My start-up life: jewellery designer Chupi Sweetman-Durney
Award-winning designer says ‘from very early on I was doomed to run a creative company’
Chupi Sweetman-Durney is an Irish designer who makes multi-award winning delicate gold jewellery inspired by the beauty of natural and wild things.
“Chupi” is stocked in leading department and independent stores across the UK and Ireland. The brand is export focused with fans from London to Tokyo.
Tell me about your business?
We run a design-led company based in Dublin making beautiful, delicate jewellery in the affordable luxury market. My name is Chupi and I think that meant from very early on I was doomed to run a creative company. I don’t think anybody calling their daughter Chupi are ever going to do anything sensible. We are from that generation of companies that were born online, we’re only three years old and we have a team of 22.
How did the company come about?
I was really lucky, I was scouted when I was 21 to be a fashion designer for Topshop, I adored it. Then my boyfriend had just proposed and my grandmum left me a necklace and suddenly I owned a piece of the past and a piece of the future. Everyone has a piece, something from your mum or your grandmum that’s come down that is more precious than anything you own. I suddenly realised I wanted to do that, to create magic and heritage and pieces that you pass on to your daughter one day. So I quit Topshop, which, in a weird way was crazy, and in a weird way was clearly the best decision I ever made.
What was the biggest challenge you have faced?
One of them is being a woman. And being very young at the time when I first started wasn’t much fun. But I could spend forever bemoaning the fact that I didn’t get taken seriously because I was a woman, I just got on with it.
Who would you count as your biggest influence so far?
My mum, without a doubt. My brother and I were home schooled. I was very sick when I was little which meant that I couldn’t go to school because I had a compromised immune system. My mum taught us that we could be anything we wanted to be. She gave me a great sense of, “it’s possible”.
What do you love about your job and what do you find more difficult?
I’ve always said that I chase magic and I think 80 per cent of my day is chasing magic. Good design has a magic to it like nothing else in the world. It’s a real pleasure to get to be part of people’s lives. Unpredictability is the hardest thing, I like things to be perfect and organised and then something throws you a curve ball. But those are the things that challenge you, I don’t think I’d cope very well with normality.
Was there a best and worst piece of advice you were given?
The best piece of advice I was given was “don’t be the person who does everything” and I think it’s been why I’ve been able to have a team around me. For the worst advice, the converse is true, lots of people said “Don’t hire anyone” and it is definitely the trickiest area, I’ve made some terrible mistakes and that’s where it’s been the toughest.
What is it like being your own boss?
Brilliant. It suits me. Because I was home schooled I was taught that both your success and your failure are both very much yours. The fluctuation is crazy and I am bad at switching off but I’ve got much better as I’ve got older.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting a business?
Do it right now. We all wait for tomorrow and think, “Oh I’ll take that risk tomorrow”. Tomorrow is a very long time away, today is really the only time to do anything.
For more information on Chupi visit chupi.com