Norwich jewellery store owner aiming to expand to New York
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Lisa Angel went from selling customised jeans to growing a multi-million pound business. Now she has her sights set on New York. Caroline Culot spoke to the designer.
Norwich's jewellery and gift retailer Lisa Angel is looking to expand in the US by finding a selling platform in New York.
"There is the potential to grow internationally and America is next on list," she said.
Lisa admits she had a lot of help early on to help her develop her business while juggling motherhood. But in the early years, when she was still selling customised jeans, times were hard. "If I needed something I would go on Radio Norfolk and do a shout out. At one time I needed an industrial sewing machine and I went on and that afternoon I had four people offering one, the support was amazing. David's [her husband] job was difficult, he worked in the timber industry, and some months he wouldn't get paid.
"I knew I needed to make more money, to listen carefully to what my customers were saying, to produce more jewellery, as what had been pocket money would feed us. It began to be more important to make the business work, rather than just making things I loved, I was out there to sell things. I just became more commercial, I'd look at prices, look at bead suppliers but my house was overtaken by products. When you sell jeans, you have every size possible, then men wanted them too, my house was full... but I had this tiny pot of jewellery which fitted into our small house.
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"I didn't have much technical ability, I would look on the internet, I would go and ask crafting friends how to make some of the more complicated pieces. I'd spend hours at craft fairs, people would show me how to do it - so the jewellery got better, it was easy to store at home and it became my favourite and the customers'. I would get home and say: 'I've only sold two pairs of jeans but all this jewellery.' So it got to the point when I thought I needed to change.
"The space issue was getting me down at home, I would have everything out then put it away, behind the sofa for the evenings but the sofa was moving further forward. I would buy mirrors and jewellery boxes, whatever I bought to lay the jewellery on people would want to buy. So I started buying them to sell."
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But it was 2005 when Lisa's business truly changed when she went into Chapelfield. "It was really new, it was a dream to go there, all the big stores were there but the rent was mind-blowing, so I was given a couple of tables to sell from up in the dining terrace." By this time Lisa had two children and she went from working weekends to seven days a week and as it grew, got a kiosk in the main thoroughfare in the mall and started employing staff.
Lisa then grew her business further by agreeing deals with online selling platforms like NotontheHighStreet.com in 2009 which suddenly got her items in front of a huge audience.
However, she has always believed in having a physical presence and opened a shop on Lower Goat Lane in 2011. A year later Lisa opened premises in Rackheath, moving the business out of her home and since then has launched a successful wholesale division, supplying more than 500 stores worldwide which has seen her revenue increase by 73% in two years. She has grown further by joining Australian platform HardertoFind.com as well as concessions in Topshop in Norwich, Manchester and Oxford Circus and then finally moving into an actual store in Chapelfield last year.
Recently she joined US online business Etsy and international sales now make up 19% of the total business.
One of Lisa's proudest parts of the business is the fact they will deliver any item, whatever the price, world-wide, free of charge. "We see it as helping us stand us apart from the competition, we think it's amazing and I'm proud of it." Incredibly more than 4.000 orders can be sent out a day from Rackheath - a record that was set last Christmas, the busiest time of year for Lisa when 60% of the business for the entire year is done.
Lisa also buys in from 50 brands across the world but the biggest they stock is of course her own with much of the jewellery made from scratch on site.
Now, as a mum of three children, aged 15, 12 and six, and with her husband working in the business, Lisa's job has changed dramatically since those early years.
"I don't make jewellery any more. I still design but the people who make the jewellery are real professionals. My biggest downfall is I always want it all - when you really love two things but only have the budget for one, I'll take them both. I've always been like that but somehow I've made it work. I love it so much. My downtime is looking at Pinterest and Instagram and magazines. When I go on holiday I just want to go to places with lots of gift shops.
"I would rather be doing this than anything else. You have days when you feel you're not getting anywhere. What I love is yoga, meditation, me time, when I can turn off and shut down some of my thoughts as I have 1,000 things going on in my mind all the time.
"But a lot of people believed in me. That's been the key. I do feel grateful and proud of how far the business has come."