Before my goldsmith training, I had been looking for a flower ring for myself. I was looking for flower petals that resemble real flowers: organic and asymmetrical. I soon realized that not many natural-looking flower jewellery is out there, and they are usually set with lots of gemstones (probably to resemble the colours of flowers), therefore commanding a high price. I wanted to start a jewellery brand that highlights organic forms of nature’s beauty.
How did you go about launching it?
I have been working on my first collection, the Flower Garden, for the last 4 years in my free time while working full-time. It was hard to find the time, so it was a slow process. I completed making the first collection, but there was so much more work to be done. Since the Covid-19 lockdown, I had the time to work on photos and the website. I didn’t have much knowledge about macro photography or building a website, so I had to do lots of research on how to go about it.
Winter in July was launched in July, 2020. During the first month, I had quite a few orders – more than I anticipated. I think more people want to support small local businesses during tough times. I feel very grateful for all the support.
What has been one of the biggest challenges that you have faced since starting, and what have you learned from it?
A month after the launch, the second lockdown started. I didn’t get many orders around that time. I think people didn’t want to spend money on luxury items like jewellery, when there is uncertainty in the future. We had never experienced a global pandemic before. I was really worried and seriously considered changing my career.
Instead of giving up jewellery, I decided to work on a new collection of clean-line and simple jewellery. Because the designs were quite simple, it took less time to make compared to the first collection, Flower Garden, therefore more affordable. I made a few pieces with “KIA KAHA” (“stay strong” in Maori) and “FAITH” stamped on. It was a message that I wanted to share with other people who are going through difficult times; it’s also a message for myself.
When the second collection, Simplicity, was ready, I wrote a post on the “Chooice” Facebook page, which is a group that supports NZ businesses. I received an amazing response. I got orders for the Simplicity collection and the Flower Garden collection. The Kia Kaha heart necklace has become one the best sellers to this day.
I learned that you have to be persistent and adapt to the market when you run a business. To run a jewellery brand, you have to be an artist and a business person. You have to find out people’s needs, and also have a unique vision to stand out from the crowd.
Also, I learned that it’s important to have constant exposure. I operate from my home studio, so my sales are almost all from online. I try to engage on social media everyday.
Have you had to adapt your business during COVID-19? If so, how?
My husband and I decided to move back to Auckland from Melbourne, in March – in the early stages of Covid-19. A couple of our flights got cancelled, and once we reached Auckland, we were quarantined in a hotel for 2 weeks. With the slow job market, I decided to take a leap of faith and start my own brand. I’ve been building my flower garden collection for the last 4 years in my free time while working full time. Having my own brand has always been a dream of mine. During the lockdown, I spent time watching countless photography tutorials on Youtube, taking photos and building a website. Without the pandemic, I would’ve launched the brand a lot later. For me, it’s the silver lining of the situation.
What makes Winter in July jewellery unique?
Winter in July jewellery is nature-inspired fine jewellery. It is handcrafted using centuries-old traditional fabrication and lost wax casting techniques. I hand-carve wax models for my designs rather than using 3D CAD (three-dimensional computer-aided design). The hand-carving makes the jewellery look more sculptural and organic. Fine jewellery often has emphasis on precious gemstones. Winter in July jewellery emphasises the organic forms of nature’s beauty, not only for its precious gemstones.
What advice would you give others who are wanting to start a business?
Have faith and be patient. It can take time to build your business (something I remind myself).
Offer unique products or services. We can’t compete with products made overseas with price; instead, we can focus on design and quality of products that we offer.
Why do you think it is important to support our locals?
When you support local businesses, the money goes back to the community. It will strengthen the local economy, which will benefit everyone in the community. Also, by supporting your local businesses, you are keeping the trade or artistry alive in community.
What do you love most about running your own business?
Sharing my vision with others and touching people’s lives is very rewarding. Jewellery is often purchased for special occasions or to commemorate a special someone, or it simply brings joy to the wearer. When my customers tell me that they bought a piece from me for commemorating a family member, or for their loved one’s birthday, I feel really happy.