$60K/Month – How to build a customer-focused demi-fine jewelry e-commerce brand in a crowded market – Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 1:05:29)
Sponsors & Partners
Gillian Crawford, founder of Lily Blanche, a demi-fine jewelry brand based out of Scotland, shares the story of building a jewelry brand that focuses on offering a truly sentimental and emotional experience for her customers. Gillian also shares her lessons in brand building and navigating the complexities of building an e-commerce business in a crowded market.
Gillian Crawford, the founder and managing director of Lily Blanche, a demi-fine jewelry brand, shares her journey of starting her business and the inspiration behind it. Drawing from her background in journalism, Gillian was inspired by influential figures like Richard Branson and Terence Conran as she started Lily Blanche in Scotland. Her interest in pearls and gemstones, along with her passion for lockets and sentimental jewelry, led her to create a brand that focuses on creating pieces with meaning and sentiment. Gillian emphasizes the importance of carrying precious memories and cherishing loved ones, and she takes pride in offering a truly sentimental and emotional experience for her customers. The business is primarily an e-commerce venture, and Gillian highlights the advantages of this model, including improved cash flow and the ability to reach a wider audience. She also discusses the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into making their lockets, as well as the high-quality materials and innovative technology they incorporate. Despite challenges such as Brexit, Gillian remains strategic in navigating the complexities of the jewelry market and expanding her brand’s presence. Building a community and focusing on the customer’s perspective has been key to their success, and Gillian continues to prioritize the growth and value of her business. Overall, Lily Blanche aims to create timeless and meaningful pieces that can be treasured for generations to come.
- 00:00:00 In this section, the host introduces Gillian Crawford, the founder and managing director of Lily Blanche, a demi-fi jewelry brand. Gillian shares that she has a background in journalism and was fascinated by the world of business during her time as a business journalist in London. She was inspired by influential figures like Richard Branson and Terence Conran. Eventually, Gillian moved back to Scotland, where she started Lily Blanche, drawing inspiration from her grandmother’s vintage jewelry collection and her own studies in archeology. Gillian’s grandmother, Lily Blanche, taught her important creative skills, and she decided to name her business after her as a tribute.
- 00:05:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford talks about the origins of her business and her interest in pearls and gemstones starting from a young age. She then describes her decision to go down the e-commerce route and move away from traditional methods of selling. She also discusses her background in archeology and business, and the inspiration she drew from interviewing entrepreneurs like Richard Branson. Crawford explains that her focus on lockets came from her interest in jewelry with meaning and sentiment, and the desire to create pieces that can be passed down through generations. She highlights the appeal of lockets in today’s world where people want to keep loved ones close and cherish memories, and mentions the high-tech technology they have developed to incorporate multiple photos in a locket. Crawford also mentions the recent resurgence of lockets in mainstream brands.
- 00:10:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford talks about the importance of carrying precious memories with you wherever you go, which is embodied in her locket business. She emphasizes the privilege of working with customers during significant moments in their lives, such as the birth of a child or the passing of a loved one. When customers purchase their lockets, the company takes care of everything from providing the locket to editing and printing the photographs. They even offer engraving and personalization in various languages. Crawford also mentions the popularity of pet lockets, with customers wanting to keep their pets’ memories close to them. The company goes above and beyond by restoring old, cherished photos and delivering them in a beautiful locket, providing customers with a truly sentimental and emotional experience.
- 00:15:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford discusses the beginning of her jewelry business and the investment required. She explains that they were mainly self-funded, with some additional money from family and her own investment. They started off working solely with sterling silver and had a small collection of interesting and unusual lockets. Crawford shares her decision to move into e-commerce after realizing the limitations of traditional trade shows. She saw the potential in e-commerce and wanted to find someone in Scotland who could teach her how to do it. The e-commerce model allowed them to bypass the challenges of chasing payments and improved their cash flow situation. Crawford emphasizes that they consider themselves an e-commerce business first and foremost, rather than a jewelry business. She also mentions the possibility of raising finance in the future but highlights the importance of knowing what to do with the money and avoiding distractions. Overall, e-commerce has been a successful and efficient model for their business, allowing them to grow organically.
- 00:20:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford, the founder of Lily Blanche, talks about the process of making their lockets and collaborating with artisans. She explains that they work with a few small families of gem cutters and artisans who source and cut stones for them. They also incorporate vintage designs and draw inspiration from the V&A Museum in London. Crawford emphasizes that everything is made in small batches to their design and not mass-produced. In terms of pricing, she mentions that while their jewelry may seem affordable, they prioritize quality and value. They only use precious metals, and every locket is independently tested and hallmarked by the Edinburgh assay office. They also provide customers with a velvet pouch made with intercept technology for added value and peace of mind.
- 00:25:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford discusses the revolutionary technology that is used in the Formula One car and jewelry industries to prevent tarnish on high-quality metals. The technology was developed during the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and was reverse-engineered to keep precious metals pristine. The technology involves patented polymers stitched into pouches, which neutralize gases in the atmosphere and prevent tarnishing. Crawford emphasizes the effort put into providing customers with a luxurious experience, including branded pouches, a polish cloth, a ring sizer, and a perfume-scented box. These details, along with cost-saving measures passed onto customers and staff benefits, contribute to the long-term brand building strategy and the overall value of Lily Blush.
- 00:30:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford discusses the power of scent in evoking memories and how it plays a strong role in her brand, Lily Blanche. She acknowledges the tight and competitive market of jewelry and emphasizes the importance of standing out and offering something unique. While primarily selling in the UK, Gillian mentions using platforms like Amazon and Etsy for international growth. However, she expresses the challenges and difficulties posed by Brexit, particularly with shipping, customs, and tax issues in Europe. Despite these challenges, she has found surprising success on Etsy and recognizes the potential for further international expansion in the future. Overall, Gillian demonstrates a strategic mindset in navigating the complexities of the jewelry market and expanding her brand’s presence.
- 00:35:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the challenges of managing customs and regulations for e-commerce businesses in different countries, especially in light of Brexit. They mention the need for brokers who can handle these complexities and open up European markets for e-commerce businesses. The speaker also talks about their marketing strategy, mentioning that their primary traffic source is Google ads. They talk about their experience with different e-commerce platforms, starting with Magento, then moving to Bigcommerce, and eventually settling on Shopify. They reflect on the wrong decisions they made in terms of platform choices and advise against blindly following advice from agencies without considering if it’s the right fit for their business. They emphasize the importance of making the right choices for one’s specific needs.
- 00:40:00 In this section, Gillian discusses the advertising strategies of her business and how they have evolved over time. She mentions that advertising on Google has been the main market for her business but acknowledges that things are changing with Google’s cookie policies. She also talks about how Facebook used to be a great advertising platform for her, but it has become more challenging with time. Gillian mentions that they have also invested heavily in SEO for free organic traffic. When it comes to the customer journey, she explains that it is mixed, with about 50% of their customers being male. Building a community has been important for their business, especially during the pandemic, and they have done so through Facebook groups and repeat customers. Gillian emphasizes the need to understand and address the changing needs and pain points of their customers, and her team combines technical expertise with psychological awareness to make the business thrive.
- 00:45:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the importance of building community and automation in their Shopify business. They emphasize the role of community in generating word-of-mouth customers and creating a sense of connection with their audience. The speaker mentions the idea of educating customers, particularly men, to help them choose the right products. They also share examples of how they have used personalized touches, such as putting photos in lockets for nurses and doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic, to strengthen their community. The speaker further describes their team, consisting of in-house and outsourced members, and their focus on working with experts who deliver excellent results. They highlight the role of their developer in driving growth and the creative contributions of their visual communications person.
