Interview With Founder Of Eco-conscious Jewellery Start-up, Ashley Heather Jewellery! It all began when Heather signed up for part time jewellery classes on Saturday mornings, after only attending 20 minutes of the lesson Heather made the decision to sign up for the full time course.
We recently had a chat with Ashley to talk all things eco-friendly jewellery, entrepreneurship and challenges start-up face. Check out the interview below.
1. What inspired you to start a Jewellery company?
I stumbled into jewellery making quite by accident. I had always discounted it as an option for myself because of the environmental and social issues associated with mining and precious metals. Then one day I was visiting a friend and she just happened to be melting a crucible full of silver, I was completely spellbound by its shimmering viscosity. I signed up for a part time course the next day and one lesson in signed up for a full time jewellery design and manufacture course. Armed with technical metalworking skills and a background in fine art I knew the only way to bring together my dual passions of sustainability and crafting precious metals was to go it on my own and so ‘ashley heather’ jewellery was born.
2. How did your journey in Entrepreneurship begin?
Out of necessity, I fell in love with the craft of jewellery making and had to find a way to reconcile this with my passion for sustainability. At the time there were no eco-conscious jewellery companies in South Africa so I naively started my own. I had no idea how challenging the entrepreneurship journey would be when I jumped in with both feet and I’m so glad I didn’t otherwise I may never have had the courage to do it. Being young an foolhardy has its advantages at times.
3. What can you say is the biggest selling point of your business?
We work exclusively in gold and silver recycled from e-waste, one of the few companies in the world doing this and, to the best of my knowledge, the only one to be focusing exclusively on e-waste gold and silver recovery for jewellery. This allows us to offer our customers transparency, a uniquely sustainable product and quality materials.
4. Why did you choose to use recycled materials for your jeweller?
I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Working in ethically sourced materials wasn’t an afterthought for me, it was always and remains the core tenant and driving force of everything we do.
5. Tell us about the time you were using Darkroom Photography materials to make jewellery, how did you approach it?
I studied photography as part of my Fine Arts degree at University so I knew that there was silver to be extracted from waste photographic chemicals. The first couple of years of this business focused exclusively on pieces made from this recycled silver.
6. What made you to decide to change from Darkroom Photography to E-waste materials?
E-waste is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the world, it is an issue that desperately needs addressing whilst dark room photography is a bit of a dying art with less and less waste chemicals being produced each year. In addition to this, e-waste contains both gold and silver, a jeweller’s dream.
7. How did you manage to get funding to produce the Jewellery?
I built everything up slowly over time, my very first studio was my grandparents garage, their car was parked on the one side and I hammered and melted away on the other, it’s amazing that car didn’t get more scratches in hindsight. Most of my first tools were sourced second hand and I took out a small loan to buy my rolling mill, that was my biggest purchase in those early days and felt like quite a mile stone.
8. What would you say is or was your biggest challenge since you opened the business?
Sourcing and processing such specialist recycled metals is not easy. It’s a complicated, time consuming process that can cause delays in our manufacturing schedule and many a late night. We love what we do and even on the toughest days when an e-waste batch has fused to the furnace and we have no gold to work with we wouldn’t have it any other way.
9. Where do you see the business in five years?
Honestly this is my least favourite question in interviews. If we could still be here in five years doing what we love and creating ethical, sustainable jewellery pieces that people treasure I will be very very happy.
10. How does your business generate income?
We make both bespoke and ready to order pieces in gold and silver recycled from e-waste.
11. What would you say your business is short of but needs right now?
It’s the common entrpreneurs dilemma, hours in the day versus capital to expand the team.
12. Do you have plans of expanding the business in the near future?
Sustainable growth has always been our focus, we would love to grow our little team when the time is right.