Kassandra is passionate about helping black jewellers get fair treatment within the jewellery industry. After the events of George Floyd’s death, she was disheartened by the disingenuous, trendy activism many brands were plastering all over social media. Kassandra noticed that a lot of companies – including companies in the jewellery industry – were uploading black squares on Instagram, but weren’t filtering out or responding to the hate comments that came with them.
After getting tired of seeing ‘activism’ being used for likes, Kassandra wrote an open letter to the jewellery industry – addressing how the trade could be more welcoming towards black jewellers by ensuring they had access to knowledge, training and supply chains. Many people were moved by Kassandra’s letter, which went viral within the jewellery industry. She found that people were contacting her asking for advice on how they could ensure their businesses were anti-racist. After giving several businesses free advice, Kassandra thought that the best way she could help black jewellers was to set up a fund. The Kassandra Lauren Gordon Jewellery Fund has since raised £21,000 and helped 21 black jewellers to thrive in the industry! Kassandra also runs the Black Jeweller’s Network, a community that offers advice and online events for black jewellers.
Read on to learn about Kassandra’s business journey and her experience as a black jeweller.
1. Which 3 skills would you say are crucial to being a founder?
Being fearless, having emotional resilience and persistence.
Emotional resilience is particularly important. I’ve faced a lot of ups and downs after doing jewellery for years – especially as I’m self-funded. In my late 20s, I feel like my mental health was affected by the fact that I met jewellers who seemed to have gotten successful after a big break. For example, someone’s work could be featured in the editorial of a magazine, resulting in the business to blow up. But, you have to remember that many successful people come from wealthy or privileged backgrounds, or are on their third business after having two ‘failures’. Because of my background and lack of accessibility, my growth had a slower start. Remember that any business is a grind and takes persistence.
2. What’s your biggest business achievement to date?
Supporting my clients getting the jewellery they want.
I love doing bespoke jewellery because it often means a lot more to people than ready to wear pieces. The biggest satisfaction for me is when someone comes to me with a little sketch and I go through the process of bringing the design to life. It can be difficult for someone who’s not a jeweller to narrow down what it is they want, what their budget is and what would be realistic to create, so I appreciate the whole process from designing to creating. I find it really rewarding to turn someone’s vision into jewellery that they can appreciate forever.
3. What are the challenges you face now that are different from when you started your business?
My challenges now revolve around installing more business processes rather than focusing on the creative parts.
When I started out, I was living in London doing short courses. London is expensive so I lacked the funds to be able to study as an apprentice and earn a low wage working for a master jeweller. Starting as an apprentice is an ideal route as you develop skills whilst gaining connections to suppliers. I didn’t study jewellery or fine art or uni, so I lacked a design background that would’ve been useful. I also didn’t know how to survive as a self-employed person or how to market yourself as a jeweller. If I could live my life again, I would’ve started when I was 16.
4. What are the biggest barriers you face when it comes to growing your business?
Capital is a barrier for me at the moment as jewellery is a cash-intensive business.
Also, the fact that black jewellers are often ignored and not embraced by the commercial press. It’s harder for black jewellers to have access to the supply chain (diamond dealers, for example). The jewellery trade is dominated by families and certain people.
5. If you could learn more about one area of marketing, what would it be?
I’d like to work on lead generation so that I can drive more traffic to my website. I’m currently looking into how I can create a strategy to help me with this. I want to get as far as I can with organic content to see what works for my business, then I can amplify my content with paid social media ads when I make more money. I need to figure out who my tribe are and how I can attract them to my brand.
6. How did you recognise that you were an entrepreneurial person?
There’s nothing wrong with working for companies, but I get quite frustrated by it. I always want to try something new and be more forward. Sometimes, companies want to do things a certain way or play it safe. I want to make a living by creating things that people will appreciate. I think that people didn’t appreciate what I did in the jobs I’ve had in the past. Once I was made redundant at 24, I decided it was time to take control over my life.
7. What makes you proudest about your company?
I’m always proud when my clients are happy with their pieces, particularly with bespoke designs. I enjoy working closely with my clients and building lasting relationships. One client was so happy with their engagement ring that they invited me to both their engagement party and wedding!
8. If someone was struggling with their confidence, what would your advice be?
Nothing has to be perfect. I really struggled with perfection when I started my business. I thought that being successful was all about the grind and that you should be working as much as you can if you wanted to ‘make it’ by the time you were 30.
Instead of thinking of something as a failure, it’s better to think of it as the next step. Not everyone has a clear plan, the main thing is movement. The best thing to do is to be consistent but pivot when it’s necessary.
9. If you could magically change one thing about your business now, what would it be?
Design choices. When I first got into making jewellery, I was advised by marketing people to not show that I’m black, because if I did – white people wouldn’t buy from me. Because of this, I made jewellery that I thought white women would like. I realised that I should just be myself and make what I want to make. When I’m being myself, that’s when I connect with people the most – and it took me nearly 10 years to learn that. I’m being bigger and bolder with my designs going forward.
10. Tell us about another brilliant businesswoman that our readers should know about
I like Sharmadean Reid, Founder of Beautystack. As a black woman from the midlands, I look up to her a lot. She’s very influential in the UK beauty industry. Sharmadean is a mother who built up her company completely by herself. I’m inspired by her consistency and respect her hustle.
Craft the future
We hope you enjoyed Kassandra’s interview! Make sure you hit her up if you’re looking to get a piece of jewellery designed. If you want to read about more creative female founders, head to our interviews with Kate Murray, Founder of Handled With Care Design and Niccy Iseman, Founder of Type and Story.