- 00:50:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the creative team behind the e-commerce business. Kelly, who handles graphics design, photography, and video production, is praised for her skills and ability to come up with solutions to technical problems. Natalie, the marketing manager, is described as being meticulous and responsible for quality control. She has successfully created the Etsy shop and works heavily with SEO and email marketing. The team also includes an apprentice who handles social media and influencer collaborations, as well as a person in charge of dispatch. The speaker expresses their passion for e-commerce and their dedication to continuously learning and staying on top of industry changes. They mention the possibility of expanding the brand but emphasize the importance of resource allocation and the effectiveness of e-commerce as their main source of revenue.
- 00:55:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford discusses the advantages of e-commerce as a business model, particularly for women, rural areas, and people with disabilities. She emphasizes that e-commerce has low barriers to entry, allowing individuals to start their businesses with little capital and from the comfort of their own homes. Gillian also mentions the need for a balanced approach in managing the financial aspects of e-commerce, as it can be easy to lose track of expenses and income. While she acknowledges the potential benefits of having a physical store, she believes that e-commerce is a great leveler and offers great opportunities for growth. She shares insights on the importance of learning from mistakes and focusing on the customer’s perspective when running a business.
- 01:00:00 In this section, Gillian Crawford shares some quick recommendations and insights. She recommends the book “Contagious” by Jonah Berger, which offers valuable marketing ideas on making things desirable in a saturated market. Crawford also expresses excitement about the potential of AI in the e-commerce industry, believing it to be a significant and transformative development. She mentions using AI in her own business for tasks like aggregating material and generating questions for blog posts. Crawford recommends the productivity tool Clavio for email systems and analytics tool Ahrefs for tracking website performance. She highlights two e-commerce brands, cocktails and Sarah Harron handbags, as examples of companies that have successfully leveraged innovation and built thriving communities. Lastly, Crawford emphasizes the value of peer-to-peer networking and learning, advocating for entrepreneurs to trust their own expertise and take calculated risks.
- 01:05:00 In this section, the interviewer expresses gratitude for the extended conversation and thanks Gillian for her time. The experience was enjoyable and appreciated.
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
Book: Contagious by Jonah Berger
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche
|[00:01:00] Gillian Crawford’s Introduction|
|[00:01:01] Sushant Misra’s Research on Lily Blanche|
|[00:01:23] Gillian Crawford’s Background and Inspiration|
|[00:03:00] Gillian’s Entry into the World of Business|
|[00:04:00] Origins of Lily Blanche and Its Name|
|[00:05:00] Early Years and Development of the Business|
|[00:06:00] Discussion on Focus on Lockets|
|[00:12:18] Customer Preferences: Pet Photos in Lockets|
|[00:13:00] Importance of Pets and Sentimental Jewelry|
|[00:13:39] Initial Investment and Business Model|
|[00:15:22] Shifting to E-Commerce: Cash Flow and Benefits|
|[00:19:00] Supply Chain and Artisan Collaboration|
|[00:21:00] Unique and Affordable Jewelry Designs|
|[00:22:00] Design Inspiration from Vintage Jewelry|
|[00:22:54] Affordable Pricing and Value|
|[00:23:32] Delivering Quality at a Good Price|
|[00:24:00] Precious Metals and Hallmarking|
|[00:25:00] Enhancing the Unboxing Experience|
|[00:26:00] The Importance of Scent in Memory|
|[00:27:00] Branding and Long-Term Strategy|
|[00:28:00] Standing Out in a Competitive Market|
|[00:29:00] Global Expansion and Challenges|
|[00:30:00] Focusing on Customer Value and Experience|
|[00:34:52] The Challenge of Brexit and Expanding to International Markets|
|[00:35:35] The Role of Brokers in Managing Customs and Expanding into Europe|
|[00:36:00] Marketing Strategies in the UK and International Markets|
|[00:37:00] The Platform Transition: From Magento to BigCommerce to Shopify|
|[00:38:00] The Significance of SEO in Driving Organic Traffic|
|[00:39:00] Adapting to Customer Behavior Changes Amidst Global Events|
|[00:40:00] The Importance of Community Building in Business|
|[00:41:38] Understanding Customer Journeys and Education in Jewelry Shopping|
|[00:00:47] Sushant Misra of TrepTalks’ Praise|
|[00:00:47] Evolution of Gillian’s Team|
|[00:00:47] In-House Team Composition|
|[00:00:47] Importance of Outsourcing|
|[00:00:47] Building a Team of Experts|
|[00:00:47] Team Roles and Contributions|
|[00:00:47] Future Vision for the Business|
|[00:01:00] Book Recommendation: “Contagious” by Jonah Berger|
|[00:02:29] Exciting Innovation: AI in E-commerce|
|[00:04:30] Recommended Business/ Productivity Tools: Klaviyo and Ahrefs|
|[00:06:41] Notable E-commerce Brands: Cocktails and Sarah Haran|
|[00:09:00] Inspirational Peer Entrepreneurs|
|[00:10:17] Best Business Advice: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and Take Analyzed Risks|
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche
- Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: Contagious by Jonah Berger)
- An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Artificial Intelligence)
- A business or productivity tool that you would recommend (Response: Klaviyo, Ahrefs)
- Another startup or business that is currently doing great things. (Response: Kocktail, Sarah Haran)
- A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: )
- One networking tip or building and sustaining valuable professional relationships
- Best business advice you ever received.
(Response: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and Take Analyzed Risks)
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to Treptalks. This is a show where I interview successful e commerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders. And ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.
And today I’m really excited to welcome Gillian Crawford to the show. Gillian is the founder and managing director of Lily Blanche, a demi-fine jewelry brand specializing in 1, 2, 4, and 6 photo lockets and personalized and engraved jewelry. And today I’m going to ask Julian a few questions about her entrepreneurial story and some of the strategies and tactics that she has used to start and grow her, her business.
So Gillian, thank you so much for joining today at TrepTalks. I really, really appreciate your time. [00:01:00]
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Thank you for asking
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: me. So I did a little bit of research on your business and I know the name of your company is Lily Blanche. Um, that’s the name of your grandmother. I think you kind of inspired, you know, you named your business as an inspiration or as a tribute to your grandmother, I believe.
Um, can you share a little bit about, you know, what were you doing before starting this business and How, how did really the idea for this business come about?
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Absolutely. So I’m a journalist by trade. Um, I, uh, studied archaeology at university and then I went into journalism and ended up in London and writing at a time when it was very exciting.
There was a lot of Um, a lot of explosion in the world of business, so the stock market became deregulated. Lots of new companies were setting up and I started off life as a business journalist. [00:02:00] Um, and I got, I, I got particularly interested in leisure and retail. Um, it was a time of a lot of takeovers, a lot of exciting time.
in the city where, you know, the world of business was really moving from the back page to the front page quite often. Um, so that was my entry into kind of the world of business, but I was a journalist and I stayed with journalism kind of all the way through my career, um, both in London and in Scotland.
But at the same time, I’ve always been a really highly creative person and I’ve always made, I’ve always done things. I’ve always created things. And I always knew I would want to have my own business at some point, but I was learning from, you know, some of the best businessmen in, in, in, in London at the time.
So I was interviewing Richard Branson, Sir Terence Conran. Um, people who had set up, you know, large empires and I could see, you know, the mistakes that they had made. I could see what had been successful. Um, so I really got Quite immersed in that world. Um, [00:03:00] and then after a while I moved back to Scotland. I had my children, my husband’s a doctor.
He was, had a really busy career and, um, slowly but surely the business started to take off. Always making things on the side, always designing. And, um, started lily Blanche really, because I had, um, I, I had seen my mother’s jewellery box, my grandmother’s jewellery box, and she had some very interesting vintage pieces in her jewellery box.
And I, as I say, I’d studied archaeology, so there was a lot of, a lot of synergy there, um, with the kind of designs. And when I was studying archaeology, it was jewellery that I was studying. It was the Iron Age in Mediterranean and Central Europe. And the wonderful thing about jewellery is, you know, Philip Larkin, the poet, said, what will remain of us is love.
