Abi Watkins trained as a fashion illustrator before setting up her own jewellery label Rock Rose Jewellery. She now works on Rock Rose part-time, while bringing up her two children in London. We asked her to tell us a bit more about her jewellery business, and share her tips on pricing, selling and product photography…
When did you start your business, and how has it developed since then?
I started RockRose in 2008, when my first child was a few months old and I was on maternity leave. I’ve never been able to sit still and even though I was sooo tired I would be bead wiring jewellery while he napped. So I found myself with stock but no time to sell it myself. Eventually I worked up the confidence to approach a few galleries and shops and they agreed to display my work. Slowly the sales trickled in, albeit at a very minimal profit rate after the shops’ percentages had been deducted. As most shops wanted to stock on a ‘sale or return’ basis and I had a lot of stock to make in order to do this, I decided to try selling online.
Selling online has enabled me to reach customers directly from all over the world and now brings me the majority of my sales. I have since refined and streamlined my work, figuring out what works best, and I’ve tried to create collections that complement each other and that appeal to my customers. I now have some great regular customers and work more on commissions, when I can.
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since you started Rock Rose?
I would say this whole year has been the best for me and Rock Rose, as I’m watching my hobby turn into a little business. I’ve worked on some lovely commissions too! Oh, I must mention, as it’s going to get read, the best addition to workshop… my partner buying a Rolling Mill for me – he’s so romantic, he knows just what I want.
How you promote your work?
I always send a couple of cards out with purchases, most people like to pass on your details to the recipient and keep one themselves. I use social media tentatively. My Facebook page works really well for local interest and is a great place to announce upcoming fairs or new designs. I use sellers forums on Folksy, and I have started visiting British Crafters and UKHandmade. My mother and loyal friends are sent around wearing my jewellery armed with my business cards!
How and where do you sell your work – online, wholesale, markets?
I mainly sell online and through ‘word of mouth’ as it works really well for me with juggling around family life. I have recently started to do local craft markets – I love setting up my stall and meeting customers face to face. It’s a great place to overhear genuine feedback.
How do you price your work?
I know the saying ‘never under-sell your work’, but I’m also a believer in not over-pricing. I want my work to sell, so I can make more and keep it fresh! I have a set mark-up on my materials and overheads and add my hourly rate. Then, I look at the piece and ask “is that a fair price for a handmade item?”. I then may need to look at ways to reduce the cost of materials or make it quicker/easier.
Do you work on Rock Rose full time?
Well, this week has certainly been full-time but then it is nearly Christmas! No, it’s part-time at the moment, and I combine it with looking after my children and working part-time elsewhere. I would love for it to be full-time and I’m working on getting it to that stage.
Have you got any tips for other makers?
- Constantly develop and look for ways to improve your product and its image.
- Take good photos! Mine aren’t perfect, but they’re an improvement and have led to more sales.
- Promote your work relentlessly. There’s so much more competition now and even if you have an amazing product it won’t always be easily found, so tell people about it.
- Use seller forums for advice and feedback.
- Offer great customer service… reward your lovely customer for buying British handmade by providing a reliable, friendly, professional service that beats Amazon!