Emily of emilygrayjewels has always been a visual person. With quite a colorful business background ranging in law, art history, engineering, investment banking, interior design, and self-employment via setting up a clinical aromatherapy business, Emily had the drive and business know-how to begin her own jewelry venture full time. After a lot of time, energy and initial investing, she’s successfully turned her Etsy shop into a profitable business. Emily affirms working for herself is incredibly empowering, joyful and motivating. Keep reading to find out what makes Emily so successful and why she claims her customers are the equivalent to gold dust.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I think that my creativity began when I was very young. Most of my earliest childhood memories have a very strong color-base to them. I have a real memory of my first birthday, sitting on my parent’s settee and watching light pour through colored balloons. I used to paint a rainbow in every single painting I did as a child and I was completely obsessed with my box of 64 Crayola crayons and knew each one by name. I think that all the ways that my creativity has expressed itself over the years (textiles, interior design, photography, jewelry) has been based on my love for color and the feelings colors express. I have always made things and have always been a very visual person. Creating professionally has been a real blessing, but it’s been a long, strange and often very bumpy journey getting here, that’s for sure!
Tell us about your previous working situation.
Where do I start?! Coming from parents who were a doctor and dentist, coupled with my academic nature, I felt a huge push from everyone to do something “high brow” and important (the usual choices — law, medicine). I was lucky that I found the formal subjects at school easy and, if I’m honest, I never really had to work to get the top grades. The only subject I gave my all to was art and I had an incredibly inspiring teacher who got me to specialize in textiles. I see now how this impassioned me even more toward color, working with my hands and composing works of art. I loved getting lost in a bubble of color, creativity and mess in that art room! I would often completely forget the time. Anyway, this is where my heart was, but I knew that other things were expected of me, so I went off to university to study law. Such a mistake. As much respect as I have for the legal profession, it was SO NOT ME! I did another honors degree, luckily managing to stay at the same university. The History of Art was a happy medium between academia and my true passion.
After graduating I spent a long time not really knowing what I was doing and having an underlying feeling of unhappiness and wrongness. I worked for an engineering company, a U.S.-based investment bank, an interior design company and then ventured into the world of self-employment, which was a very interesting and clever step!
My first ventures weren’t exactly “normal” — making and decorating random pieces of furniture, selling “art” at jazz festivals, selling panini from my sister Olivia’s bright pink double-decker bus at music concerts — but they did provide freedom. There was no boss, no getting up at 6 a.m. to catch the tube, and no office politics. It was silly and fun and just what I needed!
After setting up a clinical aromatherapy business and running it happily for a number of years, I suddenly realized I was feeling something that I hadn’t really felt since childhood: happiness, contentment, balance and confidence. All those years of trying to fit into a work ethic that was not made for creatives had taken its toll on me and had left a grey version of myself. Now my color was back. I felt a rosy glow in my cheeks and my days were filled with all the things I loved so much. It was like being reunited with my real self, and as soon as I recognized this I knew I could go the whole way and really follow my heart and my dreams. Admittedly, my personal life was great too at this point, having met and married David, so all became good and happy at last!
Jewelry is the perfect medium for my creativity: it incorporates color, beautiful gemstones, texture and utter gorgeousness, and this, coupled with the business experience I’d gained during my “wilderness years,” was a dream combination for beginning down my truly creative pathway.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
No, not really. I still ran my aromatherapy business, which I loved. I adored the consultations with my patients, the treatments themselves and the tactile nature of the work. I carried on the business until I was eight months pregnant and I haven’t done aromatherapy since the day I left to go on maternity leave. After having Roseanna I realized that it wasn’t practical to carry on the business. I simply couldn’t leave her for hours on end. It was then that I threw myself into motherhood and creating jewelry as my more than full-time work. I had been making jewelry for a few years and it was really taking off, so the timing was perfect. So, it wasn’t really a decision at all — just the logical thing to do.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Absolutely not! This is not necessarily something I would recommend. I tend to be an
“ad-hoc” type of person anyway and just get myself into situations and worry about the details afterward. Creating my jewelry business was a very organic, natural venture: I certainly had no business plan, just the utter passion for what I was doing, the financial and emotional need to make a success of myself and the knowledge that I just had to create, create, create in order to be truly happy.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
I think that you have to reinvest virtually every penny that you make for quite a long time. It used to be very hard for David to see me working so intensely, sometimes 18 hours a day, and not being in a position to take any profit. I’m very instinctive and just knew it was what had to be done. It was a very lean period, but those hard times left me in a great position. The hours really paid off: I had built a huge gemstone collection, had bought the best tools and had gathered a large, loyal customer base.