But what will remain of us is jewellery. I mean, there’s nothing that you, as an archaeologist, you can take out of the ground and you would want to wear or consume or have [00:04:00] in your life. Except jewellery. I mean, you can go into any museum in the world and there is jewellery there which, you know, whether it’s Babylonian or Egyptian or Assyrian or any of these ancient civilizations, the jewellery is beautiful.
It’s beautifully made and it wouldn’t be out of place on, on a very glamorous woman today. So, kind of the whole world came together in jewellery and that’s what I was designing. And I decided to name. The business after my grandmother, Lily Bunch, because she had taught me so much in the creative sphere.
A lot of my creativity came from her. A lot of my design skills came from her. She was a very creative person. Um, and a kind of, we all have that kind of grandma that, that every woman who could cook and sew and provide for her family. She made the wedding dresses. She, you know, she did all sorts of amazing things to, to provide for her family in a very creative way.
And she lived in the Outer Hebrides in the, on the Island of Skye, very romantic [00:05:00] setting in Scotland, and I remember being about seven and playing on the loch, on the shores of the loch, the lake, beside her little cottage, and coming across a pearl, a real pearl from a mussel. And it was such an amazing experience.
It was a real. Wow moment this fantastic piece of precious nature, and it can really sparked my interest in pearls and gemstones and all the rest of it. So that’s kind of the real origins of the business, and then more prosaically you know we set it up as a limited company and we. You know, we started, um, selling mainly to other businesses, B2B, um, and then I decided that absolutely I was going to go down the e commerce route, that there had to be a more modern way of doing business than, um, perhaps, um, we were used to with trade shows and things like that.
Definitely. I mean,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: you have such an interesting background. So, you know, archaeology and business and, you know, your interest in design, um, and everything comes really together in [00:06:00] this business. I’m really curious, you know, you, you mentioned that you were interviewing Richard Branson and, you know, the other great entrepreneurs of England, I guess.
Did you ever get a chance to interview Felix Dennis? I mean, that he’s someone that. Um, I, I’ve been quite inspired by it, but did you ever get a chance to speak with him? Sadly
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: not, sadly not. I mean, when I was, we were, myself and another journalist set up a big series for the London Times, look, interviewing FTSE 100 chairman and chief executives, but it was kind of, it’s a late eighties, early nineties.
So, um, that was the kind of era and it was, you know, Branson had taken his company public, then took it, took it back into the private sphere. That was a really. informative moment for me because, you know, there was this sort of idea that, you know, you wanted to go public, public was where you wanted to be, but actually it’s not always the case, you know, for everyone.
Um, so really I was very interested in the, the retail and leisure businesses and, and, you know, that sector was really booming. Um, you know, the [00:07:00] supermarkets were just really taking off. We were seeing. all sorts of interesting things happening in food, um, uh, food retail and, uh, and in the leisure industry.
So it was a really explosive time.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay, cool. Um, so, you know, your, your business, this jewelry, of course, jewelry, as you said, you know, it’s, it’s kind of a ubiquitous thing. It’s kind of, you know, Has been an essential part of humans and the way humans have decorated themselves throughout time, you know, whether it’s been ancient Egypt, ancient India, China.
It’s, you know, jewelry has been kind of been there all along. Um, and jewelry, you know, there’s so many different kinds and such a broad category, I guess. Um, you, you know. You have focused on this category called lockets. Um, are lockets, um, have, have that been a conscious decision that, you know, I’m going to [00:08:00] focus on this certain kind of jewelry so that I can carve a niche because otherwise it can be like a very broad.
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Absolutely. So I think, you know, I’m interested in vintage design that comes from my past from the archaeology. I’m interested in jewelry was meaning and sentiment, again, jewelry that’s going to be handed on through the generations jewelry with a story, and, and you’re absolutely I mean lockets is pretty niche, to be honest.
Um, we don’t just do rock lockets. We do a lot of personalized birthstone, gemstone jewelry, and we now have men’s jewelry. We have a whole sort of gamut of, of things, but we’ll maybe talk a little bit about that when we’re starting to talk maybe about some of the e commerce. Tips and tricks and keywords and things like that.
And why, you know, we need to have that kind of that kind of spread, but certainly lockets is where it was at. And I love the idea of, you know, a picture and an engraved message going down through the generations, you know, it’s, it’s so perfect for our world just now where, you know, people want to recreate and you [00:09:00] know, And keep loved ones close, keep memories close.
We have all our photos on a phone, but there’s something really wonderful about a tangible locket. And we’ve developed some really high tech technology for getting very good quality photographs at scale. And the idea of having six photos in a locket is very exciting. So we’ve pioneered the memory keeper locket that has six photos.
We’ve got some four photo heart lockets and oval lockets, and that’s just really quite exciting. Um, but also there’s a kind of resurgence with lockets. So although it is very niche, we’re seeing some more of the more mainstream brands bringing it in in the last few years, and we’ve been in a really good position because we have a very big collection of lockets.
So we’ve got kind of something for everyone, large lockets, small lockets, men’s lockets, women’s lockets, and lockets were worn by men before they were worn by women, you know, men going off to war, men, you know, before in an era before photography in Elizabethan times in this country. If you had to travel as a merchant, you would take a photo of your loved one, your patrols, your partner, [00:10:00] whoever, in a locket, a little miniature and that was kind of the, the, and I just love that whole idea of carrying these very important people with you, wherever you go.
And I think, you know, when we make our lockets for our customers. We’re really engaging with them. They’re giving us something very precious, which is their photographs. And you know, our lockets are wonderful and they’re lovely, but they’re really brought to life by these photographs from our customers.
And it’s a real privilege. You know, you’re working with people at a time of high emotion, often, you know, a new baby, a wedding, or a time of great grief, you know, the passing of a loved one. These are very. Privileged times in people’s lives. And to be a part of that is more than just a sort of selling experience.
It’s more than just a business. And that’s the whole team feels that that’s really the ethos of our business. Definitely,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: that’s, that’s so important. Um, so when, when somebody purchases these lockets, do you, do you, um, do they install the photographs themselves or is that [00:11:00] something that you, that they send it to you and you are able to do it because, you know, Yeah,
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: yeah, we make it from start to finish.
So we, we provide the locket. We, we give a free photo service. So they just, um, we have an app now on the website. They can edit their photos in the in the website, get them the way they want them, or we can do it for them and send them an edit, but it’s really nice for them to be able to sit down of an evening and just choose their photos, particularly if you’re putting six photos in, you can put them in the right order or whatever.
And we get all, all of this, um, through the website. And then we go about recreating it. We’ve got state of the art printers, we’ve got incredible cutting machines that can get these photos into the locket, and really, really sharp, great quality. So that’s lovely, you know, and I’ve got one here, which has got, I don’t know if you’ll be able to see it, but it’s a customer’s locket.
Cats in it. It’s got four white cats, and these beautiful Persian cats are, are just gorgeous and you won’t be [00:12:00] able to see it properly on the, on the video but they’re, it’s a white cat against a white background but it looks amazing, you know, so. Yeah, we’re always experimenting, always trying to improve in that way.
So we do the whole thing. We have to do all the personalization, all the engraving in house as well. So we can engrave messages in all sorts of languages really.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That looks beautiful. Um, do you, do you get a lot of customers who are Wanting lockets with their pets photos in them, like is that kind of, uh,
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: that’s a big, that’s a big, yeah, absolutely.
I mean, we’ve had octopus, we’ve had budgies, we’ve had chickens, we’ve had our in from Canada. Actually, we had a wonderful customer who had all these. chickens that he’d had the portraits of the chickens painted and they were in Elizabethan dress. They had ruffs on them and then all these photographs of these paintings of these chickens came to us and we made this chicken locket.
I mean, apparently his wife was just nuts for her. her chickens and her hens [00:13:00] and um he wanted to surprise her but it was definitely the most unusual one but we do get a lot of cats and dogs and in fact we got um a lovely lady who bought the six photo locket for her pet dog who just passed and she just wanted to keep that dog and have all its memories.
