The latest interview in our spring interview series is with Emma from the File and Forge Jewellery School in Hatfield Heath. Our thanks go to Emma for taking the time to take part in our interviews and for sharing her story and advice for other mums thinking of starting their own business.
Tell us a little bit about you and your business. When did you start and what made you decide to start your own business?
I graduated from University with a BA Hons in Jewellery in 2005. I began by running my own jewellery business, where I make my own collections inspired by Victorian crafts and folk art, I also undertake commissions and repairs.
The jewellery school was set up last summer, after I completed my City and Guilds in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong sector (adult education) . The school is co-owned by myself and my colleague Sally Andrews.
Having my first child gave life a different perspective, teaching for me, is a great way to work around family life. Many of our classes are in the evenings and at weekends. Allowing me to spend time with my family but also giving me the drive to push the jewellery school.
File and Forge jewellery school is located in a beautiful rural area, on the Hertfordshire/Essex border. We run classes for beginners through to advanced students. Our groups are small, with a maximum of 6 students, so ensuring everyone receives plenty of support and guidance.
We also run ‘Make your own wedding ring’ workshops, cocktail ring crafty hen parties, teenager wire work classes and precious metal clay finger print classes.
Where are you based?
File and Forge is located in Hatfield Heath on The Hertfordshire/Essex border near to Bishops Stortford. With great links to the M11 and trains from Cambridge to Liverpool Street.
What did you do before starting your business?
I also make my own range of jewellery which I sell through galleries and retail outlets. I also exhibit at craft shows around the UK and online.
Have you always been interested in designing and making jewellery?
I have always been interested in craft and Design, especially whilst at secondary school. After leaving school I went onto study 3Dimensional design, concentrating on Jewellery. After graduating with a BA Hons in Jewellery , I freelanced for another jeweller whilst setting up my business.
How did you feel when you had just launched your business?
Nervous, as any new venture can take a while to establish itself. Finding the right location was paramount and having the right workshop.
What were the main challenges or most important things to learn when you first started?
Working as a partnership and using each other’s strengths was very important as well as working well together. As this was a new venture for both of us. Spreading the word and marketing the business is probably the toughest part and continues to be an area that we are always pushing.
How did friends and family react when you first told them you wanted to start your own business? Did you get lots of support?
As I already had started my jewellery business, the school was not too much of a shock. However balancing life and work was a concern for family members.
Once you had started how long did it take for you to feel that it was an established business? Or if you’re still building your business at what point or milestone will you feel like you’ve established a successful business?
As the jewellery school is less than a year, it’s doing well we are getting more interest every day and being recommended which is great. I would feel that when we are filling classes to the maximum and having to add additional classes then it will achieved our aim and hope to grow even more.
What was the first course that you ran? How did you feel?
The first course I ran was a beginners class, I was nervous but the students said they really enjoyed it and we were recommended from that class which is a great confidence boost.
What courses do you run? Which is your favourite or most popular?
I run several courses. The one day beginners course is very popular with people who have never made jewellery as well as people who have some skills. I also run the 6 week beginners course. My colleague runs the advanced and technique classes which are also popular with some of our students who have been on several other courses.
I don’t think I’ve seen an opportunity to ‘make your own wedding ring’ before, how popular are these sessions?
‘Make your own wedding rings’ is a new workshop to File and Forge, it has had lots of interest and we have had our first booking. It’s a great way for a couple to create memories and their very own rings, we will take photos of them throughout the day, supply a glass of bubbly. We only allow one couple per day to make it their very own special day.
Are your courses suitable for complete beginners? What could they expect from one of your sessions?
Our workshops and classes are aimed at all levels, we run one day workshops for beginners who have never made anything. They will be able to make a copper ring, silver ring and silver pendant by the end of the day. If they feel they would like to take it further and learn more skills we run 6 week courses for beginners to advanced.
What are the best things about running your own business?
The best thing about running your own business is that you can balance it around family life and everything you achieve is down to you. Being driven is very important.
What are the worst?
The worst thing about running your own business is that you can never switch off.
Is there anything you wished you’d known before you started?
I find promoting myself one of the hardest parts, I would of liked to of gone on a workshop to help with the social networking side of things, also contacting local press can be daunting. I don’t think i was quite prepared for that side of the business as I am having to teach myself and ask my peers for advice.
What do you feel has been your greatest achievement so far?
I think the greatest achievement for File and Forge was getting the workshop and setting up the actual space as the unit needed quite a lot of work doing to it. We are really pleased with the outcome.
If you weren’t running your own business what do you think you would be doing?
That’s a hard question to answer, I really do not know, possibly something else creative. Maybe working for another jeweller or designer. I couldn’t imagine not having my own business.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I really enjoy days out either in the countryside or by the seaside with my family, walking and visiting interesting historical places is also something I like to do. I love being outside in the fresh air and seeing our beautiful country.
What advice would you give to other mums thinking about starting up their own business?
Be prepared to work late into the nights and do as much networking as you can because as I’ve found it’s not always what know it’s who you know and don’t let other people put you off.
What plans do you have for your business in the future?
With regards to my own jewellery business I hope to get my online shop up and running before the summer. I also want to develop my new collection inspired by the Spirograph. Regarding File and Forge we hope to build the business and increase the attendance on all of our workshops and courses.
Where can we find out more about File and Forge Jewellery School?
We have a website for File and Forge Jewellery school where classes can be booked.
Click to see more Interviews on morethanmummies.com
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