Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently
I am the art, music, and fashion-loving company director of The Folly Boutique – an online boutique specializing in designer jewellery to buy and hire. I am mad about jewellery and always have been, yet my background was actually in art. I completed my BA degree in Fine Art Painting, and spent my summers and holidays working in a jewellery shop in Watford. Working my way up to manager, I felt it was time to move on and started a 6 month unpaid internship with the jewellery designer Mawi, who ironically I now stock at The Folly Boutique. I learnt more and worked harder in that 6 months than ever before, and whatever people say about internships, it was essential to my career. When my internship ended I got a job running the office at contemporary artist Damien Hirst’s main London studio. I loved being back in the art world but missed jewellery and fashion. After 3 years at Damien Hirst, I was made redundant in 2013 and although losing your job is always difficult, it was the push I needed to set up on my own.
I always felt I “should” work in Art as that is what my degree had been in, but getting the bug for jewellery and business during my internship at Mawi left me knowing my heart wasn’t with Art, and was actually in fashion and jewellery.
Why did you start your business?
When I got engaged in 2012, the first thing I started researching was jewellery. I didn’t bother with the dress, the venue, or the guest list. All I knew was that I wanted to wear some amazing massive jewels! The chunky statement designer pieces I was admiring were completely out of budget ranging from £500-£800. I started to look for places to hire designer statement jewellery online and no such website existed. I worked on the idea of setting up an online jewellery rental platform for 2 years and secretly joined a business course in the evenings. I knew leaving my job to set up on my own was risky and quite frankly just too frightening. But when I was finally made redundant, I knew it was for me, a complete blessing in disguise.
What appealed to you about setting up your own business?
The most appealing thing to me about setting up The Folly Boutique was creating a solution for a problem I had personally experienced, and I knew other women were having. My market was women like myself, and I felt excited at having the opportunity to allow fashion forward women and brides to be able to enjoy wearing fabulous designer jewellery for a fraction of the price. It opens up the opportunity for everyone to experience the joy of wearing these expensive pieces, whether they chose to hire it or buy. I feel The Folly Boutique has filled a gap in the market and designer rental is an online trend I see becoming huge. I also loved the feeling of learning new skills and absorbing business knowledge that I’d never experienced before. Setting myself challenges and then achieving them is such a gratifying and satisfying feeling.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was learning to trust my instinct and gut feelings. Not only with business and finance, but mainly with buying. Buying my first season of jewellery was terrifying as I had no customer base yet and had nothing to lead my buying other than some market research, my knowledge of fashion trends and my gut instinct. Securing an order of thousands of pounds worth of jewellery at a Paris fashion trade fair, having no idea whether it will sell or not was terrifying. Funnily enough, a brand I’d never heard of before that I bought absolutely on a whim last minute has ended up being my best seller.
What’s been your greatest achievement personally?
As I came from an art background, my degree was 90% practical. Researching and writing my business plan, over a period of 4 months was a huge challenge for me as creating such a huge document was not easy for someone who is naturally so creative and not academic. The sense of achievement when I had been through every worst case scenario, every fine detail, and every finance option was incredible. It is still to date the piece of work I am most proud of.
If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?
I would probably still be at Damien Hirst’s company, Science, working in the art industry. I always felt I “should” work in Art as that is what my degree had been in, but getting the bug for jewellery and business during my internship at Mawi left me knowing my heart wasn’t with Art, and was actually in fashion and jewellery.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My Uncle John, who my family lovingly refers to as Veg. He always had his own businesses in building, conveying and construction, and even when times became very hard he still was inspiring. The way he dealt with terminal cancer, which he survived, is something I will use as motivation forever. He often emails me with music suggestions as he is passionate about music, and even some of the songs he sends me are inspirational! I named my company after him. Likewise, my great aunt and uncle who at the age of 85 are still an inspiration to me. At the age of 5 and 8 respectively they contracted Polio and have since been wheelchair bound. Their disabilities have never stopped them doing anything they wanted and the amount they have achieved is sensational. Travelling the world, bringing up children, being chair and board members of various charities and societies, they have achieved ten times more than the average able-bodied person and their determination and “just get on with it” attitude would be an inspiration to anyone.
Where does the name of your business come from?
The name is very personal to me and I will always love it. The word Folly means foolishness, playful and silly which is how I look at wearing jewellery – it should be fun! But the name really comes from my beloved uncle who lives in a wonderful old house called The Folly which is grade 2 listed and about 400 years old. When my sister and I were children it was always known as “the house with no rules” and was a magical place for us to visit. This represents my business, the idea that jewellery is fun and has no rules to wearing it. Statement jewellery should be worn with joy and ease for every day not just put in a box and saved for special occasions.
What does the future hold for you?
In the near future we will be introducing millinery to the shop and hiring out designer head wear which will be great for weddings and formal events. Longer term I’d love to have a London based bricks and mortar boutique where customers can bring in their outfit and pick a piece of jewellery to hire for their event. I’d also really love The Folly Boutique to branch further into bridal and perhaps have a bridal boutique too. There are also plans to really promote the brand worldwide so watch this space! Mainly all I hope is for The Folly Boutique to be the go-to place for women to find unusual designer statement jewellery to make them feel amazing.
Visit The Folly Boutique for more information.