Independent Business in the Spotlight - BKB Jewellery

TFS: Hello Barbara, thank you for agreeing to have this interview with us!  We feel really strongly about supporting our fellow independent businesses and this is such a great way to share and find out about all the talent out there. So, for those who aren’t familiar with you and your work, please give us a little description of your business and the work you do.

B: I am a qualified gemmologist, a member of Gemmological Association of Great Britain (the world's longest established provider of gem education) and a founder of BKB London jewellery.  All of my jewellery is designed and hand made by me here in London, using traditional techniques, incorporating precious stones, sterling silver, gold vermeil and gold filled materials. Most of my pieces are typically one-off creations; however, I do recreate items if there is demand. I also take commissions whenever possible.

TFS: Where’s home?

B: I am lucky to have two homes. One here in Hither Green, where I live and work and one in Croatia where I’m from originally and where we go to visit my family every summer.

TFS: We are big fans of your jewellery. What is your thought process when you’re designing and making? What inspires your designs?

B: As a gemmologist, I am always on the lookout for the next fabulous gemstone which then inspires many of my designs. I am also influenced by current trends as well as antique jewellery. For me less is more, I typically try to enhance the beauty of the stone that I am working with and try to make my pieces current and wearable, as well as elegant and timeless.

TFS: What made you decide to set up your own business?

B: Becoming a mum and wanting to have more flexibility was a huge influence on not just starting my own business but also changing my career. Prior to having children, I had a successful career as an HR and Training Manager with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. However, the hours were too demanding for a young family and I wanted to be at home with my children. At the time flexible working hours didn’t exist to the same extent they do today. There was no option to work from home in my line of work, so it was time for a change.  I always wanted to do something with my creative nature and here we are.

TFS: What tips would you give to someone who wanted to make their own jewellery?

B: Firstly, invest the time in learning the jewellery making techniques. Morley college jewellery courses in London are my go to whenever I want to learn something new.

Love what you do and be patient. The competition is huge in London and in the UK but so are the opportunities.

Focus on your own style and try to be that little bit different but still wearable and most importantly saleable.

Network with people in the industry, you can learn a lot from the other, more experienced jewellers and their support is invaluable at the times when you are stuck and need advice.

TFS:  Such great advice! What have you found has been the most successful way to promote your work?

B: Whilst social media provides a great platform to promote your product and it is a must for everyone who wants to reach wider audience, I find that showcasing at fairs and pop up events has been equally as important in promoting my work. Jewellery is one of those items that people like to see and feel before they purchase. Establishing trust with your customers through getting to know them is imperative, in creating a solid base of return customers who in turn end up promoting you.

TFS: It’s no secret that it’s incredibly difficult for business right now, both for independents and the big names. How have you adapted your business model in response to COVID-19?

B: Yes it has been challenging in so many ways. For me the focus is on service and exceeding the customer’s expectations as always, but going that extra mile and keeping people happy during the time of great uncertainty is more important than ever. I try to connect on a more personal level and offer more personalized service to my customers.   So for example on a couple of occasions, I accepted interest free instalment payments in order to help relieve some of the financial pressure. On another occasion a lady wasn’t sure which necklace to choose, so I sent her both in order for her to try before she buys.

I have also tried to speed up the deliveries, which were so important to all of us at a time when we couldn’t just pop out to the shops. There was nothing nicer than ordering something today and receiving it tomorrow, so I tried to get the orders out with the next day delivery whenever possible and at no extra cost to the buyers. For the local orders I then hand delivered them on the same day that they were ordered.

TFS: What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of working for yourself?

B: The most important advantage to me is that you are the master of your own time. I absolutely love that I can organise my work around the family life. I can take holidays when I want, which means that I can always be available for the children. The disadvantage is not having the comfort of the consistent and guaranteed income. If you don’t make and sell you don’t earn. Also at times it can feel a bit lonely if you work on your own as I do.

TFS: Have you managed to create a work/life balance? If so, any tips?

B: Yes, overall I think I have. I try to prioritise as much as possible. The secret is to pace yourself and only take the work that you can comfortably process. Be realistic and don’t bite off more than you can chew.  I am lucky that my husband is the main breadwinner which then allows me the freedom to choose how much or how little I want to work.  The main reason for doing this on my own was to have a better work life balance so I don’t have an excuse in not achieving it J.

TFS: Finally, what does the future hold for BKB London? Any plans or are you taking it easy in these uncertain times?

B: There are a lot of exciting things which I’m hoping to see through once we are back to normal. Creation of a website is definitely something I would like to do in the not too distant future. Product wise, I’d like to move on to working in gold more, develop new techniques and be able to create unique and recognisable pieces.  I would also love to be able to share my knowledge of Gemmology; it is a fascinating subject so Gemmology workshops are definitely on my radar too.

Thank you so much for taking part Barbara! I know our readers will find this really interesting and insightful. If you would like to find out more about BKB Jewellery, please head over to their Etsy store.