Once upon an online

By Geff Harper on June 19, 2017

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Have you ever started off with a clear vision of what you wanted to do or create, only to start the process and end up going in a completely different direction?

Well this is one of those stories.

I recently went to interview one of our clients who we’d built a new website for with a view to putting together a case study for our own website.  What I’ve ended up with is far more interesting, it’s their story, and it’s a story for anyone who’s ever wanted to start their own business, or struggled to realise their goals or dreams.  

The business in question is Natalie Marie Jewellery, or NMJ for short.  NMJ was started by a young lady named Natalie (no surprise there) straight out of Uni.  Having completed an art degree, our young heroine of this tale found a passion for making jewellery, and as a side line initially, started creating her own designs and selling them online.  Smelting precious metals on the top of her stove in a one bedroom flat, she worked alone, and had a separate full time job paying the bills.

Fast forward 7 years and Natalie is running a successful online business, has her own store and studio, over 30 stockists, 6 employees, a business partner, a very healthy turnover and nearly 110,000 instagram followers.  And a dog called Buddy, but to be honest that’s probably not integral to the story (though he is cute).  

There are lots of success stories out there, but there a few things that resonated with me about this one.

The first is the turning point of the business, but before I get to that, I need to make another introduction.  We’ve met our story’s heroine, but where would any good story be without a hero to match?  Enter Dan.  Dan is not only Natalie’s husband, but he gave up his successful career as a designer in the fashion industry to join NMJ last year.  So back to the turning point of the business, and this for me is one of the most astounding things to come out of my meeting with Natalie and Dan.

The turning point was when Natalie made NMJ her full time job.  This is perhaps not earth shattering news to anyone reading this, but what follows might be.  When Natalie went full time, the revenue and profit of the business rose by over 1200% in the first year alone.  Over a thousand percent!  Bear in mind that Natalie was already putting in lots of hours on evenings and weekends, so the time being spent by here didn’t go up by 1200% or anywhere near, only the activity and rewards did.  When Dan joined full time some time after, the margins rose by just over 900% in the first 8 months.  Dan also has been working behind the scenes and dedicating lots of his time outside of his day job, so once again the rise in turnover and profit was disproportionate to the extra time that had been invested.

This is a lesson to anyone and everyone, that if you put all of your energy and focus into something, virtually anything is possible.  Neither Natalie or Dan would I’m sure say their journey has been easy, but they had a product they believed in, they had a plan, and they worked really, really hard to make their vision come true.  And it worked. The rewards we recoup from any endeavour are proportionally linked to the effort we put in, and NMJ illustrate that fact perfectly.  Before I get abused by the guy that’s been working hard to repurpose kangaroo dung with his online campaign in the outback and had poor results, you do of course still need those efforts to be targeted in the right way and to have a great product.  As an aside, I used to have a boss that believed that if you simply just made yourself busy, even if you didn’t know if it was doing the right thing, that life would just sort of fill in the blanks.  The focus for him was just about working hard, regardless of what it was in, and given the fact he is a multimillionaire, perhaps he too had a point.

So on to the second thing that struck me about NMJ.  They’re really nice people.  This is not a trait to be undervalued in the business world as it’s depressingly rare at times.  They are a family (literally), but they treat their staff like family too.  They even think of us like family.  My boss has said for years that you can have a successful business without being a dickhead to people, and NMJ embody that every bit as much as we do.  I’m not religious, but I’m a massive believer in karma and that what goes around comes around.  Eventually.  If you’re nice to people, you treat them well and you do good things, then good things tend to happen to you in return.  You can I’m sure be successful and not be a nice person, but at what cost.  Karma people….

The final point, and this one is more personal than the last 2 points, but I love their products.  The jewellery doesn’t look mass produced, because it isn’t.  It’s hand made, with love and care, by great and talented people who love what they do and are happy in their environment.  It shows.  There’s clear thought in the design, and when you know Natalie and Dan, you can actually see how their jewellery embodies who they are and what they stand for.  Funnily enough I think it’s almost the least important factor in their success, and with a product half as good, given their energy, enthusiasm, focus and karma centric niceness, I have no doubt they would have still been successful.  The fact remains though, what they produce, is really, really good.  I’m quite literally putting my money where my mouth is and buying my weddings rings from them, and if anyone doubts whether there’s any bias in this article, you should chat to my fiancee because she does not want any old ring on her finger come the big day, regardless of whether they’re a client of mine not.

So there you have it, I started out writing a case study, and ended up writing a weird hybrid of a success story and a how-to guide.

If you’d like to check out the NMJ site for yourself to learn more about them and their products (through the site we proudly designed and built for them), click on www.nataliemariejewellery.com

Geff’s been in design for nearly 20 years, in digital for the last 10. Geff uses User-Centred Design principles to develop CX and UX that delivers for clients. He loves problem solving, leading design sprints and prototyping. Geff advocates strongly for user feedback and enjoys the challenge of creating solutions that positively impact user behaviour and interaction with technology.

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