Inside Track Q&A Gillian Walsh, owner of Diamondlite.ie
Getting to know your target audience is crucial
Gillian Walsh: “I would love to have my own bricks and mortar shop but right now the rents and rates are too high.”
What distinguishes your business from competitors?
When I launched Diamondlite there was a gap in the market for high-end costume jewellery. There was jewellery you could buy in the high-street shops and then of course fine jewellery but nothing in between. I wanted jewellery that would give my customers that fine luxury jewellery feel without the fine jewellery price tag.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Cash flow is a huge challenge if I am placing a large order, as it has to be paid for in full when I’m ordering. I source my jewellery from Singapore and the lead time can be eight to 10 weeks, so by the time it arrives, goes through customs and the Assay Office in Dublin Castle and I then have it all photographed, you are talking three months before it’s ready to sell. It’s very important that the pieces are all photographed properly as my website is effectively my shop window.
And your major success to date?
I am proud of the fact that I have my own business – it was a big decision to leave my permanent full-time job after seven years and set up Diamondlite. It is still a small business and the past couple of years have been very challenging, so I’m happy it’s doing well.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
Ordering too much stock when I first set up. I was advised to buy a very small amount to start with and get to know my customers and their tastes. I didn’t listen and ended up with money invested in a lot of stock – money that I could have done with badly for other things like marketing.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
It would have been to get to know my target audience or customers before ordering large amounts of stock.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
Annoushka Ducas. She, along with her husband John Ayton, founded Links of London. It started off with an order for a pair of cuff links and turned into a multi-million pound business. In 2010 they had a turnover of more than £80 million (€93.5 million). Since selling the business, she has now created another highly successful jewellery brand called Annoushka.
What piece of advice would you give to the Government to stimulate the economy?
They should consider lowering the commercial rates for businesses. I would love to have my own bricks and mortar shop but right now the rents and rates are too high. I think they put off a lot of people from having a shop or premises. There are so many businesses closing down even in key shopping areas.
If the rates could be lowered, small businesses would be in a position to open empty retail units again creating employment.
Thankfully there are a lot of trade shows like Equus Live, which give me a shop front sporadically throughout the year. It’s important to promote your business in person and showcase your products, even if you are an online business.
Do you think the banks are open for business at the moment?
Thankfully I haven’t had to get any loans, but I’d like to think the banks would be supportive if I went to them. I use banking online a lot which is great, though I wish the charges could be lower.
How do you see the short-term future for your business?
I am hoping to grow my online business. I need to become more social-media friendly as I think the marketing opportunity there are huge. Advertising is so expensive so it’s a constant challenge to keep your name out there. I’d also like to expand into retail outlets and get my jewellery into some shops.
What is your business worth and would you sell it?
Honestly I have no idea how much it is worth but if someone is interested in buying it, contact me.
In conversation with Pamela Newenham