Business boom for Birmingham-based entrepreneur’s gothic designs as couples faced ‘make or break’ amid pandemic. Business Live’s Tamlyn Jones interviews a Jewellery Quarter based jeweller.
From a small workshop in a quiet Birmingham street, a young entrepreneur is cutting a path in the global jewellery market, boosted by a lockdown love in and fascination with her macabre gothic designs.
Jo Herriotts launched her company Hellcat in 2014 but has found herself so busy since the pandemic started that she has been able to take on her own dedicated workshop in the Jewellery Quarter and hire some help.
She says she has seen a huge spike in couples requesting her gothic engagement and wedding rings as couples underwent “make or break” domestic arrangements following the onset of en masse home working.
The 32 year old is now looking to the future and hoping to win more bespoke commissions for her rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets as well as open her own shop one day.
She told BusinessLive: “I think lockdown has been make or break for a lot of relationships. Because it has been such a pressure cooker, people have realised that either this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with or it’s time to split.
“Many people have also had more disposable income because of the lockdown so they have thought now is the time to get their rings and start planning for a wedding.
“The pandemic has not affected me negatively but I know other jewellers who don’t have the same online presence as I do have suffered.
“In the first month, it wasn’t looking good when everyone locked down but once everything settled down it went from strength to strength.
“At that time, I was sharing a unit elsewhere in the Jewellery Quarter so we had to go in on separate days because of social distancing.
“The orders were growing to a point that I had to move premises because I had to be in every single day. Income is never guaranteed but I looked at the company finances and knew I could afford the move.”
Ms Herriotts is a heavy metal music fan which inspires her designs of gothic pieces, encompassing skulls, crosses and gemstones alongside memorial jewellery encasing the ashes or hair of lost loved ones.
A self-confessed geek who learned how to build websites as a teenager, she is dyslexic so was attracted to the national diploma course at the Birmingham School of Jewellery because of its heavy focus on practical learning rather than written coursework.
After graduating, she attended a programme called Design Space which taught her the skills needed to open her own business.
She took the plunge seven years ago and launched Hellcat but still had to fill her days working bar jobs in the evening to make ends meet as she built up the company although this meant she never took on external finance to run the business.
“I look back to when I launched the business and feel now that it was quite an undertaking but I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” she said.
“I had grown up with a supportive mother who had always said to me that I could do anything I wanted and she would believe in me. From a young age, I always knew that I would never work for anyone else and would be self-employed.
“I didn’t know how nor what I would be doing but I knew the idea of having a boss was something I couldn’t even fathom.
“I was creative from a really young age and was also surrounded by strong creative women in both my mother and grandmother and had always enjoyed design and technology at school.”
Ms Herriotts is involved in all aspects of the work, including designing and making the jewellery, as well as photographing it for her website and social media channels.
It is sold through the company’s website and online retail portal Etsy and she receives orders from the UK and all over the world.
She said her long-term hope was to secure more bespoke one-off commissions, an aspect of the job she particularly enjoys, do more collaborations with other small businesses and maybe even open her own shop one day.
“There aren’t many other jewellers in the UK doing this style, it’s fairly unique,” she concluded.
“My attitude is ‘Imagine every piece is for yourself’ and so I always want to make the best possible piece for everyone.
“It has been reassuring to know that I am doing something people like. Because I’m quite niche, I worry whether people will accept me and my designs. I feel if a business can survive a pandemic and come out fighting then it can withstand anything.”