After commuting from Chatham, Kent for over 12 years to a full-time accountancy role in London, Helen Beer had her son, Callum, in 2001 when she was 29. Then, over the next few years she found it impossible to fit her demanding job around her son’s timetable, so in 2003 Helen decided to take the plunge and become a mumpreneur. She now makes over twice as much as she took home from her London job, plus there are all the benefits of a better work/family balance.
How it all started
Husband Jason has been a goldsmith and jeweller since he left school and this gave Helen the inspiration to focus on selling high-end silver, titanium, tungsten and zirconia jewellery in her own online store, QualitySilver.
To get going, the business was funded using Helen and her husband’s savings and has grown by re-investing profit: “We have never borrowed in respect of the business, nor have we had any investors. It cost us less than £500 to set up and the existing relationships Jason had with suppliers made it easier to get credit to stock the site. This venture has certainly paid off for us and being web-only has made all the difference as the overheads are so much lower than having a physical shop.”
Since the launch in March 2003, the business has grown rapidly. The first expansion decision came when Helen realised the value of niche sites in search marketing terms, so she created QualityTitanium in March 2005, just selling jewellery made with this lightweight metal. The next step came in 2010 when profits from the websites enabled Helen to buy a 50% stake in a shop, The Jewellery Workshop, Maidstone. Then, in September 2012 she launched Titan Jewellery, focusing on a range of rings for men and women that are available in all sizes up to Z+10.
Since year one, the online business has grown 500% and now has a healthy six-figure turnover. “The business gives me a profit that is more than double my previous London income, so the hard work and risk has been well worthwhile.”
What made it all possible
Helen acknowledges that all her success couldn’t have happened without technology. She has always used ecommerce software from SellerDeck (formerly Actinic Software), choosing it because, “we didn’t want to use a cloud-based system; we wanted to have complete control of whole website and back-up ourselves, without relying on anyone else.”
She and Jason were able to design all the websites themselves using the templates provided. Helen says, “It was really quick and simple to put the pages together and the software also makes it easy to update the site with new ranges, best sellers and offers.”
As with all businesses, the marketing is a priority and for QualitySilver it revolves around SEO keyword management, pay-per-click and customer reviews. Helen explains, “Word of mouth is our biggest source of new visitors and the review system we’ve subscribed to for the Titan Jewellery site is worth its weight in gold. In addition, about 10% of our trade is from returning customers, so we do very little advertising.”
Today at 41, Helen reflects on her decision: “Ecommerce works for me – it makes it possible to earn a living on my own terms that isn’t possible via paid employment. Not only is it a cost-effective business model, but it also allows me to be at home with my child after school and in the holidays. On a normal day I work during school hours, but then may work again between six and ten in the evening. The stop-start routine can make it feel like I work longer hours, but it’s not true in fact.
As for the future, she says, “I’m planning to take one my first employee as I need support, especially in the run up to the festive season.”