I promised myself I would try to avoid all autumnal punnery but hey, having resigned myself to the fact that there’s going to be at least one, I should probably get it out of the way early on. Ok, I’ll leaf it there.
I always love hearing about new independent businesses so I was thrilled when a friend told me about Lief. Lief is an independent jewellery company specialising in ethically sourced, crystal jewellery with a wonderfully natural, earthy feel. After having a look at Lief’s website I was keen to learn more so I sat down for a chat with jewellery maker and business founder, Charlie.
1) How did you start your business?
I started Lief in my second year of university. I’d always made jewellery and collected crystals so I can’t remember thinking, ‘I want to do this’, it just happened. It was a time in my life when I needed an outlet and it felt like the right thing to do, so I started researching and learning.
It often feels more like pursuing an interest rather than running a business and it brings focus to my life. Just over a year ago I sold some things so I’d have the money to order supplies. A year on, I’ve learnt so much and I’ve got the comfort of having Lief here when I graduate, just in case employment doesn’t come straight away, but even if it does I’ll always keep going with Lief.
2) What materials do you use to make the jewellery, and why?
Apart from crystals, I use a range of materials including sterling silver, filled gold and suedette (a vegan alternative to suede). I’ve recently started to upcycle too, either by using parts of old jewellery or just making interesting things I’ve found into something to wear.
When it comes to crystals I tend to use amethyst most, I’m not sure why, I’m just drawn to it. It brings patience, peace and balance. I also use a lot of agate because it comes in so many colours. I understand not everyone believes crystals have healing powers but it’s easy to agree that through an amazing process the Earth makes these wonderful stones.
Overall what is most important to me when selecting materials is that they’re ethically sourced. I ask my suppliers a lot of questions because I never want to contribute to something that is linked with exploitation or damaging to the planet. It’s harder than you think but absolutely vital.
3) Tell me about some of the positive experiences you’ve had and why they’re important to your business.
It’s always lovely when friends and family support me. People have shown their support in so many ways and it means so much, whether it’s through buying the jewellery for themselves or as presents for other people, modelling the jewellery for photographs, sharing things on social media or just spreading the word about my business.
It’s great doing market stalls too. I’ve met so many interesting, engaging people who also have independent businesses or just come to talk because they like the jewellery. Having an independent business is an enormous learning curve and to see things progress is very encouraging. Progress often feels like a breakthrough then a plateau for a little while, then this pattern repeats and each time it brings more experience, knowledge and ideas.
4) What do you think your local council could do to help independent businesses?
If it wasn’t for the internet many independent businesses wouldn’t exist. To have a physical shop is out the question for many and I think that’s down to issues such as high business rates, property rental prices and so on. It’s a little frustrating to see small businesses being overshadowed by chains but it’s inspiring to see the people who’ve managed to create and sustain a business that can manage these outgoings.
There are many schemes available through councils but unfortunately they can’t really be applied to my business. Personally the ones that I find most useful and suitable are crowdfunding websites and The Prince’s Trust. It seems that independent organisations are providing ways for independent businesses to reach a wider audience, such as putting on markets and craft fairs.
Interview by Felicity Jackson.