Um in one locket, so we do get quite a lot of pets a lot of babies as well
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Wow, that’s that’s very interesting. I I had actually interviewed a business in based out of u. s And they were creating a similar kind that had a similar kind of a business and They were creating specifically rings and they would engrave their pets Um, names on that, and there’s a huge demand in the US for that.
Yeah. So, I mean, people have a lot of connection with their pets and it’s like, um, they want, uh, something that, that can connect them to their pets. So that’s, that’s very interesting to know. Um, yeah,
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: absolutely. It’s a market we’d love to get more into. I mean, you know, um, Anything that people feel really, you know, a great deal of affection and sentiment for you [00:14:00] can put in a locket and, you know, there’s nothing that we can’t kind of do with the lockets.
But it’s very nice if you’ve got the engraved name, but you also have the photographs. That’s, that, that’s lovely, you know, and I think it’s a nice idea. I mean, sometimes we get. You know, four, four or five generations in a photo and, you know, these really ancient photos. And we’ve got, um, we’ve got some videos on our YouTube channel of how we can restore really old photos that are, you know, very crumpled, there’s only one copy.
It’s maybe, you know, been in someone’s pocket for a long time. It’s, it’s a very precious photo, but it’s in a poor state. And Kelly, our head personalization person is absolute whiz at restoring these photos and getting Take care. Bye. A true, you know, not over restoring them getting a really true clean image and then putting it in a locket and you know people just, you know, people weep when they see these things that maybe be a mother or grandmother, a wedding photo that matters so much to them and if they get it.
You know, they can’t recreate that picture. So if they can get it beautifully done in the [00:15:00] locket, it really feels very precious.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely. Um, when you got started with this business, um, what kind of investment was required? Of course, starting a jewelry business. Could be an expensive endeavor. Um, did you start with like one or two kind of products that you were quite confident that there would be a demand for that?
And that grew your product line from there. Can you talk a little bit about the beginning and what kind of investment was
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: required? Well, you know, we are mainly self funded, got a little bit of money from family and invested some of my own money in it. We started off purely in silver, in sterling silver, that’s what we were working in, that’s what we knew.
And, you know, we had a small collection of really quite interesting and unusual lockets. And one of the reasons for moving into the e commerce sphere is, you know, when we did was that, you know, I had this epiphany moment, I was standing in a trade show. I can’t remember whether it was [00:16:00] Birmingham or London, but anyway, um, and there had been a tube strike or a rail strike.
And the buyers just weren’t coming. And I think that also Pandora had taken a whole lot of buyers off to some foreign trip because they knew the trade show was coming and they wanted them all for themselves, you know, and I just thought, you know, what are we doing here? Why are we standing? On concrete floors, you know, from eight in the morning till seven at night, waiting for whoever can get to us, you know, and can brace either the weather or the train strike or, or, you know, whatever, and then find us and then find our product.
It’s such a, an old fashioned way of doing business. It really is such an old fashioned, but there must be a better way than this. And it was at that moment that I decided, okay, it’s going to be e commerce, you know, it’s going to be e commerce and we’re going to, and I am just going to find the person in Scotland who can teach me how to do e commerce.
Well, you know, that was back in, um, like sort of 2015, 2014, um, and [00:17:00] we didn’t even have an e commerce community in Scotland. So, you know, that was really, but one of the reasons for doing it was that I knew that. I was also fed up chasing people, you know, small businesses for money. And I felt, you know, we, we were supplying into galleries and museums and the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, Scottish Parliament, you know, big organizations, but also a lot of small mom and pop type shops.
Um, and people were having a hard time, you know, these, these places, I could see the writing on the wall, you know. So, you know, chasing payment after 30 days and waiting for people to, and even the big organizations, I mean, they’d be asking for 90 days or whatever e commerce. You sell the thing and the money is in your bank account before you send the thing out, you know.
Um, and that is, you know, that cashflow situation is just, it just takes a lot of pressure off. So it has been pretty self financing, um, pretty quickly, but you need to know what you’re doing. And, you know, we call ourselves a jewelry business. We’re not really a jewelry [00:18:00] business. We’re an e commerce business.
And the model that we’re creating is a model that we can replicate and use on lots of different kinds of products. So I’ve been really lucky in that. You know, it took off quite quickly, and we’ve never kind of. We’ve grown quite organically, really. Um, we may raise finance at some point. And just now I’m working with Sir Tom Hunter’s organization, the Scale Up Institute in Scotland, looking at whether we want investors.
But I’ve seen, you know, again, going back to my London roots, my, my business roots, I’ve seen people raise a lot of money, not know what to do with it, it burns a hole in their pocket, they get distracted chasing the money instead of chasing it. Thanks. And people can make really silly decisions when they’ve got a lot of money, you know, um, and we would have made silly decisions if we’d had a lot of money.
There’s no doubt about it. You know, we made some fairly silly decisions without any money. So I know that we would have done some dumb things. Um, but e commerce is brilliant. It’s brilliant from that cashflow point of view. And we’ve never. We’ve never really had to worry about, um, going, [00:19:00] you know, going for funding and, you know, putting ourself in a position where we were having to, you know, do what an investor wanted us to do rather than what we wanted
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: to do.
I mean, that’s, that’s so interesting that, you know, you see yourself as an e commerce business first, uh, you know, rather than a jewelry business. Um, which I think, which I think is a, is a, is a good perspective. Um, How does, what does your supply chain look like? So you purchase, uh, these, um, I mean, do you, are you, is your design in house or do you go out in the market to jewelry, uh, shops and, you know, find, uh, uh, distinct designs and you purchase them in bulk.
And then basically your value add is the e commerce, the engraving or the photo edition, and then you sell them at a. Can you talk a little bit about your business model? This
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: is what is, you know, we work with, we, we make a lot of [00:20:00] ourselves. We’ve got a studio in Stirling in Scotland. We’ve got this cute little, um, I’m in the offices here, but we’ve got a very pretty little stained glass building, 1920s arts and crafts building.
Lots of stained glass, very cold in the winter, but very beautiful to work in. So we’ve got a little studio there. We make quite a lot of it ourselves, but you know, some things are very specialist and lockets are difficult to make, particularly multi photo lockets. The forefoot of that one, I just showed you with the cats.
And that’s, that’s our most difficult locket to make because it, you know, you’ve got a, the geometry of the design is such that you know it’s got a, it’s got fit into a slimline locket. So we do work with artisans with our designs. And so what we tend to do is we have Three or four small sort of families that we work with.
So there’s a family of gem cutters that we work with that we know from London, but they also have a base in Jaipur, and they source our stones for us and they cut the stones and we see them in London and, you know, they, in fact we [00:21:00] were heading out to see them in Jaipur when COVID struck so we didn’t get out there but, um, they’re really small, you know, and we know them really well, and we have a lot of backwards and forwards with them, and we trust each other.
And it’s not, you know, it’s not a big bat. Everything’s made in small batches made to our design. And we use quite a lot vintage designs. So, you know, some, I mean, In the jewellery world, there’s never anything such as a sort of, you know, everything’s been done, really. We think our stuff is really unique and different, and it is, you know, but there are vintage lockets that take all four photos and six photos.
There’s very few people doing them in the modern world. But, um, yeah, we like to work with, with vintage moulds if we can get hold of them or vintage designs. We get a lot of inspiration from the V& A Museum in London. Um, the arts and crafts movement, vintage jewelry, you know, there’s some, you know, wonderful Fabergé lockets, wonderful pieces of work out there [00:22:00] where, you know, maybe not quite what you’d want to do, you’d want maybe a higher level of finish on it or whatever, but you can take that as an inspiration point and work with.
Um, uh, a very small manufacturer. So we, we kind of work like that, you know, um, yeah, I mean, the kind of high in our chains, for example, you know, so chains will come back again, it’s to our design. We say, you know, this is, we want a paperclip chain. This is the weight. This is the size of the link. And, you know, can, what can you come up with?
