Setting the gold standard – Louise Davis

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Louise Davis (left) and Sam at the Shaftesbury Business Awards

When she was 18, Louise Davis decided to put off university for a year by taking what I intended to be a ‘short term’ job in retail.
‘I managed to get hired on the spot in a jewellery store for an assistant manager position. I wasn’t qualified – I knew very little about jewellery! But I instinctively understood what could make the shop better. I turned out to be really good at making the shop profitable. Before long I was promoted to an area manager position, moving to struggling stores within the company and turning them around.
‘Eventually I moved on to a high-end jewellery showroom in Kingston – where I was miserable.
They had what they called the BOB tick sheet, which we had to complete for every single customer. Did we greet within five feet of the door? Offer a seat? Show what they asked for, plus the range in the next price bracket? Sell them insurance? Take their contact details and anniversary dates?
‘It was hard pressure sales and I really hated it.
‘But they offered terrific diamond training, so I decided to suck up the misery to get my qualifications, and as soon as I could, I left. It was most definitely what we now call a toxic workplace.
I’d had my fill of retail, so I moved into the manufacturing side of the business – and found that I loved it.
‘We manufactured the jewellery that was stocked by retail outlets like John Lewis. I learned every aspect of the wholesale trade, and eventually I was designing my own ranges, overseeing their development within manufacturing and then taking them out on to the high street.
‘A few years ago I made the move to the West Country and decided to start Honour Jewellery. I wanted to take all the elements I loved about what I did, and to hire people to do the bits I didn’t!
Richard is my business partner and Sam works with me on face-to-face design appointments. I have two goldsmiths, a stone setter and an engraver.
‘We started with a small studio in Mere – it worked well, but wasn’t really big enough, so after COVID we moved to our current design studio at the Wincombe Centre in Shaftesbury.
‘And it’s funny – I still see elements of that old BOB sheet! My clients are appointment-only now – no more standing around mindlessly polishing! But they always get offered a seat and a cup of tea… We only do bespoke or personalised pieces, so we’re either designing something from scratch, or taking something from one of our ranges and adjusting it to make it more personal.
‘I particularly enjoy the unique work, where we might take a client’s own sentimental metal and gemstones and make a new piece out of them. ‘That’s the most interesting and also often the most technical work, if we’re combining different metals, for example.

Honour Jewellery

Be consistent
‘The biggest thing I think I have learned is to treat every single customer in the same way. Every single one. We find people will often come in with a small job first; can we just fix a little silver brooch for them? Next time they come in, they might be there for a platinum and diamond ring.
‘Or they might just tell all their friends and family about the brilliant place they went to where the people were so lovely – and that sort of word of mouth referral is absolutely priceless. Never ever let them walk out feeling undervalued.
‘One client was a funeral director. She had a ring which had a strong emotional significance for her, but the setting was quite tall, and whenever she carried a coffin, it dug very painfully into her finger.
‘The ring I designed sat low and flat against her hand, she loved it. She not only became a long-standing client but also a useful business associate too.
‘The other absolutely vital thing is consistency. Whatever you do to find your customers, whether that’s a poster in the corner shop or big glossy ads, you have to keep on doing it. People need to feel assured that you’re real, and not going to vanish next month. I have relied a lot on social media, because I could easily control it and it’s very cheap for a start-up. But I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said ‘I have been following you on Facebook for a couple of years, and I’ve finally managed to come and get something done.’
‘If I’d stopped using social media, I would probably have lost those clients.
‘And on a purely practical note, don’t spend all your money! Keep some cash in reserve – you still need to pay the bills during the quiet periods, and there are always quiet periods.
‘Actually, holding your nerve and just plodding through the mud in the bad times is a key resilience skill you need to run a business.

Love it or loathe it?
‘I love the flexible lifestyle running my own business allows me. Sitting at a desk 8.30 to 5.30 bores me rigid. Now I can choose balance – I can finish early, spend time with my kids, but then also work late into the night once they’re in bed. I’m not answerable to anyone.
‘I simply don’t do well in a controlled environment, having to justify every minute. I do the same for my team – I give them space, and trust them to do their job. They have free rein on when and how they work; I always try to hire the right people, then treat them well.
‘I do loathe the admin side though. I am not a fan of jobs I must do that ensure the business runs smoothly. In an ideal world, I’d just talk to the customers, do the design work, oversee production … and someone else can deal with all the rest!
‘But at the end of the day, all the dull admin jobs in the world don’t outweigh the benefits of having ultimate control over the business and its direction.
‘That freedom is priceless.’

https://honourjewellery.co.uk/

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