Catherine D’Arcy, managing director
Catherine set up her jewellery sales company, Corazon Latino, after bringing back a number of handmade designs from Mexico. The company works with designers from all over the world.
I’m from Reigate in Surrey, but I've also lived in Belgium. I now divide my time between Cheshire and Holland.
What job do you do?
I'm the founder and managing director of Corazon Latino. We sell handmade silver jewellery, along with some amber pieces and unusual pearls. I run the company with my sister.
I don't make any jewellery myself. We have around 30 self-employed artisans who work for us.
How did you get started in jewellery?
It was an accident! I spent 20 years in the food industry, working in marketing.
“I love helping people. It's wonderful to hear from a happy customer.”
I was in Mexico studying Spanish, and I got talking to a jewellery designer.
I'd already bought several pieces he had made, and I asked him to make a copy of a bracelet I had. After a misunderstanding – I was still a learner with my Spanish! – he actually made a dozen.
So I found myself with an unexpected pile of beautiful stock. I brought it all back to the UK and rather than sell it off on eBay, I started a business.
I got it off the ground, and then I was just too stubborn to let it go. I thought, 'If I’m going to do this, I’ll do it properly'.
I invested in marketing, a good website, and more stock. It took off.
What previous jobs have you done?
My background is in sales. Corazon Latino has been in business for nearly a decade, and is still my first role in jewellery.
I’ve worked for Coca Cola, Ski yoghurts, and baby food companies. I worked my way up to director positions.
When it's your own company you've set up, a title like 'managing director' isn’t so much about status – it just means the buck stops with you.
What you’re selling often doesn’t matter – the rules are the same. I use my managerial and marketing skills to run my jewellery business.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a degree in Geography, which doesn't really come into my career now!
What do you do at work?
Every day is different when you run your own business, particularly a small one. Being in charge means you’re not stuck doing one thing.
I often work with our makers and artisans directly. If I’m developing a new range, I travel wherever I need to go to work with them. They're based all over the world, so I've been to Mexico, Thailand, China and Italy.
I sit down with them and show them ideas. Together, we work out what’s possible, and develop new designs and collections.
I still oversee a lot of the design work at Corazon. I'm also in charge of:
- sourcing the jewellery, finding new designers, and approving designs
- marketing our brand – I review our finances regularly to see how much marketing money I can spend, what marketing is working, and what’s not
- our web design – I make sure the website is up-to-date, useful, and accurate
- talking to customers.
My sister handles the 'pick and pack' side of it. She's responsible for packing jewellery, getting it sent out to customers on time, and making sure we have enough boxes, ribbon and other packaging essentials.
What's the best thing about your job?
I've always loved jewellery, but I also love helping people.
Many of our customers are looking for gifts for their partners. We help them find that special piece, and get it out to them fast. That's really where the fun is.
It's wonderful to hear from a happy customer. If a man gives his girlfriend a present from Corazon, I love getting an email that says 'It's really blown her socks off'.
It’s also fascinating working with artisans and seeing how things are made.
One day I could be sitting on a hill in northern Thailand with jewellery makers who are hammering metal by hand. The next, I could be watching someone laser-cutting a silver chain in Tuscany.
And the worst thing about the job?
The toughest part is the marketing side – trying to find the right medium to get to your customers. People have to have heard of you in order for them to buy your stuff.
"Hassle as many people for work experience as possible!"
There can be a lot of trial and error, and some wasted money. When something doesn't work, you always think, 'I could have done something better'.
Trying to get magazines and journalists to notice your company among all the other people is always a challenge – especially when competitors whose products aren’t as high quality get the coverage.
How do I get into jewellery?
If you want to run your own business, these are my tips:
- Decide what makes you different
There are thousands of sellers out there. You've got to decide what you want your business to be like, and who it will be for.
With Corazon, we decided we wanted fair trade products, loyal customers, and handmade, unique stock. Those are our selling points.
However, that also means we can’t be the cheapest brand out there, so we limit our income through those decisions.
- Keep your target audience in mind
A lot of our customers are men who are buying presents, often for female partners, and often with a tight time limit. Our site is designed with them in mind.
For example, everything we sell is shot on a model so they can see what it looks like when it's being worn. We also designed the site for a customer who is in a hurry rather than someone with time to browse.
- Deliver what you promise
We guarantee that 90 per cent of what we sell is delivered within 24 hours, and we offer a 90 day guarantee. The customers are loyal, and they tell their friends.
- Get experience selling luxury goods
Get some selling experience. Target places that sell high quality jewellery, or even handbags, shoes and designer wear.
Remember to nag, pester and hassle as many people as possible! You need to be stubborn. With enough belief, you'll get there.