Towards the end of last year, ethical fine jeweller, Ingle & Rhode, launched a crowdfunding campaign to help meet growing millennial demand for ethical engagement rings and wedding bands.
Founded in 2007, Ingle & Rhode was one of the first UK jewellery businesses to offer truly ethical rings. Since then, the business has grown rapidly, with demand increasing significantly in recent years as sustainability and ethical purchasing hit the mainstream.
Ingle & Rhode specialises in ethical wedding and engagement rings with all gems conflict-free, sustainably mined and cut and polished by adults working with fair pay and conditions. These ethical jewels are crafted in Fairtrade gold, recycled platinum and fairmined silver.
Thanks to the rise of the conscious consumer, Ingle & Rhode co-founders, David Rhode and Tim Ingle, are now looking to take the business to the next level and launched a funding round on CrowdCube – with a minimum target of £150,000 – to support this.
The duo explain: “So far we’ve made more than 6,000 engagement rings and wedding bands, with an outstandingly high level of customer satisfaction (we have a five-star rating on Trustpilot).
“We’re well regarded within our industry too, we were finalists in the UK Jewellery Awards in 2015, 2016 and 2017. We also launched our Fairtrade Gold Design Award in 2017, and the following year we were invited to bring it under the umbrella of the Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council’s annual competition.
We were delighted to do this, knowing that the prestige and long-standing nature of their awards would help to maximise awareness of Fairtrade gold. Clearly, we’re focused on the need to be commercially successful, but we believe we can also help drive positive change within our industry.”
The founders continue: “After starting Ingle & Rhode, for a while we grew the business steadily by re-investing profits. But over the last year or so we’ve become increasingly aware of the scale of the opportunity and the need to accelerate growth in order to fully capitalise on it. What we’re seeing now is that millennials have reached an age to get engaged and married, and they are more ethically-minded than any generation that has come before. A recent poll by YouGov suggests that for 9% of millennials, ethics is the biggest single factor when considering engagement rings. So the market for ethical fine jewellery is poised to grow fast and we felt that we needed additional funding to take advantage of this.”
Ingle & Rhode successfully raised funding with Crowdcube in 2018, something which allowed the company to re-brand its website, hire professional marketing expertise and launch advertising campaigns on social media.
The jeweller started seeing the benefits of these changes last year, with new enquiries up by 50% since June, and 100% in September. This new round of finance will allow the business to increase activities on these marketing channels now they’ve been successfully tested. Ingle & Rhode also plans to improve the overall digital offer.
The jeweller had an amazing response to the latest investment round and even closed the campaign early after achieving 125% funding. A large percentage of this came from Ingle & Rhode’s existing clients. Now the company’s plans are one step closer to becoming a reality.
Going into detail about future ambitions and how the money will be spent, the founders share: “We’ve always run a successful ‘clicks and mortar’ business, a hybrid model that allows us to avoid the big overheads of traditional retail while offering a level of customer service that you simply don’t get with pure e-commerce businesses. We’ll continue to do this, but we’re conscious that as we scale the business the emphasis will need to lean more towards the digital aspect of our offering.
“With that in mind, we have kicked off a development project that will see the introduction of ‘build your own ring’ functionality to our website and this raise will help us complete this exciting new offering.”
The ‘build your own ring’ feature will allow clients to select any of the company’s classic designs, and combine it with a diamond of their choice — the options of which will be streamed directly from Ingle & Rhode’s suppliers’ databases.
“This functionality will dramatically reduce the amount of time we spend creating price quotes for clients and will provide them with a level of flexibility and interactivity that should be a major boost to conversion,” the founders reveal. “As well as the standard functionality, through augmented reality we’ll also offer clients the chance to view any of our rings on their own hands. We’re very aware that we need to stay ahead of the technological curve to be successful with millennial consumers.”
Ingle & Rhode also has plans to work more closely with influencers who project the brand’s values and can help achieve greater reach across a millennial audience.
“Our plans revolve around getting the Ingle & Rhode brand to new audiences and expanding our customer base, but never compromising on the quality of our work and our service. As businesses scale, attention can turn away from the customer experience but it’s crucial this isn’t neglected if companies want to enjoy long-term success.”
While millennials and Gen Z have shown to be the most environmentally and ethically conscious age group so far, Ingle & Rhode are finding clients of all ages are showing increasing interest in the traceability of supply chains and the materials being used in jewellery.
“Although millenials and Gen Z are leading the way in ethical purchasing, across all demographics there’s been a big shift towards buying ethically,” affirms Ingle and Rhode. “With increased media scrutiny, people are more and more aware of the impact of their buying decisions and they want to know brands are also ethically minded. We’re seeing a great turn towards sustainable living in every sector and the bridal industry is no different.”
This being said, the duo also believe more education is needed.
They explain: “Getting engaged and getting married are often the most romantic moments in our lives.
However, not enough people are aware that the creation of beautiful rings can be synonymous with human rights abuses and environmental damage.
“When it comes to engagement rings, diamonds are particularly problematic. ‘Blood’ diamonds are mined in war-torn countries where conflict is often funded by the diamond trade. Here, diamonds signify worker exploitation and atrocious human rights abuses rather than romance and commitment.
Diamond miners are some of the poorest people on the planet and work in extremely dangerous conditions.
“Not only this, but diamond mining has taken a huge toll on the environment across Africa and other parts of the world. In Angola, mining has led to deforestation, soil erosion, and the relocation of local people. Elsewhere, wildlife has vanished, mines have been abandoned and the landscape is now desolate after years of irresponsible exploitation. Not to mention the metal band itself, with poorly sourced gold seeing one ring generate as much as 20 tonnes of waste. Other precious metals aren’t far behind.”
For 2020, Ingle & Rhode hope more people will become aware of what they are buying and how it has been made.
The company would also like to see more customers get to know the Ingle & Rhode brand and the duo want to craft more and more engagement rings and wedding bands.
For the year ahead Ingle & Rhode has no plans to change the physical store as the focus is predominantly on digital.
“This strategy has worked in the past and we’re excited to see the new opportunities this raise will bring.”