And, and we’re always refining these ideas, going backwards and forwards, adding a safety catch, adding sort of new stuff. So it’s not really a case of just buying in bulk and white labeling. It’s very much. You know, what you get from Lily Blanche is Lilly Blanche and you won’t get it anywhere else.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, I mean the, I’m, I’m on your website right now and each of these necklaces look quite unique and with a lot of detail.
And when I look at the pricing, I mean, to me it seems like they’re quite affordable, you know, [00:23:00] just based on the quality. I mean, you’re getting a lot of value here. Yes. And of course you silver and, um, Uh, the metal is also there. Uh, have you ever, uh, can you talk a little bit about your pricing strategy? Uh, how did you come to these prices?
Because they seem quite affordable. And have you ever tested, have you ever tested pricing? Um, to see if, you know, um, if you increase any of these. Yeah, yeah. I mean, they seem, they seem quite, uh, quite expensive to be honest.
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Yeah, I mean, you know, we want to give quality a good price. You know, when I started this business, I wanted it to be.
If I was to get an ideal piece of jewelry, if this was me as the customer, what would I want? So everything that I want is in this business, me as a customer. So, I mean, you know, you see the website, the pieces are, you know, they are really ornate and And beautiful real topaz. So the first thing is only [00:24:00] precious metal.
So only precious metal in our jewelry. Um, the second thing is all of our lockets get sent to the Edinburgh Assay Office, which is a government agency, one of the four assay offices in the UK. Every single locket is independently tested and every single locket is hallmarked with a full UK hallmark. So we’re the only locket company we know who do that, you know, we don’t hallmark every single piece of jewellery because smaller pieces, it just isn’t affordable to do that, but we absorb that cost.
And that gives our customer peace of mind, you know, it gives us peace of mind because you’re also people saying, is it really this? Is it really that? And we can say, yes, it is. We’re members of the National Association of Jewellers. We work closely with the Edinburgh Assay Office. You can trust our product, particularly on the internet.
I think that’s really important. And it’s important for me that our customers. Feel the value and feel it. So that’s the first thing. Then when they get the box, so our jewelry comes in a velvet pouch, which is made for us in the United States of America, and it’s made with Intercept [00:25:00] technology, which is a revolutionary technology that’s being used by the Formula One car industry and by the jewelry industry, and it’s an anti tarnish.
It’s for high quality metals to keep them really pristine. And the, the technology was developed during the restoration of the Statue of Liberty, because they had to, the scientists had to patch the Statue of Liberty and make it look like it was old, like it was Verdigris, like it was, you know, aged copper.
They didn’t want new bits of metal on the Statue of Liberty, because it would have looked dreadful. So they managed to do that. And then they reversed. engineered the technology. So they worked out how to keep precious metals absolutely pristine and really clean. And it’s done through a series of patented polymers.
So these are our little pouches and the patented polymers are stitched into the lining of the Of the pouches and they neutralize the gases and the sulfurous gases in the atmosphere [00:26:00] and they stop a piece that’s being stored in there tarnishing. So, we, you know, we put a lot of effort into this, we’ve worked with the manufacturers of these, this technology is only found in the States, they now brand and make our little pouches.
We gift those to our customers, everybody gets that as part of their jewelry care kit, they get branded polished cloth, they get a ring sizer. Because that’s a really handy thing to keep in your jewel box because your ring size changes over over your lifetime. So things that are of use and value, that goes in the box with the ribbon tie gift box.
They get a free gift bag which is laminated, beautiful cross grain ribbon ties. It goes into bespoke tissue paper. We work with a Parfumier.
called Jewel Room Studio, a very, very high end perfumier who’s really creating the most amazing scents. I mean, this guy, um, Ewan McCall and his partner Chloe are just incredible scent makers and you know, they’re winning international awards and they provide all our [00:27:00] scent and we put a spritz of scent in every box and we’ve got an allergy sticker on the front.
And when you open it, You get this wonderful scent. You see this crisp tissue paper. You have a beautiful seal that you open. There is an envelope with a calligraphy font with your name on it. Your jewelry care kit with the polished cloth and the ring sizer and your packing slip is all in there with your name on it again another seal and then you get down into the gift bag and then you get into the gift box and it is a really gifty experience because frankly That’s what I want.
And I think every woman is going to want that, you know, so we make it just, and that, you know, we put a lot of effort and a quite a lot of cost into that. And, but at the same time, we’re always looking at ways of keeping our prices as low as possible, whatever economies of scale we can get, we pass on we’re really.
Assiduous with trying to get productivity up, but in a nice way in the office. So for example, we’ve just, we’ve just replatformed the [00:28:00] website because I felt it was getting too expensive on the platform we were. We’ve moved. And those savings, which are probably going to be, you know, tens of thousands a year will go to the customers, you know, because that’s how we will do it.
The other thing that those savings will go to is the staff. So they are now getting Friday afternoons off. Because we have productivity gains that they have helped to bring about so they get the benefit. And that’s how we do business. You know, it’s not, it’s not red and tooth and claw capitalism, but it’s working for us.
It’s working for our customers and we’re making money. We’re growing, but we’re not, um, we’re never gonna, we’re never going to squeeze this business till the pipsqueak. We just never going to do that because the whole ethos of the business is about. You know, valuing our team and valuing our customers and valuing the experience and having a wonderful Lillie Blanche experience.
We think longer term that is going to bring much more value than pushing a few cents on the, on the price of a piece, you [00:29:00] know.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s incredible. No, I think that’s a, that’s a great, um, I think brand building strategy. I mean, you’re thinking really long term. Um, and I think it’s incredible. I’ve never heard.
This idea of putting beautiful scent in, like, a luxury piece, I think that’s, uh, I definitely have heard creating beautiful, um, packaging experiences or opening experiences. But that’s, that’s like the, the next, next, uh,
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: level. Yeah, well, you see, the thing is, a lot of what we do has to do with memory.
That goes back to my archaeology days, to what I’m interested in, to the lockets, to the photographs, and the… I want it to be a sort of a sense. I mean, at one point we were putting chocolate in because I wanted it to be a taste and a scent and to have all your senses completely consumed. We’ve got rid of the chocolate.
But chocolate never melts, right? Well, you know, not in Scotland. Chocolate never melts in Scotland. It’s too cold. But, um, uh, we, you know, we did for Valentine’s little chocolate hearts and that was, you know, that was quite fun. But, but the scent, scent [00:30:00] is the most evocative. Uh, of all the… You know, of all the experiences for memory, um, of all the senses, scent is the one that goes, they say, you know, it’s the last thing that goes when you die, you can still smell.
And if you think back to your childhood, it’s those evocative scents, those Madeleine moments, you know, I think about my grandmother’s house, I can smell her, her lavender soap, I can, you know, I can smell the fresh air. On the island of Skye, I can smell the primroses outside the door. And that, you know, that plays very strongly into the ethos of this brand.
And, you know, we’re in a really, really, um, tight competitive market. I mean, there’s a lot of lovely jewelry out there, you know, we’re a tiny business and you’ve got, and you know, there’s lots of opportunities within branded jewelry. Cause if you think about most women’s jewel boxes, most of the things that they have in their jewel boxes, they won’t know the origins of.
You’ll have the most important thing in your life, your engagement ring, your wedding ring, your eternity ring. You don’t know who made [00:31:00] those. You probably don’t, you know, maybe you do if you bought them from Tiffany or whatever, but, you know, if you just went into Hatton Garden and you bought it from a jewelers in Hatton Garden, you won’t know the provenance of these pieces.
Really, you don’t know where they’ve come from or who’s made them. So there is quite a lot of opportunity within it. Branded jewellery, most jewellery is still not branded, and when you think about all the other consumables, everything else is branded, all your clothes are branded, you know, you know, you know where it’s.
So there is, there is, there is opportunity, but at the same time it is very, very tight, you know, your keywords, your, yeah, your, you know, it’s a tight market, um, so you have to stand out, you have to do something. Extravagantly different to make you and these customers have a lot of choice, you know, every single dollar pound euro they have is hard earned, you know, we know that it’s hard and money and we, we respect that we really respect it.
