Kiki has been at the forefront of the British fine jewellery industry for more than 35 years and her business is a brilliant example of a British brand that has stood the test of time (including weathering the storms of recessions and pandemics!)
Her clientele spans style conscious women of all ages and her designs have been popular amongst members of the Royal family, including The Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Diana.
Kiki launched her first range via a small concession in 1985 and today her designs are housed in a flagship store on Symons Street, just off Sloane Square. The business has grown rapidly year-on-year and the collection is available to buy online, at selected stores in the UK and overseas in the US and in Canada. Her collection has also recently launched across 8 Mappin & Webb stores, as well as on the rental platform Hurr for the first time.
I started Kiki McDonough Ltd in 1985 to design jewellery for women to buy for themselves.
I am the fifth generation jeweller in my family but the first female. I started it with a £5,000 loan from my father but had to pay interest. I have built the company on my own and have remained its creative director.
No and I had no idea I would end up building a worldwide brand. No one is more surprised than me!
There have been a huge amount of challenges but most of them were when my children were small and I was juggling childcare, business, domestic life, social life and a husband. I have been through three recessions (and more recently a global pandemic) and they have tested me to my limits but I kept going, which is of course what you have to do when you run your own business.
Another challenge is running the business entirely on my own. I own it 100%, so every single decision is down to me. Finally, staying ahead of the game with new ideas, and always pushing the boundaries with my designs is a challenge.
Building a brand on my own without any help except for a great team of girls. And of course raising my two children. I’m also incredibly proud that the Dutchess of Cambridge wears my jewellery so often.
I recently designed a new tiara that was selected by Sotheby’s to feature in their exhibition in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It was incredible to be part of the exhibition that celebrates tiaras worn at significant events throughout British history, highlighting the artistry and craftsmanship involved in the creation of such timeless pieces.
I don’t think there is ever one thing. I think it involves talent, a bit of luck here and there, discipline (because without that your talent won’t survive) and a great team behind you who – because you treat them well – are always on your side.
I think you learn a lot from mentoring. I am a business mentor for the Prince’s Trust and I also mentor a couple of people privately. As mentor, you can guide them through their business journey and guard them against the mistakes that you made yourself – although you shouldn’t be scared of making mistakes because it’s only from them that you learn.
I started my business when no one knew what that meant! However, things have radically changed and with it the opportunities, so compared to what I first experienced I feel we are coming close. There are many more women coming into the jewellery business than there ever were before and I like to think I’ve been an inspiration for some of these women. So many women have started their own businesses and have proved they can be very successful, which I think is the proof that everyone needed, that gender equality has come a long way.
This is really tricky for me because I have loved my working life – right from my early years as a secretary before I started the business. This gave me a range of experiences which have really helped me develop the business. I probably should have stayed longer in the jobs that I had, so I would tell my younger self to be more patient.
Focusing more on international sales. We are already in America but I’d like to progress our footprint there and open more wholesale accounts of which we have five at the moment.