autumn called ‘The Money Pit’ for channel DAVE. This was an eight part series where investors such as myself, invested in fledgling and start up businesses by means of crowdfunding. This was great to do and it was also good to be able to give something back and help other businesses too.
Other things such as listening to our customers needs – including launching our loyalty points scheme (which works in a similar way to Boots points) has also driven sales, because the more our customers spend, the more points they now collect! Taking on staff is another thing which really has contributed to our growth- this was a big step but freed me up to concentrate on working ON the business instead of IN it all the time.
Why do you think consumers respond so well to you and your business?
I am very transparent about my business and I think that our customers and fans find this approachable and really interesting. My jewellery business has been built solely online, and social media plays a huge part in our continued growth. Many of our customers have watched the business grow through our social media platforms over the past five years and also feel like they’ve been on the same journey with us – we’re very vocal about our ups and downs, and I like to keep our customers informed about everything via social media, and by doing this, it also shows people that the face behind the company is a real person which I think is key to building customer loyalty and relationships.
How does it feel to be recognised as an inspiring female entrepreneur?
I have recently been named as one of the top 100 inspirational entrepreneurs in the uk and this is just such a fantastic list to be a part of! I first realised I was on the list when I came in at number 87 last October, but since then I have managed to climb the scale and now teeter in the 20’s every week (normally around 23 to 29th position), when the list is updated every friday. The score is based on your social media influence and a secret recipe, and features the most inspirational entrepreneurs and famous faces we all know. To be a part of this list has definitely had a huge and fantastic impact upon my business.
To be recognised as an inspiring female entrepreneur in a world filled with so many incredible business owners has been such an incredible achievement and feeling. Alyssa Smith Jewellery is the first business I have ever run, and prior to starting the company I had just come straight out of university with absolutely no business knowledge or experience – so building up a brand from scratch at a young age has been anything but an easy ride. I am so happy that my journey has inspired so many other women and youngsters to take the leap and start up their own businesses – whether it is a sideline whilst caring for young children, or a full time venture.
I was recently interviewed for the VIRGIN PODCAST about running a business, and later Richard Branson named me as one of the top young entrepreneurs in the uk on twitter, and this has led to some fantastic opportunities in business and networking, but also it’s great to see people getting in touch about my honest rendition of entrepreneurship. I had a guy who owns a furniture business write to me to tell me how my interview had really inspired him and given him ‘a kick up the bum’ to start using social media for the business a bit more – which he had been meaning to do for ages, but had never got round to it until he heard my interview and decided that ‘now is the time’. That kind of thing is awesome!
What are your best selling pieces?
The motorsports collection is incredibly popular – including our Silverstone race track outline. We have an exclusive deal with Silverstone race track to produce their track outline in jewellery, and our customers absolutely love it!
Our origami swan/crane is also another incredible seller – I was inspired to make this after I fell in love with the TV show ‘prison break’ and saw a huge following of the show. The paper swan features heavily in the first few series of this, so making something inspired by the swan they use in the show was probably one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Obviously mine is made in sterling silver and features our own quirky touches, but it’s probably one of the pieces I am most proud of!
What plans do you have for the latter half of 2016?
We have a lot of new releases due for 2016 and 2017, some with moving parts, which again push the boundaries on what we have ever made and sold before. We have adapted a lot of our existing designs to make ‘Christmas’ specials, and have listened to our customers requests so will be releasing pieces which are definitely demand driven, as opposed to just launched because I, the designer, likes the idea of the piece. We will also be branching into a new ‘genre’ of jewellery with design themes that we haven’t explored before, and this will take us through to 2017 nicely!