© by Catherine D’Arcy; all rights reserved
Corazon Latino is now a successful online jewellery business.
However, it started by accident and had its share of ups and downs along the way.
I never planned to start my own business.
To be honest, I didn’t have the nerve – but fate, destiny or perhaps just circumstance intervened and I ended up with an opportunity which snowballed into a business, and after a few hiccups, become a success.
Here’s how it all happened.
I got divorced in 2003, and rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I decided to completely change my life. So I took an International Sales and Marketing job and started using my holidays to study at immersion language schools in various countries around the world.
After a few months in Madrid, I ended up in Mexico finishing off my Spanish. While I was there I met a young jewellery designer. I was incredibly impressed by the quality of his work and the originality of his pieces.
He took me down to Taxco, where some of the best silver jewellery in the world is made for some of the biggest names in jewellery. Taxco is a beautiful little colonial town, with little whitewashed houses climbing up the hill and a lovely shady central square with this incredible sparkling church in the centre. Full of flowers, sunshine, and amazing people, I can’t think of anywhere better to make our jewellery.
The artisans of Taxco are some of the most skilled silversmiths in the world, producing stunning hand-made pieces in a vast range of designs. Realizing that they could make pieces to order, and with no thought at that stage of getting involved as anything other than a customer, I asked the designer if his artisans could copy a lovely antique gold bracelet I had (a christening present from my grandmother), with a matching necklace.
I didn’t speak great Spanish then and when I asked, I thought I was asking if it was possible. Unfortunately, he thought I was asking him to do it. A week later, he reappeared with 10 matching bracelets and necklaces. They were beautiful. Exactly what I had in mind – but what was I going to do with 10 of them?
Obviously it was my fault, with my terrible Spanish, so I bought them and started thinking about what to do next.
The longer I thought about it, the more I realised that this jewellery was special. It was handmade. Every piece was slight different. It was exclusive and the artisans were some of the best in the world. Why not bring this fantastic jewellery to the women of the UK, at a price they could afford to spoil themselves?
So I came back to the UK, worked with some of my food industry contacts to create a brand logo and website design, and decided to give it a try.
I started as small as possible, with a limited range of 25 designs, the smallest amount of stock possible, and a tight budget for advertising and promotion. Inevitably, things did not go smoothly.
I ended up being taken for a ride by my first web designer, who took my advertising budget and got the site blacklisted by Google. Fortunately during this time a few people found the site, loved our designs, quality and customer service, and their loyalty kept us going until I could find a new web team and start again.
So, 3 years on, we now have a fabulous site, over 50 designs, and I am busy planning the photoshoot for my 2008 range; due to launch in July.
My advice to anyone thinking about starting their own jewellery business:
If you are going to go beyond markets, fairs and eBay, find a good web designer and create a site that looks professional and is secure and easy to shop.
Find someone who can work with you to get you noticed on Google. Don’t accept promises of instant results or quick fixes; these things take time. Don’t buy links or get involved in any “black hat” optimisation techniques as they will come back to haunt you in the end.
Give your customers something different and the best possible customer service – and above all, don’t give up.
Author Catherine D’Arcy is the founder of Corazon Latino (“Latin Heart”), an online retailer selling handmade silver jewellery. The range is designed and developed by Catherine, working with skilled silversmiths in Latin America and Eastern Europe.