17 December 2020|Business Growth, Latest Posts, Launching a business
By Connie Nam. In 2012, I left my career in investment banking in Hong Kong and fulfilled a long-held ambition to run my own company. I had developed an interest in the tech start-ups I worked with during my career and picked up a lot of the language that was used and how they approached business. I spent a while thinking about which industry to choose and settled on jewellery, inspired by a store in my native South Korea. I believed there was a niche in the market for high-end, affordable jewellery and had always been interested in the fashion and beauty space.
My vision was to create beautiful jewellery and always stay in tune with what the brand’s customers wanted. Part of the vision was to have a strong online offering and build a loyal community, which we have done. Our online following has stayed with us through the pandemic and we adjusted our approach to stay relevant. Rather than send out sales focused marketing communications, we focused on making people feel good and happy with upbeat newsletters to people positive during a difficult time.
In normal times, our customers love getting pierced and tattooed in our stores, which we introduced in 2018 and 2019 respectively. With our stores being closed this year, we added online stylist appointments to our website so that people could continue to get that one-on-one dialogue they enjoyed so much in store, until such time as piercing was able to restart.
In the last three years, turnover increased by 1000% to £10m and the introduction of piercing and tattooing has gone down well with customers with a 350% uplift in turnover in 2019. As much as the products, Astrid & Miyu is about customer service and we have a careful recruitment and training process to ensure all staff make customers feel welcome – whether online or in person.
I believe in inspiring through leadership and I have a firm ethos of never asking somebody else to do something that I either couldn’t or wouldn’t do myself. Asking people for their own ideas and thoughts on projects and issues makes the business inclusive and encourages people to think for themselves, which makes them to feel part of the decisions made with successes celebrated by every member of team. We also ensure we are diverse and inclusive, both in our workforce and in our marketing materials.
Another key pillar of the business is – of course – the products. Every member of the team is passionate about the jewellery and helps us consistently innovate and launch beautiful new collections, as well keeping the team engaged – we are all the brand’s target audience. We are lucky to have attracted a celebrity following with plenty of famous ears getting pierced at our salons, whom we document on our website and social channels. A handful of names include Ella Woodward of Deliciously Ella, This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby and Tiffany Watson of Made in Chelsea – and Sam Thompson from the same!
The pandemic caused a halt on our plans for new stores this year but – restrictions permitting – we have plans for more sites nationally and internally next year. As well as a few more UK stores in towns including Brighton, Manchester and Edinburgh, I want to build on our following in the US, following several pop-ups we did last year. They were popular, taking over $10,000 a day, and we are keen to establish a permanent base there.
The last eight years have been fantastic, and not without challenges. I went through two corporate fundraising processes while pregnant and faced some difficulties with investors reluctant to buy into the business in case I didn’t come back after motherhood. It was also very lonely at times, but I now have a fantastic team and support network and we have just achieved ninth place in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list of growing business.
I have learned a lot along the way and am passionate about helping other people who are just starting out. This year, I have launched and headed up two business accelerator programmes to use my experience and help budding entrepreneurs scale their small businesses.
About the Author:
Astrid & Miyu is a contemporary jewellery brand, founded by entrepreneur Connie Nam. In 2012, Connie left a career in investment banking to set up a challenger online jewellery brand from her kitchen table. Connie’s goal was to revolutionise how people shop for jewellery by creating fashion-forward products that were well branded. In the last three years, Astrid & Miyu has added in-store piercing and tattooing and achieved 1000% growth to £10m turnover with four stores, two concessions and around 80 staff. The brand has just been placed ninth in the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 list, won the Athena award for inspirational woman leaders in the 2020 NatWest everywoman Awards and been highly commended in the 2020 Barclays Entrepreneur Awards in the Scale-Up Entrepreneur category.
LinkedIn: Astrid & Miyu