Starting a business during a global pandemic in a saturated market?
One could think an individual crazy, but I fell in love with this industry from the first moment I
became immersed in it.
The past seven years of experience within this sphere, and more specifically the latter ten
months leading to the launch of Miriam Elizabeth, brought with it lessons by the dozen, all the
while being in the midst of COVID-19, an unexpected and previously unseen landscape.
In both society and business, we have had to become proficient at functioning almost entirely
remotely. From conversing with stone setters over Whatsapp, to relying on the postal service to
transport precious waxes to my preferred casting house, I have first and foremost needed to
work with individuals also willing to bend to the current circumstances. Being sent detailed
videos of gemstones rather than visiting the then closed showrooms, to discussing timelines
electronically instead of face to face, enabled me to continue the design and manufacturing
process during the lockdowns bracing the country.
For many suppliers, COVID-19 brought with it a slower pace, fewer staff and extended
processing periods, thus leading me to my first piece of guidance for individuals starting out:
Create a comprehensive timeline for your collection, CAD work or packaging suite. Break the
individual projects down into months, weeks and then into the daily tasks which will move them
forward. Once completed, be sure to allow the ever crucial buffering time.
Starting a business is often a far cry from an ideal world situation. Casting mishaps happen,
postal delays occur, and as a small business owner, we have enough hats to wear without the
strain of simply running out of time.
Equally important to organisation has been the art of communication. As many jewellery
businesses have a need for integral third parties in order to acquire the materials to create an
offering for its customers, from bullion suppliers, to diamond dealers, to tool manufacturers, it is
imperative to build rapport with these all important connections.
Moving forward I recommend, economic situation allowing, to arrange face to face meetings.
Speak in person and allow your suppliers to put a face to the email address contacting them.
Communicate your desired outcomes, timelines and pricing expectations from the very
beginning, prior to tangible transactions occurring. It will soon become evident that when
concerning this wonderful industry, it is often about who you know, and good interpersonal skills
certainly pay off.
So, here follows the question of which tasks to carry out in house, and which tasks to
Consider dividing your workflow into a traffic light system, taking into account the important
factors of time and money. A few personal examples follow.
Casting is something I have read about in depth and understand at a theoretical level. But in
practice it can require an industrial workspace, specialist equipment and often the generational
knowledge needed to carry out the various experiments to perfect this scientific practice.
Therefore, for me, it is a ‘red’ process, and one I am more than happy to outsource.
Conversely, by keeping web design in house, when it comes to product uploads and updating
banners and descriptive prose, I can quickly and efficiently manage the necessary changes from
the comfort of my office. For me, this is a ‘green’ process.
The ‘orange’ processes often take a reasonable amount of self-belief and reflection. I initially
outsourced packshot and still life product photography, but it soon became evident that
translating my vision through another’s eyes was a greater task than creating the stories myself.
So I purchased a set of studio lights, several backdrops and a remote trigger to compliment my
DSLR, macro lens and tripod and whilst this was no small investment, within a short amount of
time I found it to be one of my strengths, as well as being something I enjoy a lot.
The advice following this example is, where possible, resist judging yourself on past ventures
that haven’t paid off. They say that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, and it is
therefore so important that once these so-called mistakes have been made, allow yourself to
grow as a result of them. Had I not invested in outsourcing my photography, I would have never
questioned my actions and abilities and had the opportunity to experience this process myself.
When it comes to the online world, filled to the brim with virtual shelves adorned with sparkling
gold, silver and platinum jewels, how does one create a unique path for themself in the midst of
it all from scratch?
Firstly, be certain of the style elements you want to be known for, the feeling of your brand and
the jewels you are bringing to the market. Cohesivity is key, and when a potential customer sees
one of your pieces, its story, packaging and the way it is photographed should all go hand in
Secondly, trust your vision for your brand. Throughout life, there is undoubtedly pressure to
conform, but I have learnt that when you become tempted to manufacture jewels that tens of
people before you have manufactured, you are seldom living out a unique vision for your brand,
but rather living through someone else’s.
Whether you are creating organic, flowing pieces, beautifully traditional eternity rings or antique
inspired wonders, I compose my final takeaway: Stay true to the essence of your brand,
become organised, incredibly organised, take risks and create human connections wherever
This is a truly worthwhile journey
Miriam Botte, fine jewellery designer at Miriam Elizabeth