Virgin StartUp of the Week: Solace Jewellery
When Daniel McClen's girlfriend was unable to find stylish jewellery that she wasn't allergic to, he approached the problem in true entrepreneur fashion - setting out to find and sell it himself, founding Solace Jewellery,a business dedicated to sourcing the best hypoallergenic jewellery around. Finding a gap in the market this way is certainly paying off, with over 400 orders placed already. We sat down with a cuppa to find out more about his business.
Business name: Solace Jewellery
Founder name: Daniel McClen
Loan funds received: £3,000
Based in: Newcastle Upon Tyne
Website: Solace Jewellery
1. Explain your business in the time it would take the kettle to boil.
Solace Jewellery is an online jewellery retailer that provides quality earrings, necklaces and bracelets (more to come in the future) to women with metal allergies. Our products are made from stainless steel, also known as surgical steel for it’s hypoallergenic qualities.
We focus on procuring the most up-to-date and stylish products rather than stock thousands of items as other retailers do, and aim to provide the best customer experience possible.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
We are predominately based online, however we have attended a couple of market stalls in the north east. Having our store online and not in a brick and mortar store provides us with the best opportunity to meet our customers where they are searching: online. There are thousands of searches on google alone for phrases such as “allergies to earrings” and “jewellery that does not cause a reaction.” We can then provide the customer with information about the jewellery, and a free sample product to test if it works for them, as no product can be 100% guaranteed as hypoallergenic. However, we’ve had a 99% success rate with our jewellery not causing irritation, so it's a promising proposition.
3. How did you come up with the idea?
My girlfriend at the time was having problems wearing her earrings, and tried everything from costume jewellery to high-karat gold. Nothing seemed to work, and as she was desperate to accessorise with earrings, I was determined to find something that would work. Hours online gave us a few options to try, and the only option that didn't give her a reaction was surgical steel. Whilst doing my research I found it was a common problem, with up to one in seven people having allergies to nickel (the most common cause of the allergy).
4. What’s the business model?
Our business model is to provide unbeatable customer service, help our customer’s accessorise again, and forever update the stock so there is always more choice. We would like to be the top brand associated with hypoallergenic jewellery, and become the number one hypoallergenic retailer in the UK. This will help us scale and reach the 14% of women out there with metal allergies that have no obvious solution.
5. Who are your competitors?
There aren’t a huge amount of competitors, but the three that are currently doing well in the search engines are:
- Serenity Jewellery
- Delicate Earrings
- Sensitively Yours
Also Amazon sellers, but we find lots of leads come from Amazon so either it is a huge untapped market, or there is not a great deal of competition there (more research needed!)
6. What’s unique about your business?
Our website is unique because it's not littered with thousand of products that customer have to wade through to find something they like. We focus on quality over quantity, we package it well, and we ship it fast. We also provide a free sample product in exchange for an email address, which enables the customer to trust us and their purchased product. As previously mentioned a huge focus is customer service, making it as comfortableas possible for the customer to buy in the knowledge of safe hands, and easy for them to do so when they would like.
7. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
Solace Jewellery had an online store with 50 products, which only consisted of earrings. We had no real presence and were generating a few hundred pounds a month. Our marketing was poor as I was doing it myself with no experience, and no software to do quality work. Our packaging was nice, but didn't have the wow factor we were going for upon receipt.
8. How have you used it to grow your business?
The money has helped to grow our online presence, start a PPC campaign on Google Adwords, and we are about to employ a marketing company to produce an explainer video and perform an SEO overhaul of our site. This month we have hired a freelance blogger to help engage our customers and give them something back. Also the marketing has improved dramatically, and I no longer fulfil the orders, as I now have partners helping me grow the business in these areas. This allows me more time to focus on continually improving our service.
From a retail point of view there are now necklaces and bracelets added to the collections, and we have hundreds of products in stock. We also attended some market stalls, although admittedly they did not go as well as planned. This will be revisited next year, with an improved strategy.
9. Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
Bill Hartshorne from Tedco helped me all the way through my business plan, and offered great advice and support through a difficult time in the business life. It was very difficult to keep track of everything whilst also applying for funding, but Bill was patient and insightful.
10. Biggest achievement so far?
Our biggest achievement so far is helping over 300 people wear jewellery again, with nearly 400 orders placed.
11. What’s next for your business?
We want to focus on engaging with our customers and having conversations, not selling, to them. We have just taken a blogger on board to maximise our online presence with useful content. This will reduce our PPC campaign and increase trust and conversion to boost our sales. We strive to continue providing great customer experiences, and we want to hit the 1000th customer mark next year.