If you are creatively minded, setting up an online craft shop, where you can sell your own homemade creations, can be the perfect entry point into entrepreneurship. Marketplace sites like Etsy or Not On The High Street, and easy-to-use DIY website builders like Squarespace, have made this route simple and cost-effective. All you need is the passion and drive to make it happen.
Sarah Empson, a special needs consultant teacher, had always wanted to start her own jewellery business. It was after a visit to a modern art gallery and a discovery of 3D printing that she found the USP for her jewellery designs and the foundations for her business, Geo Heaven. We spoke to Sarah to found out about the various stages of setting up, launching and growing her jewellery business.
How would you sum up Geo Heaven in a sentence?
Modern 3D printed geometric jewellery.
Can you briefly summarise your background and what you did before?
I’m a trained secondary Science teacher and I currently still work full-time as a special needs consultant teacher. I run Geo Heaven in the evenings and on the weekends. My husband taught me how to use computer-aided design (CAD) and I have no formal training in design.
What was the inspiration behind Geo Heaven? Was there a lightbulb moment when it came to you?
The world of Instagram really opened my eyes to the small business world. I watched a number of the people I follow start their own small businesses and it gave me the confidence to jump-in and start my own.
I came up with the idea for Geo Heaven on a long drive up the M1 early last year. I had wanted to set up a jewellery business for a long time but I just couldn’t think of an original idea. On this drive I was thinking about a large geometric sculpture I’d seen at the modern art gallery in Krakow and that’s when Geo Heaven popped into my head.
I’d decided that I wanted to make 3D printed geometric jewellery and knew exactly what I wanted the first pieces to look like! I spent the next few months sketching out ideas, getting prototypes made and getting the branding right.
What were the challenges around launching your products? Where did you find your time being spent?
I think the biggest challenge was having confidence. I loved what I had made but I was worried about showing my products to other people. I was also worried that no-one would see my products after I had launched the business.
I spent a long time building up hype on social media with sneak peaks of the branding and products before I launched. I decided to host a launch party as this gave me a clear date to have the company ready to go and it created a good buzz on social media. I spent a great deal of time on packaging as I wanted my products to look fantastic when you wear them but also when you have put them away. I sourced good quality boxes and asked my graphic designer to create a display sleeve and an information card to include inside.
How has the business evolved since your launch? Have there been any particular milestones?
I now have various stockists across the country and I have sold products online to various places within the EU and have even had some pieces going over to America. I think one of the biggest milestones for me after getting my very first stockist was to get my first London stockist. I was initially approached via social media and we held a launch party at the London store to celebrate.
Where do you sell your products online? Do use marketplace websites like Etsy? What are the challenges around this?
I mainly sell through my own online shop which I have created through Wix. I also sell through Etsy and Look Lane. The main challenge that I face is keeping tabs on stock across multiple platforms. I don’t keep a huge surplus of stock in so I need to make sure that my stock levels are correct as I don’t want someone to buy something that I don’t have available. This can be quite time-consuming but Etsy is a great platform for accessing worldwide customers.
What about getting your products stocked in stores? How have you approached this and what advice do you have?
I have mainly approached shops with my products via email. Shop owners do not like being approached in person as it can make it quite uncomfortable if they do not think that your products fit in with their shop. I would also advise creating a line sheet to send out to shops as this makes it very clear to them what products you have and how much it will cost them. You can find so much useful information online to help you create your own line sheet.
Do you attend any trade shows, events or fairs? If so, what advice do you have for making the most out of these opportunities?
I really enjoy selling at craft fairs, particularly Northern Craft. Most of the larger craft fairs take place in London and Northern Craft have established a wonderful fair in the north!
Selling at fairs can be a great networking opportunity and I’ve been approached by a few new stockists whilst selling on the day. It’s a great way to interact with your customers and meet some of your online followers in real life.
So far I haven’t exhibited at any trade fairs but this is an ambition of mine.
It is very costly to exhibit at a trade show and I want to attend a few more before I take the plunge myself. I would encourage everyone to attend a trade fair before they exhibit.
Thinking about social media and marketing, what are your tips for boosting brand awareness and ultimately sales?
Try and post at regular intervals so that your followers know what to expect from you. People like to get to know the person behind the business so try to include posts about you and your life rather than just sales posts.
When I first opened my business account on Instagram I kept my personal account going too but I found it difficult to juggle the two. When I merged my accounts I noticed an increase in followers as they got to know the face behind the brand.
Having a mailing list is also a very useful tool. Make sure you send out semi-regular emails so that people get used to receiving mail from you in their inbox. You have a whole list of potential customers that you can contact directly when you have new products or when you have a sale on. They tend to be even more successful than a post on social media.
What are the challenges on a personal level running a business?
As I mentioned earlier I run Geo Heaven alongside working full-time. It’s difficult having a full-time job as well as running a business, I’d love for my 6-11 to become my 9-5. Most evenings are spent working on the jewellery and I schedule and prioritise my time accordingly. I might be out with friends for dinner and receive some orders. Once I’m home I’ll stay up putting those orders together so that they can be fulfilled the following day. As long as you’re committed, you can do it.
What are your proudest achievements?
Launching the business alongside a full-time job is still my proudest achievement. I also felt a huge sense of pride the first time I saw my products stocked in a shop and the first time my products appeared in a magazine. I think that I will always feel proud to see someone wearing an item of jewellery that I have created.
What are your top 3 tips for someone looking to launch a jewellery brand?
1. Take your branding seriously. It’s worth investing in good branding otherwise you won’t be taken seriously. I hired a graphic designer (Steph at Donut Press) to do my branding and I’m so glad that I made this investment. It’s helped me to realise my brand identity and has made my brand much more cohesive.
2. Use social media to its full potential. Invest time in it and stay active on it. I find monthly photo challenges really helpful as they give you a theme for your post each day. My particular favourite was March Meet the Maker which was founded by Joanne Hawker on Instagram.
3. Connect with other creatives as sometimes you can feel a bit isolated. Meeting fellow creatives can really help to give you ideas and it’s great to have people who you can ask questions. I have found some very supportive groups.
Register or Login to add this article to your reading list.