Women Who: How Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie turned a passion for Jewellery into a business
Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie is the founder of online fine jewellery boutique De Bouverie, City&Style catch up with her to find out why she left her job in the city to start her own business.
I have always been interested in starting my own business, having launched small companies at school and university, joining Young Entrepreneurs and even whilst running the tuck shop, I used to dream of doing my own thing. Since then I have built a book of business ideas, but the concept or timing was never right and things didn’t ‘catch’, so I worked in the city to gain experience in the business world.
The moment of truth came when I was put on Gardening Leave. It gave me the time, space and financial security to pursue my idea. I had always struggled to find good quality, unique jewellery and really wanted to create a place where people could come to for solid and impartial advice and access to pieces that were otherwise virtually impossible to source.
As I developed the idea, I was convinced there was a gap in the market. However, I was scared to financially commit to the concept as it’s a daunting process. As things developed I met my website designers, a great bunch of guys who started to make my ideas a reality, meetings became more serious and then suddenly I had an invoice on my desk. The moment I paid that invoice I knew that I couldn’t turn back, that this was it and I was going to do everything I could to make it happen, if nothing else but to make sure that I got that money back.
That first payment was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life to date, but the grit and determination that came afterwards was exhilarating. Sometimes you have to take a financial leap for things to start feeling like they are real.
Great question, but I had no idea what I was going to do. I was always creative and interested in the fashion side of things. I hate mass production and wanted to help independent designers get better traction and market reach, but on research it was the jewellery side of things that fascinated me. There are many fashion companies promoting independents already, but not in the jewellery world.
From that I took the idea and ran with it, establishing along the way that there was a significant lack on online jewellery options and the never ending struggle of very talented gold and silversmith. From there, my passion for individuality and my desire to help promote these designers spurred the business on.
What is the concept behind De Bouverie?
De Bouverie is an online fine jewellery Boutique that promotes independent designers. The site helps emerging gold and silversmiths build a presence online and compete with the larger corporate companies and marketplaces. As a united community we are able to leverage on the increasing demand for internet shopping and the rising interest in individuality and boutique brands. We don’t work with craft or mass production and all designers are exclusively invited to be members to maintain quality and consistency with only the best designers and products.
Did you need much start up capital to launch?
De Bouverie has, to date, been launched on personal finances and launch capital was kept to a minimum where possible.
How do you select which designers you are going to work with?
To be honest it took blood, sweat and tears mostly. The first few were the hardest, but I now work only on a referral basis. It is a very small and interconnected world, so all the designers know each other and know who they wanted to be represented next to. By working like this, I make sure that the quality never dips as the other designers wouldn’t allow it.
Combined with this, all designers are met before acceptance and I personally vet their designs and quality to ensure that everything is genuine and authentic.
What makes De Bouverie unique?
Unlike other jewellery brands, we aren’t an open market place, nor do we focus on mass production. We have created a community that helps designers reach their customers and helps these busy customers find good quality jewellery with trust and ease. We cover all customer services and distribution to ensure quality of service and work with the designer to help promote and distribute their products. It is about them as people, and helping them become recognized designers rather than pushing prices down and sacrificing quality for fast turn around times and offshore manufacturing. This allows the designers to supply unique, exciting and unusual jewellery to customers that don’t have the time to dig them out on their own.
What do you love about running your own business?
I have always dreamt of doing this and I love it. Being your own boss has its downsides but it suits me and my character down to the ground. At the end of the day, however hard I try and persuade myself that I couldn’t possibly have done this, I really have, and it’s all me. That sense of achievement is a great driver and the raw excitement about how to develop it going forward keeps me ticking through the slow days. I work every waking hour of the day 7 days a week, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I guess launching, getting past the start line is difficult. Resigning from my job and actually going for it was almost impossible – it took me 2 weeks of pacing past my directors office and then pretending to collect printing!!! In terms of business, I think it’s keeping going once the adrenaline of launch wears off and keeping the business going and developing. In terms of skills my real sore point is my finance knowledge, but you learn as you go and you learn very quickly!
Ha ha – I love and wear anything. If I have a choice, I am more classical and simple. Gold definitely over silver and longer, dangly earrings over studs.
What advice would you give someone wanting to start their own enterprise?
If you ask a question, really listen to the answer. Always take on board people’s advice, whether you agree or not, and listen to them. Absorb as much information as you can, it’s priceless and it’s free. So many people ask questions, but rarely listen to the answers.
You can always start the business for less money than you think, so always push yourself as low as possible… it leaves you more for later! Looking back I could have cut my costs far more dramatically if I had understood more. So always be sure about where every penny is going. That and the fact that everyone you know will be useful to your business, in ways you might not be able to imagine. Never abuse them, but never forget they are just there.
What does the future hold for De Bouverie?
Having only recently launched we hope to build De Bouverie into an established brand that is the place to go to for independent designer jewellery and high quality unique work. We intend to represent over 75% of the UK’s highly trained silver and goldsmiths within 5 years as well as having an established and growing representation of designers and artisans based around the world. We also intend to initiate a training and development scheme to help include emerging university students, supporting them in their journey to become independent designers.
You can visit Harriot’s website here