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How do you start your own business straight after graduating from uni?

Friday 25 August 2017

Reading time: 3 minutes

Jess started her business with the help of Sheffield Hallam. Now she has her dream career making bespoke wedding and engagement rings.

What made you want to be a jewellery designer?

The day I applied to study metalwork and jewellery at Sheffield Hallam was the day I decided I wanted to be a jewellery designer.

I loved art and design, but I wanted to do a degree that also gave me practical skills, so if I was terrible at the design I’d be able to get a job as a jeweller or a stone setter. The course was 50% design and 50% manufacturing, which was perfect for me.

It turned out that I loved the design part the most, which is why I became a jewellery designer. It seemed like a natural fit for me, and ten years later, now that I’m running my own business, I think I was right!

How did you set up the business?

I started by entering the Enterprise Challenge, which is a Sheffield Hallam competition. I came second and won some funding, which I used to buy tools and equipment.

Then I went into the Hatchery, which is an office space available to Hallam graduates, and built my business from there for the first year. I shared an office with lots of other Hallam graduates that were just starting out, and we all helped each other.

The university also had a business centre where you could get advice from a marketing expert or a legal expert or a business mentor, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to start my business without that initial help.

With some investment in the business I soon gained contracts with Argos, House of Fraser and the Jewellery Channel, and the business has grown from there.

How do you find running a business in Sheffield?

Sheffield is a great city to work in. When I first started out I was young and had little batch manufacturing experience. I went into local businesses and just asked questions, and the response I got was amazing. In no other city would people give up their own time for no benefit to themselves, and show you how they run their business.

It’s the best location to live as well. We have access to this great city but we’re also on the edge of the Peak District. No other city in the UK has this amazing mix of cosmopolitan life and beautiful countryside – when I need manufacturing doing or to visit the post office for the business, that’s really close, but if I need tranquility and inspiration for my designs I’ve got that too. It’s the best of both worlds.

What do you like about running your own business?

I’ve always naturally been drawn to running my own business because I like having control over my own time. I can choose to work a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening, and have a day off here or there, or I can choose to work a whole weekend if I want to. I’m very lucky to have this amazing flexibility.

What sort of reactions do you get from your customers?

It can be quite emotional. I’ve had full-on tears from customers before, especially when I’m reusing old stones or pieces of jewellery that have sentimental value. It’s so rewarding to see that your hours of work go into making something that means so much to the customer.

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