Gem of a business that grew out of The Forum in Norwich has become a £2m success

Lisa Angel, who founded her jewellery business by selling handmade items on a stall at the Forum whi

Lisa Angel, who founded her jewellery business by selling handmade items on a stall at the Forum which is now a £2m a year business based at Rackheath.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Tucked away in a corner of Rackheath Industrial Estate Lisa Angel Jewellery is carving out a reputation both as an online business, where it supplies customers across the globe, and also in the high street with two stores in the centre of Norwich, one in Lower Goat Lane, and another in Chapelfield Shopping Mall.

The business makes and sells accessories, gifts, and homeware, and specialises in handmade jewellery, designed and made in Norwich.

Inside the Rackheath HQ on the ground floor are a small team of jewellery makers, and next to them the main warehouse where the 2,500 product lines are carefully computer catalogued and stored before being sent out to customers.

Upstairs, designers and product writers work at computers, and at one end a photography 'studio' captures images of products for displaying online.

Inside a separate room are scarves, cushions and boxes and on the walls cut-outs of design ideas and also 'Lisa's lists' of possible products and things to do.

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The 41-year-old behind this bustling business of 40 staff admits she is unused to being in the spotlight, but recently she agreed to take part in a question-and-answer session at a 'Business Bootcamp' event at the Forum designed to encourage women to develop their own business ideas.

Organised by Prowess Women in Business, more than 100 people attended keen to find out more, and she was encouraged to take part by her business coach Anne Francis, a member of the Prowess team, who wanted her to share her story to help inspire others.

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'When I started 10 years ago, it was on my lounge floor, because I didn't have a kitchen table! Prior to that I was a designer and buyer for major retailers,' she said.

'I wanted to earn some money. That fitted alongside my lifestyle, which was having a little girl who was nine months old, doing something I loved, but using my skills as well.

'I started at weekends in the Forum, then I went to Chapelfield in 2006. I had a loyal following of customers who liked what I was doing, they would tell me what they loved, and what was missing, and I would say 'don't worry I'll get that for you' and bring it the next weekend.'

After selling her car to help fund her business dream, the next stage was to develop an online business, but success did not come overnight.

'I started my website in 2005. It was ridiculously slow at the beginning, but the retail side was doing so well that I set up a mini stall in Chapelfield. I felt there was a need and that I could do it. When Chapelfield had made a little bit of money I used that to employ somebody.

'All of a sudden I had someone putting the products on the website everyday,' she explained. 'That made a massive difference, because unless you are doing something physically on your website, you won't get anywhere.'

Today sales stand at £2.2m and are expected to reach more than £3m in the next year, with 10pc from Norwich.

The business has recently taken on a new warehouse opposite its existing Rackheath site specifically to house its wholesale stock. And she is still keen to grow the 'bricks-and-mortar' business, too.

'Chapelfield has done very well for us,' she said. 'It's been a brilliant flagship for us. In 2011 I decided I wanted something a bit bigger and I opened a shop in Lower Goat Lane. All this time the website was growing and it got to the point where I was having trouble fitting all the parcels in my car, because we were moving up to 50 a day.

'Now I have three vans coming every day and we have the ability to post 4,000 parcels and our average is 1,000 a day.'

Now a mother-of-three, among the successes she notes this year are becoming a Google-certified shop, becoming a gold trusted member of Feefo, the ratings and reviews provider, and also winning a 'Not in the High Street' customer service award.

'I look for things that are a bit different and quirky and often personalised,' she said. 'I go into the shops and listen to what the customer wants and I read all the online reviews. You can lose that by being here and immersed in the world of fashion. I still go in every week and I speak to our lady who does the returns.

'We will always listen to our customers, it's key for us to stay customer-focused. So if I see pink dresses in stores then I'm thinking we need pink necklaces, and if a customer asks me for a pink necklace I want to know why they want it.

'My challenge was getting everybody to have the same vision I have,' she said. 'We have meetings and I put together theme boards and story boards and I do lists of what I like. One thing I have had from the very beginning was a very strong sense of what my brand was and what it looked like.'

So what's next?

'I would love to open some shops. When I opened the shops, they made the website happen. Without the shops, I couldn't have funded the websites, and slowly they have been doing better and better. My dream is to open a shop in Southwold or Aldeburgh or in North Norfolk or Cambridge.'

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