As far as marketing tips go, you are your own greatest asset. If you have super products, fabulous customer service and treat your customers like gold dust (as this is exactly what they are), success is sure to follow.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion? Have you made any business mistakes you regret?
I learned from previous business ventures that certain marketing strategies are a big waste of money and time. Marketing needs to be sensibly targeted. Invest your hard-earned money where your customers and like-minded people already are. If you’re selling on Etsy then market yourself on Etsy! It’s a no-brainer, really.
Walk us through your typical workday.
On the days that Roseanna goes to Nursery, my day goes something like this:
- 6.30: Get up and make drinks for everyone.
- 7.00: Say goodbye to David, get Roseanna and myself washed, dressed and breakfasted. Check emails, prepare Roseanna’s lunch, feed Percy (the cat), laundry, general tidying.
- 9.15: Take Roseanna to nursery, chat with other mums and make arrangements to meet up during the week.
- 10.00: Home. I make tea (Earl Grey, of course) and check emails and my Etsy shop. I write a to-do list for the day and put radio on, tidy my work desk, work on custom orders and any current design projects.
- 12.30: Lunch – usually something quick and easy like hummus and toast or a banana and more tea (it keeps me going…).
- 2.00: Post office, food shopping and collect Roseanna.
- 3.00: Home. Play with Roseanna, read to her, do housework, tidy the garden.
- 5.30: Tea time
- 6.45: David returns home. Roseanna’s bath and bedtime.
- 7.30: Begin work again. Check Etsy shop, emails, and Facebook. I place any orders of gemstones and metals that I may need. I make tea and maybe catch up with a favorite TV show on my laptop whilst working. David sits with me and we chat about the day and our plans for the house, etc. Work, work, work…
- 12.00: Bed. Read an interiors magazine for a short while, make any notes I need to or do any sketches of designs that I need to remember for the next day.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
Not being employed by someone is something that makes me feel incredibly blessed. I’ve had bosses — good and bad — but working for yourself is incredibly empowering, joyful and motivating. The more you put in, the more you get out. I love the fact that, at Emily Gray Jewels, I’m the creative director, tea girl, the photographer, the artist, the marketing department, the accounts department and the PR department, too! I miss nothing at all about employment.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Switching off. I work as much as I can but never to the detriment of Roseanna. I think David feels neglected on occasions, but he is extremely supportive of me. I’m more than happy when he gives me a gentle nudge and suggests we take some time out for us. I’m definitely a workaholic, but when you’re self-employed, you really have to be.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
Gosh! I’m not really one for looking backwards!
- The only advice I would give someone else wishing to be their own boss is to make their product as special and unique as they can.
- Find a niche.
- Brand yourself with a logo (something I wish I’d done from day one).
- If you have a weak spot (photography, graphics, etc.) it’s better to pay someone else to do it for you, rather than struggle with it yourself. It won’t do your work justice.
- And always, always strive to be the very best at what you do.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I’d really love to keep my existing customers coming back to me time and time again, as I genuinely adore them. Many of them are friends now and I get so much pleasure from hearing about their lives. I’d also love to gain new customers, try and get more pieces of jewelry in my shop at any given time and just keep making every little aspect of my work better and better.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’ve made so many great friends here on Etsy, colleagues and customers alike. I’ve met so many exceptional women through the jewelry community: highly intelligent, educated, amusing, creative and brilliant people who run their own businesses from home. I feel we’re part of the zeitgeist, a modern workforce, doing it for ourselves. It’s fabulous!
Thanks to Emily for sharing her story. You can see some of Emily‘s beautiful work in the Related Items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.