We want them to get to feel the real value. And we see that in our five star reviews I don’t know if you’ve had a [00:32:00] chance to go and look at our Trustpilot, but we get a lot of that sort of thing. So that’s that’s kind of who we are.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s, that’s really great. Um, so you’re selling primarily in the UK, Scotland area, or are you selling
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: internationally also?
Selling internationally. Um, we’re, we’re also on Etsy. We’re on Amazon. Amazon is a nightmare. Um, Brexit has been really difficult for us. So, you know, the strategy here, um, was to, you know, Max out the UK market and obviously we haven’t done that, but, you know, we’re selling mainly into the UK market. We’re mainly advertising into the UK market and then use platforms for our international growth.
I’ve seen people become a cropper trying to develop international businesses. It’s really hard. So, you know, because we’re, we’re almost purely commerce, um, I decided we’d use, you know, we’d use platforms, preferably Amazon to try and reach some of these markets in Europe. And we were doing really quite well.
That was working fine. [00:33:00] And Etsy too. I mean, about a third of our. Customers in ETSI are from the USA, um, and we get quite a lot of overseas customers on the website, you know, we send, I mean, I’ve got one today going to Israel, one going to Singapore, one going to the Philippines. These things are, you know, quite international.
Um, but Brexit’s been a killer, absolute killer for the European market and I don’t know how long we can keep selling into Europe. It’s, um. You know, the shipping issues, the customs issues, the tax issues are really overwhelming. And, you know, it just breaks your spirit. You know, you can, you can hear from the way I’m talking about my business.
You know, we may sound a little bit sort of airy fairy or, you know, sense and, and lockets and things like that, but we’re pretty hard nosed and, you know, And I, my life is too short to be grappling with some anonymous customs person in Germany, where I’ve got a customer waiting for a locket and being asked for a ridiculous local tax or whatever.
So Brexit has made it very difficult for us. And it is, I just keep [00:34:00] assuming that this is going to be sorted at government level. And it, And it just so isn’t. And it’s the same for all small businesses, I know. It’s an absolute killer. It really is very, very difficult. So, you know, we’ve changed our strategy a bit.
We, we look more to the states. Um, and I mean, Etsy has been quite surprising for us because I, I had another business that did quite well on Etsy. So I knew it had some potential. I didn’t think Lily Blanche would do well on Etsy because of the price points. And because, you know, it’s kind of quite high end.
And actually. You know, it’s been an absolute revelation. Our customers love us on Etsy, and it’s a different kind of customer on Etsy. And they’re always amazed at how polished and professional it is. They’re not expecting that experience on Etsy. But they get exactly the same experience as our website customers.
So yeah, there’s a bit of internationalization, and there’s got to be a lot more, you know, in the future. We would definitely want to be in as many places as
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: possible. I mean, first of all, you don’t sound airy fairy at all, because I think you sound quite strategic, to be honest. [00:35:00] Uh, and number two, um, I would assume, uh, you know, with the whole Brexit thing, there is a need, probably a need for, you know, brokers who can basically take e commerce businesses like yourself and kind of manage that, you know, the whole customs and the selling into like, like they can, in a way, open the, the, The European market for e commerce businesses, because it could be very challenging, you know, with all the different countries and different rules and customs and everything.
What, uh, I know you mentioned, um, Etsy and marketplaces to get in front of international customers. Um, do you do, what kind of marketing do you do in UK, Scotland, which is kind of your primary market? And, uh, are you doing any marketing in international markets, especially in the U. S.? Because that’s kind of the biggest market, uh, or is it purely, uh, [00:36:00] based on
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: marketplaces?
Well, you know. Our main, our main traffic source is Google ads. So, um, one of the reasons we’ve just moved platform is, I mean, that’s the other thing. If you’re, if you’re kind of, I don’t know how e commerce nerdy your audience is or how e commerce nerdy you want me to be, but I can be a complete e commerce nerd.
It’s the opposite of the, of the, the lockets and the, and the, and the poetry. Um, so we started out on Magento, Magento 1. You know, which has been bought over by Adobe. We should never have been on Magento, but just legacy issues. Our website was built on Magento and another bunker, everything I had done, I had done kind of the wrong way around.
I mean, if you were looking at me as a casebook study, you would say, don’t do what she did. You know, my first hire was a developer, you know, my full stack developer. I had no, I hadn’t, you know, I was still putting things out in the post myself. And I had a full stack developer. Um, I mean, admittedly, just two days a week, but, um, that was a big luxury, a big, big luxury on a business like ours.
And he’s still [00:37:00] with me, actually. He’s great. He’s Spanish. And, uh, I share him with another e commerce business that we, that, you know, we, we’ve built our own little e commerce community here in Scotland. Nobody else was going to help us and I’m really completely self taught. So that’s the other thing. Um, So we’ve got, you know, so we started on Magento and we had to come up with Magento because end of life Magento won.
And I did a lot of research into platforms and where we wanted to be. I was kind of a toss up between BigCommerce and Shopify. And in the end we went with BigCommerce. Um, and I knew the team and the team of the BigCommerce team in the UK, Jim Harbert, um, Deepak and, um, David Meakin and Iris Schiffer, you know, they were, We were building an e commerce community and I was very much part of that here.
And so we were reaching out to a lot of the, um, a lot of the e commerce, you know, community who had goods and apps and things to sell. So I got persuaded to move to big commerce and actually. [00:38:00] You know, looking back, it was probably the wrong move, you know, it just became every time we sold more, we had to move up, you know, so we ended up on the pro account, which is, uh, and then you had to add in, you know, another 150 a month for every 150, 000 sales you made a year.
So we were not quite at enterprise level, but we were nearly there and we have a very expensive personalization app made for us by customly. So that was adding, you know, more money in and I said, okay, let’s try and get into the U S market. Let’s, you know, start. And my PPC guy had the feets all set. We had all the ads going and big commerce had no way to tackle that issue for, for America.
So the best they could come up with was we’ll just build another website using, you know, but you have to pay. All the fees all over again, all the app fees all over again. We were already paying huge. You know, and I looked at Shopify and I saw this is toggle on toggle off on Shopify. You know, [00:39:00] we get, you know, so I said to the team, um, and poor David, our developer, and we’ve just a big commerce about 18 months ago.
We moved on in twin in February, 10th of February, 2021 seared on everyone’s brains. I said, you know, we’re going to do it again. And he’s like, no, we’re not ever going to do this again. I’m saying, yeah, we’re going to do it again. We’re going to go to Shopify. We’re doing all in house. We’re not, we’re not outsourcing anything.
We’re not outsourcing to agencies. We’re not outsourcing. Cause I had taken a lot of advice and actually it wasn’t the right advice. You know, I’d paid for the advice. So you, you take the damn advice because you’ve paid for it. But actually that’s a big lesson in business. You can pay for things and it’s.
You know, it’s the sunk cost fallacy. Do not take the advice if it’s not the right advice. But anyway, I mean, we, you know, BigCommerce is a great platform in lots of ways. It’s moving more towards the B2B market. I, you know, I have nothing but respect for these guys. They’ve been great. A lot of them have now moved on to other things, but, you know, I want BigCommerce to do well, but.
Uh, in June on June 19th, we moved to Shopify. So we went from Magento to BigCommerce to Shopify. Most people [00:40:00] go the other way. Um, and actually that’s been brilliant for us. It’s been fantastic. So we now have the opportunity to advertise in the U. S. much more easily than we do now. We haven’t actually got it up and running yet because we’re still sorting out things here.
But PPC is our, our main market. It’s really interesting market. Um, Google, you know, Google ads. You know, very much the bread and butter of this business, but obviously everything changing within Google just now, you know, what’s going to happen when cookies go, the business was actually built on Facebook.
