Small Business Inside Track: Ann Chapman, Stonechat Jewellers founder
Dublin bespoke jeweller looking to expand for second time in three years
Ann Chapman: ‘We don’t go for the hard sell, instead we approach the customer with a light touch’
Stonechat Jewellers is a modern jewellers located in the Westbury Mall in Dublin’s city centre.
Founded at the tail-end of the recession, the business now employs three goldsmiths full time and is looking to expand for the second time in three years.
What sets your business apart from the competition? Our instore workshop is very unique, as you can see the jewellery being made. We stock bespoke pieces, handmade and mostly Irish jewellery.
People love our bespoke option, as they can get an old ring melted down and turned into a modern piece that they would actually wear. The store has a clean aesthetic, an open-door policy and prices on show: the new way of operating a jewellery store.
We don’t go for the hard sell, instead we approach the customer with a light touch: have a chat, talk about what they want and see if we can help. Transparency is the modern way of doing business.
What has been your greatest success to date? Moving premises in under two years because of growth and demand is a great source of pride for me. We needed to increase the size of our instore workshop to keep up with customer orders.
Being highly commended for Best in Service in The Irish Times Best Shops in Ireland in 2014 was also a great recognition of our customer service.
What is the biggest mistake you have made? In the early days, I tried to do everything – from the website, to the packaging design, to designing and crafting the stock.
I had to learn to delegate to the team and to outside professionals, which was difficult because I’m very hands-on. It’s tough to relinquish power in your business, but when you do, you realise that you’re not the be all and end all of everything! A good business owner will delegate.
What is the biggest challenge you have had to face? Personally, the biggest challenge has been to step back from the business when our second child was born to spend time with the family. It can be tough for a business owner to juggle the personal and the professional. I am fortunate to have a great team who understand the brand and can run the business beautifully.
Whom do you admire in business and why? Louise Kennedy is a good influence. She has a beautifully designed brand and I admire how she built her business. She has always stayed true to the ideal of her brand and I respect that. Added to that, her attention to detail is incredible.
What is the best piece of advice you have received? I have three. The first is: fail fast. Don’t spend a long time figuring something out – if it fails, it fails, and move on.
The second is: remember to work on your business, not in your business. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the day to day, but you need to focus on the direction your business is taking. The third is: surround yourself with people who have different skills, which refers back to what I was saying about delegating.
Are the banks open for business? The banks have always been approachable, but I’ve never had to go looking for a loan. Before I had written a business plan, I was approached and offered private investment, and we have been reinvesting our profit ever since.
What advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy? There are plenty of opportunities for unemployed people to open a business, but there’s nothing to entice people who already have a job and could open a business that could hire people and therefore boost the economy. Between the commercial rates and Dublin city’s Business Improvement District Scheme, it is very hard for independent retailers.
The PAYE credits given in this year’s budget is a step in the right direction.
What does the future hold for your business? We will be wholesaling our collection next year, so further expansion is imminent. With this, I will have to make the decision either to move the store again to a bigger premises or open another workshop and keep the premises we have now as a showroom.
How much is your business worth and would you sell it? I wouldn’t sell it now: it’s already a great business but I feel I can still make a positive impact on it. To me it’s my family’s future; I’m doing it for them. Right now I’d say no way to selling it, but you never know what the future will bring.