Inspirational Woman: Carrie Elizabeth Dennahy | Founder & CEO, Carrie Elizabeth Jewellery

Carrie Elizabeth DennahyAfter travelling the world as a Fashion and Accessories Buyer for over a decade, Carrie saw a real need for the jewellery space to offer a more affordable option for unique, well-crafted, beautiful jewellery.

With her knowledge of design and craftmanship, Carrie knew it was possible to create something stunning yet more affordable in an ethical way.

Carrie launched the business in 2015 and her combination of creativity and past consumer buying experience led to a strong business journey from launch, with the success of the brand being apparent from the start.

Carrie leads a team across all functions, and all team members work remotely (even before the pandemic) and flexibly to work around family and home life. This company ethos is a real example of the culture Carrie has set for her business.

A self-confessed free spirit, Carrie always maintains a level of agility and freedom across plans for the business, alongside the strategic framework and targets for a high growth start-up. This is essential not only for company culture but also for offering her consumers something fresh, relevant and meaningful. 

Passionate about building a business that works for life today, Carrie’s ethos around flexible remote working has proved its power throughout 2020. She continues to emphasise this message to lead and empower a happy and thriving team. The company has seen growth YOY since launch and revenue is currently up over 150% YOY.

Carrie lives in London and loves spending time with her family, particularly her three nieces. Her passions include vintage hunting, travel and the great outdoors.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have always loved fashion and accessories, in particular jewellery, and also always had a curiosity and love for the business side of retail too. I trained and worked as a Buyer for a number of leading high street retailers for over ten years and loved this experience and learnt a lot.

My final role was buying for a big jewellery retailer which allowed me to travel the world and work with suppliers internationally. I really started to understand the business of jewellery. I also looked a lot at consumer trends, and I saw a real need for the jewellery space to offer a more affordable option for unique, well-crafted, beautiful pieces. I knew it was possible to create something stunning yet more affordable in an ethical way.

I launched Carrie Elizabeth Jewellery 5 years ago and I am the sole Founder and CEO. I was so scared on the day of launch. Starting to see the first orders was the most amazing feeling and I knew I had a clear customer in my mind and that they would love what we offered.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  

I always had huge aspirations and hopes of where my future lay. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and had a vision of running my own company and travelling the world. Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of owning my own business and the freedom this would afford me; the freedom to travel, to choose my own hours and place of work and above all the freedom to create the most beautiful product. I often spoke of my dreams and friends and colleagues would say “Yes Carrie wouldn’t that be wonderful in an ideal world”. I definitely thought it was possible though.

I think I have unwavering belief in myself, a belief instilled in me from such a young age when the most important woman in my life, my Mum, told me I could do anything and be anything I wanted!

I did make good decisions throughout my career as a buyer and couldn’t have taken the leap to start my own business if I hadn’t honed the knowledge, contacts and business acumen from my previous roles; but I definitely think I did this instinctively and that my career evolved naturally by following what I loved.

I am driven and passionate and if something makes me happy, I give it my all and don’t really see obstacles. I have always followed my instincts and when an opportunity presents itself I can be quite fearless and I will take risks.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes definitely. We all have our personal experiences alongside business and I think it’s important to honor that and know that you are overcoming so much to try and be successful in all areas of your life.

At the same time that I left the comfort of a job I loved (and amazing colleagues who came with it!) to launch the business, my long-term relationship broke down. This took me completely by surprise and was a terrible blow that almost sent me off course. My world felt like it was crumbling down around me and it took a huge effort to pick myself up and find the resilience and strength to keep pursuing the plan.

I struggled hugely with the loneliness of setting up on my own alongside my personal life changing dramatically.  I had to find coping mechanisms and ways of managing this. We’re all human and it’s important to take the time and headspace to figure out how to keep it all going.

What has been your biggest achievements to date?

Jewellery is a really meaningful part of someone’s wardrobe and I love hearing from our customers about how my pieces have given them strength to face challenges in their lives or how a piece has such huge sentimental meaning to them.

I am so proud of the charity work we have done this year and also the personal connection I have built with the Carrie Elizabeth community. It is this personal side of the business that gives me such huge satisfaction and also a point of difference I think.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Believing in myself. When doubt sets in, I remember that I have to back myself. You have to as if you don’t, no one else will. I also have huge gratitude for taking this path. Leaving the stability of my 9-5 and everything that comes with it was incredibly tough but I feel so fulfilled which motivates me every day.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have a mentor who has given me a lot of guidance in building my team and growing the business. I would definitely say this is a non-negotiable for me to be the best leader I can and also to overcome my own challenges.

I know leadership varies and I must step in and make decisions at times for the business but I never abandon the mentorship side of leadership with my own team. As I said, we are all human, and work should feel like a trusted place at all levels.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I think it’s the work we need to do with young girls. We get the most beautiful letters from customers who talk about their daughters. They love seeing their Mum’s treat themselves and feel special when they purchase a piece. This really got me thinking about how impressionable children are. I was really fortunate to have a Mum who believed that I deserved the world. Every little girl should know they have a unique quality, they deserve a great life and can achieve so much. Building confidence from a young age is so crucial.

I am also a huge advocate for flexible and remote working. So much talent is lost because work establishments don’t support working families and women often feel they have to leave roles they once loved due to hours and commuting schedules not working anymore.  When I set up my company, I was clear that remote working is the norm and flexibility is a given. My company has grown to a multi-million-pound business in five years with a dedicated, loyal and happy team of women who work their own hours in their own environment. They work the way that best suits them and I trust them. It’s working for us!

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be? 

Always be true to yourself, that’s your super power.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?  

We have so much coming up at Carrie Elizabeth Jewellery. We were really fortunate to see significant growth throughout 2020 and so it’s important to us to give back and use the brand as a place to share messages that are important to myself and the team.

We just launched a partnership piece with Artist Diane Hill. We worked together on the design of a necklace titled “A Change is Gonna Come”. The hope is that wearing the necklace is a daily reminder of the Black Lives Matter movement and the changes we can all make every day to make progress. 100% of the profits of the sale of each necklace go directly to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

We also have a partnership with the mental health charity, Mind, and coming up a product to raise awareness and money for Sands, the leading baby loss charity. We work together as a team to work with charities that are personal to each of us.

This work is alongside all the new collections we are launching and the content we are producing for our social channels too. It’s a really busy time and I get so excited when I think about every new step we are taking as a business.

We just celebrated 5 years at Carrie Elizabeth Jewellery and this feels like a really important milestone. We’re motivated and excited to build the next 5 years.

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