So I did all the Facebook advertising myself. And back in the day, we’re talking pre Cambridge Analytica. You could make these wonderful audiences. It wasn’t, you know, a six footer locker on, on Facebook. You know, we could sell that with a, with a nice demo of a nice video of the, the look at being demonstrated by the model and more.
Um, it’s just so much harder on Facebook now. I, I, you know, I don’t know where, where we go with it, that, but we’re also investing quite [00:41:00] heavily in SEO. So, you know, this is a no brainer. If you can get your. Search engine optimization stuff. I mean, that is kind of free traffic eventually, um, and that’s working out quite, quite well as well.
So yeah, we, you know, we, we’re, we’re always looking at revenue channels and at traffic channels for this, for this business and always looking to do it better, you know.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So search engine optimization is definitely a long term strategy and probably, probably has the best ROI. Um, your, your target audience, what is the customer journey in terms of when they come to this website?
Are people who are looking for this kind of a thing, they’re searching for necklaces, they’ve already done some research? Um, is there some sort of an education process that you have to do or is it kind of like, you know, They’re doing some broad jewelry keyword searches and then they somehow discover your website and they see, you know Necklace is good for memory then, [00:42:00] you know, the service specific purpose and then they buy it Um, what has been your learning in terms of how people discover your products?
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: It’s really mixed actually, you know, it is really mixed. About 50% of our customers are male. And I would actually say, now that we’ve moved to Shopify, it’s a little bit higher than that. So we have a lot of male customers and there’s probably more of an education process to go through there with them.
But, you know, the most important thing for us just now is building community. You know, we, we, we survived through COVID. We’ve survived through a lot of things, this business. And we do it by sitting down as a team and saying, okay, how is our customer feeling today? What is it that they’re actually feeling?
Because the whole customer mood and feel has changed with the cost of living crisis in the Ukraine war, you know, post COVID traumas and, um, All the things that have come out of COVID and the pandemic, our customers have changed. Their mindsets have changed. We have changed as people, you know, [00:43:00] things are different and it is more, it’s a more complicated, um, process.
And people are really looking for value for money. Um, There’s all sorts of things that they’re looking for that they weren’t really looking for before. So we’ve had to, we just think about it ahead of time. You know, how are they feeling? How are we speaking to them? What, you know, what are they wanting to hear from us?
What’s the most important thing in the, in the customer journey from their perspective? What are their pain points? So we’re just going through this. All the time talking as a team about it, and all my team are very e commerce focused. We’ve taught them all we’ve brought them all up in house, and they’re smart, smart people, and they totally get it, you know, so it’s that, you know, it’s that interface where psychology meets technology that’s kind of where I really am very interested.
And that’s where my team are really good at sort of bringing things together so they’re very technically minded, but they’re also very psychologically aware of that. You know, that’s very important to to us to make this business [00:44:00] really thrive and you know we’re a little business we’ve got to be fairly, um, fairly agile in this market.
So, um, yeah, I mean, what building community for us is. You know, mainly through Facebook in COVID, we started a Facebook business, um, a Facebook group. We have a lot of repeat customers. We have a lot of customers who post their jewelry and, and they’re lovely people and we know them and they buy from us time and again, sometimes they come and visit us.
Um, so that’s kind of the basis of this business as we, as we grow and it’s impossible to, to know all your customers or even a tiny fraction of them. There’s, there’s very many of them, but we try and treat everybody with that. Same consideration and, you know, sense of, of love and kindness that we would want to be treated with ourselves and, and, you know, the automation process is great nowadays, you know, particularly on Shopify, you know, we’ve just, we’ve just turned off our live chat and moved to Shopify inbox, you know, and that’s got, it’s just got so many processes [00:45:00] that mix, you know, I hate chatbots, but, you know, there’s occasionally, um, Um, An incident response that gives them all the information they need about delivery or whatever.
And you can mix it with some personal stuff as well. And, and that’s just You know, we’re just finding on Shopify, things that are so much easier where we’re saving time, so many apps, so many things that we need to do integrate really well. So we’re trying to automate the process as much as possible, but also really build community.
And these people are our best, you know, they’re word of mouth customers. A lot of them, you know, if you see somebody in a Memory Keeper and they show you, opens it up and it has their six grandchildren or their six pets or their six. wedding photos in it or their baby photos. Someone that has a real wow factor and then someone else will come and look at it.
And, you know, so that’s been fantastic. We have that wonderful community. Um, we are looking all the time at educating, particularly the men. We’re looking at maybe putting in a little gift finder thing for Christmas to help them choose the right piece. And we tend when we [00:46:00] advertise on Facebook to advertise to women, women know what they like, men don’t know what women like very often, quite often they think they know what women like and then, so, you know, just get a lot more, a lot fewer returns if the man, if the woman says, Oh, I saw this thing, that’s the thing I want.
And he goes off and gets engraved and puts the photos in it and it’s still a surprise. But it’s not. you know, it’s not the wrong thing. Um, so yeah, so community just massively, massively important and so important during COVID, you know, so we would do things like we had a lot of nurses and doctors who were living away from their families in COVID because they didn’t want to bring the virus back.
So we would put the photos in the locket. That they were sending to their loved one, their mother or their, their daughter or for a gift or whatever. And then we could send them the photos as well and they could put them on their fridge, you know, so they could see, even when they couldn’t touch their loved ones, they could see what was in the locket that they’ve given as a gift.
So all these kind of things, you know. Help to, um, help to [00:47:00] build that community and that is super important to us.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, that’s, that’s, that’s awesome. I mean, to me, um, talking to you, it just seems like you’re such a, I mean, you said that you’re kind of a self taught e commerce person and business person, but I mean, you’re quite a, quite a strategic, uh, business person, uh, for sure.
Um, how has your team evolved over time? Um, You know, you, you said that you started with this one developer, but now what does your team look like?
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Well, we’re still quite a small team, you know, in house we’re six. Um, so we’re six full time in house people out of house, you know, so we outsource PP, PPC, we outsource, um, SEO, but they’re outsourced to real enthusiasts.
You know, I’ve, you know, I’ve. I am self taught, but I’ve kind of been in it for a long enough that I now know who is a really good person in this field, you know, and we’re really only interested in having, you know, absolutely [00:48:00] fantastic people who are getting really good results. Um, and so our PPC guy, you know, and he’s part of the team, he’s on our Slack channel, he’s in our office, you know, um.
The same with our SEO guy, you know, and we, what we love doing is bringing people together, you know, sort of creating communities as well. So, you know, we’re working with other e commerce companies. What can we turn? What can we teach you? What can you learn from us? Who can we share, you know? Um, so our team has developed from David, our developer is still with us.
Um, and you know, he’s been really responsible for so much of our growth. He’s a very, very clever coder. He’s not very happy that we’re on Shopify and he’s restricted with a restricted platform because, you know, but if you, I don’t know if you can go on the website and go on the category page, you know, the little, the little play on hover the video on the category page, some of the lockets you.
You click on the, the, the image, you hover on the image and you see the video come up and the model starts, the locket, that’s, that’s David, that’s not Shopify. Shopify doesn’t have an app for that. So David [00:49:00] has done that. Um, so we, you know, it’s quite interesting because anybody who’s on Shopify, who sees that says, Oh, that’s really nice.
What’s the app? You know, um, it’s all done in house. So, so we’ve got that. We’ve got, um, Kelly is our. Our son of, um, our visual communications person. So she is a professional photographer and videographer. So we’ve taught her how to, how to do really good product photography on a white background, but she’s got a lovely way with models and she’s got great lifestyle skills.
Um, she has also developed all the customly templates for our lockets. So she’s quite technically minded, um, Kelly. And in fact, she was the lead on the Shopify build. So she’s kind of created the Shopify store. Um, the look and feel of it. We’ve all had input, um, but she’s kind of built it. Um, and she doesn’t code, but she and David together.
