The two friends on coming together to launch their own brand.
Paul Tolentino and Jo-Anne Owdud first met at university studying jewellery design. While their life and career paths took them in different directions, the two were reunited years later forming OAK, a jewellery brand with an ethical slant that has developed silver collections, appeared at several key trade shows and won stockists including Charles Fish. They were named NexGems in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with The Company of Master Jewellers and IJL.
Professional Jeweller: Tell us about 2012 – it was a busy year of development for OAK, but what were your highlights?
Parul Tolentino: Winning the Professional Jeweller Treasure competition was a great highlight of the year. Launching our new silver collections was very exciting for us and has gained us new stockists. On a personal level we are both pleased with the momentum of how the business is growing which feels like an achievement in itself.
PJ: Have you hit any challenges along the way?
Jo-Anne Owdud: Where do we begin! Launching a business in a recession has meant we have had to learn fast. We increased our product mix, we changed our manufacturing to improve our price points and we have worked hard to retain our luxury brand so that we stand out in the crowd.
PJ: You have changed the direction of your business, evolving from a purely ethical brand. Can you tell us a little bit more about this and why you decided to make those changes?
PT: We launched OAK solely offering Fairtrade gold to support the launch of Fairtrade gold being made available in the UK. Our business continues to offer Fairtrade gold and has grown to also offer a silver collection. This allows us a range of accessible price points and to now reach a wider audience. This is an exciting time for OAK as it allows us more freedom in design and a broader range of products.
PJ: You were one of three winners of the Professional Jeweller Treasure competition – what did the prize bring to your business?
J-AO: Winning the competition has been absolutely fabulous. The stand at Treasure increased OAK’s brand awareness and gained us two exciting stockists; Charles Fish and Fleur. To be recognised as an up and coming emerging brand is a real compliment and has truly helped put OAK on the industry map.
PJ: Where do you find your inspiration as designers?
J-AO: We are suckers for a bit of romance and just generally look out for things that make us smile.
PJ: You were friends before you launched the brand – has this affected your approach to work?
PT: We love what we do; we created OAK to be in charge of our own destinies and it’s truly a labour of love. Somehow any challenges make us stronger and miraculously better friends.
PJ: How do you manage your work-life balance and how do you relax off the job?
J-AO: Starting any business involves a big injection of time and energy. It’s hard to switch off but when you love what you do and are striving hard to achieve goals, work and life seem to blur and become one. Relaxing off the job involves spending time with our families, running in parks, splashing in puddles, or the sea on a good day, they are the general themes.
PJ: What are your plans for OAK in 2013?
PT: We exhibited at IJL for the first time last year [so] plan to increase our stockists further having launched new pieces at the show. During 2013 we will continue to grow our collections and strengthen the brand awareness.