Balancing a baby on one hip while trying to sift through tiny gemstones, create intricate designs and meet with clients hoping for a luxurious experience. This might seem an impossible challenge, but there are many women out there successfully juggling young children and running a jewellery business.
Far from being an obstacle to launching or furthering one’s entrepreneurial career in jewellery, motherhood can in fact be a positive instigator; a source of creativity and support. At The Jewellery Cut Live in February 2019, journalist Siobhan Lismore-Scott, a mother of two young children herself, speaks with three jewellery designers, each with their own company and a child under six, to understand how they make it all work.
As if to set the tone, Lismore-Scott conducts her live interviews, in front of an exclusive The Jewellery Cut Live audience, with her own baby Ivan wriggling on her lap. The first point to be raised is that while each of the jewellers had to adjust their ways of working, the experience of being a mum has positively influenced their designs, their way of doing business, and how they conduct their lives.
A push of an entirely different kind
For Alice van Cal, who launched her eponymous fine jewellery brand soon after giving birth, having her son was the push she needed to start her company. She’d designed for years and had noticed a gap in the market for transformable fine jewellery, but it was becoming a mother that gave her the courage to launch her brand, despite having to juggle the demands of a newborn.
Van Cal found that her work was a necessary outlet for her creativity amidst her parental duties. The varied emotions from having a child are reflected in the use of a spectrum of gem colours in her Rainbow collection. The soft pink, blue and yellow gemstones in her colour-blocked designs hint at ‘baby’ in stackable bangles and cluster pendants, but the look is soft not cutesy.
All Alice van Cal jewellery is suitable for new mums to wear, thanks to practical considerations also echoed by Roxanne Rajcoomar-Hadden jewellery. A fellow speaker on the panel, Rajcoomar-Hadden is a diamond expert known for her jewels inspired by the culinary world, and for her work redesigning heirloom pieces. Since becoming a mother, Rajcoomar-Hadden’s designs have naturally evolved – becoming more durable and easily wearable, with fewer long chains – as her own priorities have changed.
As perceptions change, so do jewels
Roxanne Rajcoomar-Hadden jewels are often rooted in precious lived experiences, a stylistic direction formed from the desire to hold on to the memories of motherhood. As she puts it: “Lots of the jewellery that I make is all about sentiment and keeping memories alive.”
For Kelly Seymour, Instagram queen and founder of jewellery brand Cult of Youth, building the business she founded before the birth of her son has been a way to assert her identity beyond being a mother. It has helped her to incorporate various aspects of her life and personal aesthetic into her artistic output.
For Seymour, her work has helped her to feel distinctly herself while being immersed in caring for her young son Elvis. Yet it is undoubtedly also a celebration of motherhood, with standout designs including a chain with the word ‘MAMA’ spelled out, available with or without bookending skulls to offer a rock ‘n’ roll edge.
Be a mother in your own way
The unexpectedness of combining the skull imagery with the maternal moniker encapsulates a message conveyed by each of these jeweller-mothers: do motherhood and business your own way, and reject any guilt that might come from this approach. If, for example, baby stimulation classes require signing up far in advance and an unrealistic time commitment, do your own version at home. Van Cal plays music and does homemade light shows for her infant son, taking him around the house with her so that he is stimulated by the different environments. Lismore-Scott has adventures with her son in her wardrobe, wherein he delights in the fake fur and sequins.
Another tactic to make life easier is allowing extra time for orders to be completed, agreed upon by all as a wise move in the face of parental issues and supplier hiccups. When giving a client an estimated date of completion for a custom project, Rajcoomar-Hadden adds about three weeks on to what she thinks it will take, and usually the piece ends up finished “right on time”.
Schedule in your down time
Equally important as factoring in extra working time is allowing for individual downtime. “You need to have [personal] time, otherwise you burn out,” says Seymour, emphasising the importance of taking the time to make pieces she wants to create – rather than only filling orders – and going out to the occasional gig.
For van Cal, after an intense period of breastfeeding her newborn then going full-steam with her business, she reached her limit and needed a brief getaway from both, so she took it. “I needed it for me, so it’s good for him,” she says. Rajcoomar-Hadden has scheduled ‘Rox busy’ on Sunday mornings indefinitely in the electronic calendar she shares with her husband. This is time for her to recharge and centre herself by going for coffee, taking a ride on the tube or hitting the gym.
Despite the regular need to recuperate, motherhood for these jewellery entrepreneurs has been a source of unexpected energy and clarity. “It’s like adrenaline, it just keeps you going,” says van Cal. “You can do more in a day [than you could before].”
Allow yourself, and your business, to be flexible
The scarcity of excess time has prompted the women to focus and streamline their operations. They constantly look for ways to “take the pressure off,” and set boundaries, resulting both in greater productivity, and more meaningful engagement as a mum. From being wary of over-committing, avoiding overly complex jobs, managing self-expectations, and adjusting their WhatsApp settings – you can remove the blue tick function, so nobody knows what you’ve read or not, they advise – they find no shame in scaling their work and personal lives so that each works with the other.
They also rejoice in the understanding and support of fellow mums – particularly their clients. Other women who have had kids appreciate the demands they face, so have thankfully been understanding when things have come up when finishing an order. “It’s a special club that we’re in,” says Rajcoomer-Hadden gratefully. “You do feel a lot more patience from other mums.”
New friendships have arisen, often unexpected in their source and intensity, since the four have given birth. New friends have popped up from Instagram, with bonding over shared experiences and pics, and they have established closeness quickly with other new mothers. “I never thought I would call someone a good friend after only a few months,” says van Cal, but now, like the others, she feels closely attached to her new mum friends, who are an important source of comfort and camaraderie.
Embrace the Insta-mum community
Social media can be a help and a hindrance, and the pressure to create professional content for one’s business account can feel like a burdensome nag with a baby afoot. Yet by melding the personal and the professional, they have often struck a balance that enriches both their business and social spheres. Seymour, on her Cult of Youth Instagram account, regularly posts photos of her work and her home life, and stories that detail the everyday realities of a jeweller-mum. Her honesty (“Sometimes we run out of pants!”), easy manner, and stylish handmade jewellery have endeared her to her 27,000 followers. She’s cool and real, and watching her stories makes one want to buy into her vibe, easily accomplished by ordering a jewel or two.
In addition to helping her covetable pieces land in the hands of fans, Instagram, Seymour says, has led her to meet friends and feel less isolated, a sentiment echoed by Lismore-Scott. They both love the stories function on Instagram, with which they can post non-permanent photos of their children, sharing their motherhood worlds when they feel like it, without the children’s images being etched for good on a public page.
Tips for being a mum and a successful businesswoman
In addition to making social media your friend, bucking the guilt trap, and doing things your own way, what more advice do the ladies have for other jewellery mumpreneurs? They are swift with their responses. Ask for help, be honest and realistic with yourself and your clients and suppliers, and flesh out a community for yourself so you can get the support you need. Focus on getting one thing done at a time, and learn to see shortcuts as strategies, not shortfalls, a talent that seems to come with the territory. Lismore-Scott notes that with self-employment and motherhood “you start to recognise what’s going to make life easier for yourself”.
Above all, if running a jewellery business is your dream, whether you’re a mum or a mum-to-be, as van Cal says: “Just do it.” As these women have proven, the trail has been blazed, and inspiration is just an Instagram click away.
Want to be in the room next time? Sign up for one of our talks at The Jewellery Cut Live on September 15th & 16th, 2019. Full schedule here. You can also meet Alice van Cal at this season’s show, as she will be one of 27 designers showcasing their jewels at the event.