We quiz the designer recently unveiled as a Hot 100 Trendsetter.
Erica Illingworth, founder of the jewellery brands Molly Brown London and Molly B Couture, was recently unveiled as a Tresor Paris Trendsetter in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012. She takes time out of her very busy schedule to talk about launching a new brand, building up her online presence and how she relaxes off the job by cooking.
Professional Jeweller: What have been your highlights of the year?
Erica Illingworth: After two years in development the biggest highlight of this year for me has been the launch of Molly B Couture, our women’s jewellery collection and the relaunch of our new, dual-platform website. There has been so much that has finally come to fruition – the collection pieces, the brand packaging, the new point of sale and the new website. It’s been a lot of hard work but having said that I read somewhere recently that someone said choose something that you enjoy doing and you’ll never work a day in your life. So despite the fact that it has been a lot of hard work, I have loved every minute of it.
PJ: Have you hit any challenges along the way?
EI: We started off working with a manufacturer that just didn’t grasp what we were trying to do and so our first set of collection samples were incredibly disappointing. In fact there were so many things wrong that it was hard to feel positive about ever having a full set of samples in front of us that were exactly what we were hoping for. Thankfully, another manufacturer that we had previously worked with stepped in and we haven’t looked back since. It is a long process through to a completed, approved product but we have excellent lines of communication and we are very thorough and methodical throughout all the stages of development.
PJ: You are best known for your children’s jewellery line Molly Brown London, so what prompted you to launch adults’ line Molly B Couture and how has this changed your business?
EI: We have achieved so much with Molly Brown; we have been a Jewellery Brand of the Year finalist at the UK Jewellery Awards in 2010 and also in 2011. We have over 100 stockists in the UK and Ireland and have been the bestselling children’s accessory in Selfridges and Harrods for the last six years, so it was time to look at new challenge. To expand into the women’s jewellery sector was the natural progression. Molly B Couture launched to the press in July and the response was incredibly positive which was fantastic, and a huge relief. We launched the brand to the independent jewellers at the CMJ August buying meeting. It’s the perfect platform for us to present to some of the top independents in the country and already we have had a strong level of interest, which has been very encouraging.
PJ: You won a CMJ award back in February – has this had any impact on the brand?
EI: We won the Best Supplier Presentation Award and I think this highlighted the hard work that has gone into developing our point of sale, the brand packaging and our marketing materials. We have a strong skill set within our team, our UK sales manager has a background in visual merchandising and this valuable experience has had a very positive impact on our brand’s presentation.
PJ: You’ve been building your team as well as your product ranges – do you feel that you have the right team around you now?
EI: Absolutely. We have a very strong team and now is the time to expand and over the coming few months I will be looking to make some further key hires.
PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
EI: I’m very driven and I work hard. I like working as part of a team, I value my team’s input and I am lucky to have some very talented people on board. I do like to have final sign off though, so I’m probably a bit of a control freak on the quiet.
PJ: How do you manage your work-life balance and how do you relax off the job?
EI: I try not to let work become all-consuming but sometimes I don’t think I do manage to get the right balance because in a small company there are always so many challenges and so many balls in the air, there are times when it can swamp you. So I run, do pilates and I read a lot. I love cooking and was a bit surprised to see my daughter had Googled "how do you boil an egg?" just before she went to university. So I’m on a mission in the kitchen with my two sons making sure they know how to cook for themselves.
PJ: What are your plans for your brands for the next year?
EI: Well now it’s the hard bit. The [Molly B Couture] brand is out there, the collections have launched online so now we need to raise our profile and build a solid base of stockists in the UK.