Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I've worked as a costume designer and wardrobe stylist in the film and TV industries for 15 years and I also operate my own bespoke dressmaking business. I've always been interested in style and costume over fashion and clothes. These days I work mainly on TV commercials as a wardrobe/makeup stylist, and design and create for my own brand, Cathy Pope Jewellery.
Why did you start your jewellery business?
It all began with me not finding the style of jewellery I liked in the shops. I prefer unusual pieces that aren't mass produced, but these often come with a high price tag. I never wore necklaces until I started creating my own. Almost immediately friends started ordering them and soon shops asked to stock them. This went on for about a year until I decided to launch the business properly and open an online store.
How have you leveraged your background and contacts in fashion, film and TV to get your jewellery business known in the market?
Being a stylist has made it easier for me to get my jewellery worn on TV and by celebrities as I know a lot of people in the media. My network of friends and colleagues wearing my work, and word of mouth have helped enormously too. I also have a lot of very creative and talented friends who are photographers, models, photo finishers and the like who have helped me create slick and professional images on a shoestring budget. My husband is an art director and does all my logo design and Photoshop work.
You seem to have gained a lot of coverage in the fashion media. How have you done this as a startup brand?
The best decision I made within the first five months of starting my business was to join the fashion PR agency Showroom 22. Initially I wrote my own press release and was lucky to be featured in Viva before Christmas. This exposure catapulted my business very quickly, but soon things quietened down and I realised that dealing with media wasn't something I enjoyed or was very good at.
I knew how Showroom 22 worked from being on the other side of things as a stylist and I knew that being in their showroom was the most direct way to reach the media. Quite simply, I needed to get into fashion magazines and Showroom 22 made it happen. It has been my main cost but well worth it. My marketing budget is minimal but a good fashion PR agency was a no-brainer to me.
I've found that the media coverage has given me credibility with stockists as it shows how proactive and serious I am about building my brand. All the other marketing work I do myself via Facebook and Instagram.
What are some of the other strategies you've found successful for marketing your business on a shoestring?
With social media I try and drive people to my website where I have a list of my stockists, but I also try and promote online sales where my margins are higher and I can build a customer database.
Social media is a great way to support my retailers as well and they also use it to support me. I've found that doing fashion shoots and collaborating with other people has been great for creating new looks and stories to tell. I have friends who want to build their photography and modeling portfolios so we create projects and we all get something out of it. I can leverage off shoots like this by feeding images to social media that look really professional at little cost.
I also created the opportunity to be part of New Zealand Fashion Week by collaborating with one of my Auckland stockists, Celine Rita. We designed some bespoke necklaces that worked with her collection and I was really thrilled to be part of that event in my first year, and for my name and products to be floating around in the right circles.
What's next for your business?
I knew the first year of business would be all about experimenting with designs, marketing and business, so my second year is about fine tuning, reducing costs, increasing margins and not compromising on quality.
A lot of designers have advised me to stick to my most popular products rather that trying to diversify too much. I've taken this on board but I think I also need to create new designs and grow the business steadily.
I'm also looking into a business mentor for some professional development and am always open to seminars and ongoing training. I'd like to see my business become a brand people associate with quality and uniqueness, and for it to create a steady income that's also creatively satisfying and challenging.
Coming up in Your Business: I'm keen to hear about some of the interesting small businesses people are running in rural locations, and how their environment impacts on their operations. If you've got a story to tell about your rural business, drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org