Career Spotlight: Vanessa // Luxuria
Vannessa is the owner of Luxuria an online jewellery boutique. Vannessa curates pieces from all over the world but principally from Spain, Ibiza, Mallorca, Greece and the Italian Riviera. She also has exclusivity for most of the European designers on her site so most of her pieces cannot be purchased anywhere else in the UK or USA.
Now through May 31st with the code SUNNYDAYS20 Vannessa is offering our readers a 20% discount on any item of their choice.
What is your background?
My background believe it or not is as far removed from sparkles as you can get. I am a qualified Criminal Psychologist and worked in the industry for 10+ years.
What is the story behind the concept of Luxuria?
OK, in 2001 my Husband and I decided to take a 1 year sabbatical to Spain. Whilst there, I noticed how Spanish women accessorised (which was very different from women in the UK). Spanish women loved "big and bold" rather than fine, delicate jewellery (which is the very kind of jewellery I love). I also noticed they would accessorise to go everywhere; the supermarket, the school run and even the beach! I saw that one big bold piece would really lift their outfits (even if they were just wearing a t'shirt and jeans). So I started buying contemporary pieces for myself. However, whenever friends came over to Spain and saw them, they would literally wrestle them off me. Then an off-the-cuff comment by a friend who said "Van, I don't know why you don't start sourcing these pieces and selling them" started the whole ball rolling. I have always wanted to have my own jewelry biz from as far back as I can remember. Not long after I started I found an old folder of all the beautiful images I had kept from my teenage years. The pictures I had kept were very similar to what I now wanted to sell-big, bold and contemporary. It was as if everything came full circle.
The island of Mallorca where Vannessa was living at the time.
When did you know it was time to launch your business and what steps did you take?
I "played" at building a business when I was in Spain. But it was more a passion project. But during this time I learnt all I could about e-commerce, marketing, SEO, PR........all the steps necessary. I literally threw myself into the world of business reading everything I could get my hands on (at the same time sourcing designers etc). When I came back to the UK to look after my sick Dad (in 2012) I decided it was time to formalize everything and launch my business officially from the UK. I knew that if I wanted to move again and spend time in another country in the future, this business model would allow me to do that.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned since launching your business?
My biggest lessons have been:
It will take much longer than you think it will to launch.
You will work much longer hours for no money, for a very long time. You will possibly make more money working at McDonalds (in the early days). These are the hard cold facts. But if you know that at the outset, and you constantly remind yourself of your end goal, you can stay on track.
Don't think if you build your website, they will come. That is just the tip off the iceberg. You have to be marketing and hustling every day. The quote that always keeps me moving is "The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately". And that is true. You have to hustle every single day. So you HAVE TO make friends with "the hustle". Obviously everyone has their own way of doing it but the main thing is stay authentic and do what works for you. Because what worked for Steve Jobs or Richard Branson for example, may not work for you.
Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs because when you are having a bad day, you can be lifted up so quickly by others that are going through the same thing.
Work with a coach. You may you think you know what you are doing etc, but some fresh, experienced eyes are always invaluable
Keep learning. Never stop learning. Read inspirational autobiographies from others who have been there
You don't have to re-invent the wheel. You can follow what others have done. Just tweek it for what you want. Most business models are repeated, you just add your "secret sauce."
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle was my own belief in myself. I have a scientific background so was very much a left-brain thinker. I suddenly had to rely on my right brain, trusting in my intuition and just believing that my idea was do-able. I still wrestle sometimes with that, but I work with a coach who keeps me straight. Sometimes it's easy to say "I'm going back to work for someone else, it's so much easier". But I always remind myself of "my why" i.e why I chose to do this.
What is the best part of your job?
What any biz person will tell you-planning your own day; you decide when you get up, when you work, when you take holidays etc. Basically being in charge of your own destiny.
And to keep it real, what is the worst?
You have to be prepared for the unpredictability of it all. In the beginning you can go months and months not earning anything (but that is quite normal). Also you never really switch off. Your brain is ticking over 24/7. Apart from that I love everything about working for yourself. If you are clear at the beginning that this is no walk in the park, then you won't go wrong. Which is why I recommended before reading autobiographies of successful people (it doesn't matter what field they are in); you will see that every successful person has been through very similar obstacles and hurdles. If your mindset is in the right place, you should be OK.
Looking back is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Not really, because every mistake I made produced a lesson in itself. The only thing I wish is I started on my business journey earlier.
What is a goal you have for your business that you hope to accomplish in the next year or two?
To really get some good PR/magazine coverage and to start expanding my designs.
Being a busy business owner how do you stay organized?
I am by nature a very organised person. But even so I can get overwhelmed sometimes with all I need to do. But my tips would be:
Everyone else has their to-do-lists using some fancy programs or app, you don't have to struggle to follow the latest trend. Do what works for you. I am still a bit of a pen and paper girl. So all my daily lists are down on paper.
Only put on your daily to-do list as much as you can write on a 3"x3" post-it note. Anything over and above that is a bonus. If your to-do list is too long, you will constantly feel like you haven't achieved anything, and that feeling can really chip away at you.
Make sure you are brutal about your time. So if you have 2 hours to write or do marketing, don't even take a phone call during that time. Just do what that time was allocated for. I never take phone calls from friends and family when I am working (apart from my Husband). I ring them back at lunch time or in the evening.
I schedule "reading time" when I move away from my computer and just read. I usually schedule about 2 hours/day. That is really nothing. I have read that many successful people get up 1-2 hours earlier, just to read. I read the other day that Warren Buffet reads for 6 hours every day before he even starts his work for the day!
Turn off all alerts for social media, mobiles etc.
Set an alarm for how much time you want to spend on social media and stick with it. I set about 30 minutes in the morning and "maybe" 45mins-1 hour late at night. And that is it!
I pre-schedule a lot of my social media content (using Hootsuite) a few days in advance.
I don't answer any emails until the evening, I never check my emails first thing because then you spend the best part of the day reacting to your emails (which are usually someone else's requests and demands), you lose valuable working time when you could be working on your own objectives.
I used a lot of these strategies when I was working as a Criminal Psychologist also, and they really work for me.
What has been one surreal moment you've experienced since launching Luxuria?
I haven't had many. But one time I was in a Claridges Hotel restaurant in London just having dinner with my Husband, and this very glamorous looking woman kept looking over. It was starting to un-nerve me a little. Then as she was about to leave she walked over and asked me about the ring I was wearing. When I told her it was one of mine. She explained she was leaving London the next day and wanted to buy it "off my hand!". She tried it on and it did look really beautiful on her (in fact better than it looked on me. So I gave it to her. She was so grateful. She has since recommended my boutique to many people and is now one of my best customers. But the moment she left the restaurant my Husband and I looked at each other and asked "did that really just happen?" It was quite surreal.
What is your best piece of advice for others who hope to someday be a business owner?
Don't wait for everything to be perfect and all your ducks to be in a line before you start (otherwise you will never start). Start as small as you possibly can (preferably whilst you are still working in your current job) because things will evolve and change as you start working in your business. Some people want the perfect logo and perfect website, or the fancy office with all the fancy office equipment before starting. My advice is keep everything small and as cheap as possible to start with whilst you test your idea. Then as your biz evolves your branding, work space etc will evolve with it.