30 April 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Founder of Olivia & Pearl, Olivia Smith, says the brand was born out of her continued love for pearl jewellery, and is on a quest to reinvent an icon. She makes accessible luxury pearl jewellery for modern women which are stylish, ethically sourced and designed for a new generation of pearl lovers. From ‘Keshi’ to ‘Aphrodite’, each collection takes a modern twist on pearl jewellery.
Breaking into an industry where sustainability is paramount to a brand’s success and longevity, above anything else founder Smith wants to build a business that does what is right, not what is easy. Working only with freshwater pearls, these are never taken from ocean beds, meaning no disruption to the earth’s biodiversity. High-quality pearls require an unspoiled marine environment to thrive within, hence Smith’s aspiration to make strides in protecting and sustaining the local ecosystems (pearl farms) that produce the pearls.
“The sustainable sourcing of pearls is key to the Olivia & Pearl business model. As the business grows, we’re seeking to enhance marine conservation efforts and give back to the sea and waterways that have given us so much.”
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’m the Founder and Creative Director of Olivia & Pearl, which is a British luxury jewellery brand offering affordable, sustainably sourced pearl jewellery designed for a new generation of pearl lovers.
I’m originally from Manchester but now live in London with my husband James, and little dog Monty the Patterpoo.
I’ve had quite a varied work life before launching Olivia & Pearl. I started my career in advertising, marketing luxury brands such as Heidi Klein, Harvey Nichols and Volkswagen. Moving to New York in 2003 I studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, working as an actor for 10 years before returning to London to head up New Business Development for a number of Advertising Agencies.
I always knew I was going to set up my own company. I grew up surrounded by a family of entrepreneurs and can remember washing cars and running coffee stands as tiny little businesses when I was younger.
I spent years coming up with all sorts of different business ideas, but always knew I wanted to sell a product, something tangible and something that I was passionate about.
Olivia & Pearl is a manifestation of everything I’ve done, learnt and failed at.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
My love affair with pearls started when I was a little girl, my Dad would travel to Asia and India on business and he would often return with pearls as a gift for me which I collected. I was just fascinated by them, how they were created naturally in a shell, and their individual beauty.
Having worked as an actor for 10 years and then in marketing and advertising, I decided I wanted to have control of my destiny and autonomy over my career. Whilst researching business ideas I kept coming back to pearls, looking at the market I noticed I couldn’t find affordable contemporary pearl jewellery designed with the modern woman in mind. When I finally made the leap to start up my own business, I decided to turn my love for pearls into a brand. My aim is to create the go to contemporary pearl jewellery brand in the world.
How did you achieve awareness?
I quite literally took the show on the road. We launched in 2017 and the first year was spent touring the country doing pop-ups and events whilst building our online community and direct to consumer sales. This gave me the opportunity to test my product in front of customers face to face, hone my pitch and really understand who my customer was. It was hard work but I learnt so much and built up a loyal and strong customer base who still return year on year to buy Olivia & Pearl.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Initially I took out a government backed start-up business loan, which is a great way to start any business. They guided me through the process of developing a business plan to secure the initial loan. Subsequently we have pitched for and secured investment from a range of private and public VC funds.
What are the key successes?
Success for me is getting positive feedback from customers. It is so rewarding and validating when someone tells us how much they love their Olivia & Pearl pieces. Our first sale at Mayfair Xmas pop up was a huge moment, it takes so much just to get to that stage that making your first sale is a big success in itself.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
COVID-19 has thrown up a lot of challenges. Consumer demand and confidence has been unpredictable and we have lost a lot of our in-person sales opportunities. But with every setback comes an opportunity, and 2020 gave us time to focus on our direct to consumer strategy and marketing, taking stock of the business and re engaging my vision for Olivia & Pearl.
What are your plans now/for the future?
The sourcing, quality, craftmanship, design and strong values around sustainability and the environment are at the heart of our plans for the future.
This spring we’re excited to launch our community and content hub, a new collection which celebrates the individuality of the pearl, along with an announcement on the launch of our new marine conservation partnership.
Commercially we are focusing on the implementation of new technology whilst exploring new channels in the UK and USA.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Taking that leap to turn my passion into a business has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience of my life. It is the road less travelled, a bumpy path filled with success and lots of pot holes of failure. But through the lows and high’s, I’ve learnt so much and feel that in challenging myself I have grown and developed into a better, more rounded person.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Know your customer, know your competition and write a business plan.
Be adaptable and agile, things will change and not go to plan but that’s OK.
Always trust your gut instinct, which is actually a very difficult thing to do. As you grow your business you have to collaborate and partner with experts from different areas of the business world. It’s incredibly important to be open to new and different ideas on your business and strategy, but be careful with people taking over your vision or talking you into something that you’re not comfortable with. Take your time making big decisions, if you have that niggly feeling that it’s not right, trust your gut and go with what feels good.
Take a break, rest, read and walk – more often than not your most creative and innovative ideas will come when you’re idle and relaxed.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
This is difficult, but today I am inspired by
Good friend and fellow actor Mekenna Melvin. Her dedication, discipline and creative hustle inspires me always.
Phil Knight the founder of Nike. I read his autobiography Shoe Dog on holiday recently and found him to be very down to earth, human and relatable. I appreciate his approach to life and business and think he’d be a good person to enjoy a beer with.
Sophie Cornish, Founder of NOTHS. She’s brilliant, really understands the struggle in growing a fast growth business and someone who made me feel comfortable and encouraged me to talk about the difficult parts of being an entrepreneur.
Jimmy Iovine, for his creativity, pure drive and the music.
Susan Sarandon, I grew up watching her films and through the characters she played learnt how to be a strong woman.
What is your favourite inspirational /motivational quote?
If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun. Katharine Hepburn
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?