It’s had a fairly light touch from David until after it was built. And so she’s great. She’s also our head engraver she’s really interested in the engraving machine. And [00:50:00] she’s a really creative person in her own right. Um, so, you know, we get a lot of creative stuff from, from Kelly and she’s, she’s great.
So she runs all that set of things, you know, graphics, design, banners, photography, video. You know, if we were doing a competition, we’ll just get all the stuff in here and we’ll photograph it. You know, it’s just, it’s, it’s a real, it’s a really good. She’s a really good combination of things for an e commerce business.
And she’s interested in the kind of technical stuff. And, you know, if we have a challenging problem, like we need a very special or specific punch to cut out a very specific shape of locket, heart shapes are a nightmare and you don’t have any proper rim. So you can’t hide the edge. You’ve got to have a clean edge, you know.
Kelly will come up with a system, you know, she’ll think of the right so just now we’re using a cricket for it. And so she’s using a cricket machine for the first time she’s developed and templates tried and tested them and then, you know, got it right. And so we’re always experimenting, and that’s great.
We’ve got [00:51:00] them. We’ve got Natalie our marketing manager, Natalie is absolutely, you know, she breathes and You know, she lives lily blonde. She breathes it. She’s our quality control person. Nothing gets past Natalie, you know, anything that’s not going to be Absolutely on brand, Natalie has it weeded out before I can even open my mouth, you know, she’s just that kind of person.
So she’s, she has created our Etsy shop from scratch. She’s done a really good job of it. She’s very on the ball with keywords. She does her blogs. She works with the SEO guy. She’s very understanding of, of SEO and the power of SEO. Um, she, she does her Klaviyo emails, so she’s working very heavily with Klaviyo.
We just brought Klaviyo reviews in, which are new for Klaviyo. So, so she’s doing all of that and, um, oh, Kelly’s also running TikTok and YouTube. So we’ve got a great YouTube channel and a TikTok channel. Um, and as I say, Natalie’s got Etsy, she’s got Klaviyo, she’s got SEO, and she’s also taken on our Awin channel, so [00:52:00] she’s looking at affiliates.
Um, she was doing socials, we’ve passed those on, we’ve brought in Ailey, who is a star apprentice, she’s just finished her apprenticeship, she’s now doing all our socials. She’s running our competitions and working with influencers to try and get the brand out there. And we’re just starting to do some lives and things like that.
So she’s developing our social strategy and looking at ways of, you know, partnering with other brands and bringing, you know, bringing all that on. Uh, I kind of do a bit of everything, you know, I get in everybody’s way and we have people come and do the dispatch who are not full time, but come and come and help.
Um, yeah. So, and we just pull people in when we need them and we outsource what we have to outsource, you know. Um, but yeah, it’s a nice team and we always have the cake. We always have bread to cake.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, the website looks great. I think it’s second to none. I think, you know, gives the feel of a big brand. [00:53:00] The social media channels look really great as well.
Um, in terms of your business, in terms of your future vision for the business, do you want to continue your business to be, um, an e commerce business, you know, closely, tightly controlled by, uh, you know, um, a small group of team, you know, to give the customer that, you know, great experience that they’re looking for?
Or are you thinking also as your brand becomes more? Um, recognized, uh, as you grow your brand to, uh, to create like a chain of stores or something like that. Is that something that you ever think about?
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Well, you know, I would love, we’d love to have sort of global dominance. Um, you know, we, we, we’re. You know, we have to be really careful with our resource and put the resource in the place that it’s going to give us the best bang for our buck.
I mean, I’ve seen so many businesses, small businesses, and they, as I say, you know, they schlep around trade fairs or they do events and they’re [00:54:00] collecting emails and all the rest of it. And it’s a time it’s, it’s not an automated system. It’s a, it’s not cost effective way of doing business. So just now e commerce, you know, we’ve found, and it’s, it’s not easy and it’s changing all the time.
And, you know, I know lots of people are not. Making good money out of e commerce. I know it’s hard for lots of brands. Um, and you’ve got to keep on top of it. You’ve really got to keep on top of it. You’ve got to understand it. But, you know, I just think this is our main source of revenue. We are going to understand every single little thing about it.
You know, we are going to be learning and learning and training and learning. Um, absolutely following all the changes so eCommerce will always be at the heart of this business I really do think that it’s a great, you know, I’m an evangelist for eCommerce. I’m really interested in women’s entrepreneurship, and I think I’ve had I’ve written a paper on this for Skills Development Scotland.
Um, I’m chair of an organization called the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs in Scotland. And so we have a group of very senior Scottish businesswomen we meet, we support each [00:55:00] other. And I just see e commerce as being, you know, the barriers to entry are all knowledge based. They’re not capital based.
The things that women find very difficult in the setup businesses, like access to capital, like access to time, you know, you can do e commerce from the kitchen table with your kids. Playing around your feet and your elderly mother next door, you know, you can, you can do it in the evenings. You can do it, you know, five to nine at night.
You can do it without very much money. You can do it without even a website. If you, you know, if you’re on eBay, you know, you can, there are people turning over a million on eBay in Glasgow with no website, you know, but they just know what they’re doing. You know, for women, particularly women who might find it difficult and not just women, but women in rural areas, people in rural areas, people with disabilities, you know, it’s a, it’s a great level, level of e commerce.
If you can, if you can get over the technical issues that people have or the technical. Concerns they have, they don’t feel they’re technical enough to understand it. And it’s a brilliant, brilliant business model. And I [00:56:00] feel really quite evangelical about it. Having said that, it’s not the be all and end all.
It is changing. It’s difficult for people to make money on PPC just now. Um, it’s very easy to lose track of the money, you know, and of use, particularly if you’re outsourcing things like, you know, paid traffic. Um, so you have to keep on, we keep on top of it with a KPI sheet, which is measuring. 120 different things of our business every week.
It only takes a few minutes to fit in, but every single thing that we spend and every single thing that we make goes in there and we can see patterns so we can see what’s, you know, what’s coming down the line we can forecast we can You know, see where we need to when we need to do a sale when we need to bring something in.
And so we have to be really quite, you know, money orientated and quite technical, I wouldn’t say no to a shop, I don’t think we’d probably ever have a chain, but it would be lovely to have a flagship store, you know, I think our big model in all of this, I don’t know if you know, there’s a company called Monica vinegar, it’s a jewelry company in the UK, very nice jewelry company very [00:57:00] Ethical sustainable and very high end and one of the Sunday Times fastest growing companies private investors, and but really doing, you know, very much if it’s not doing 100 million I’ll be doing 100 million soon, so it’s, you know, we kind of have these.
Thoughts in our minds when we see it, and they’ve got a lovely flagship store, but they don’t have, they don’t have their jewelry everywhere, they’re mainly online. And that works very well for them. So I do think it is a model that you can use. But, you know, any opportunity that came that was great for us that was, you know, in the real world and the physical world, we would absolutely evaluate it and see if we could make it work.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. I know we’re kind of running out of time, but I want to be
I mean, I would love to continue talking, but I want to be respectful for your time. So I will, I know, I know you’ve talked about, uh, some mistakes, uh, in your, um, previous answers, but is there any, any big mistake that, that comes up that, [00:58:00] you know, that kind of taught you a big business lesson and. That’s something that other entrepreneurs can, can learn from.
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Yeah. I mean, we have made a lot of mistakes, you know, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve done some things right as well. I think we’ve always learned from our mistakes and I really say to my team, it’s fine to make mistakes, you know, just, we’re never going to grow without making mistakes. So don’t be scared of mistakes.
Mistakes are going to happen, you know. Just don’t keep making the same ones, just, just learn from them and move on. Um, I think, you know, I see a lot of people going into business who, you know, have a great idea or, or a product that’s wonderful, but they don’t really think about it from the customer perspective.
So, you know, um, how many SKUs do you need to give the customer real choice? You know, how, how do you, how do you just always thinking about it from making it as easy as possible from the cut, from the customer’s perspective to, to buy from you, to, you know, [00:59:00] whether that’s technical, getting the checkout really very well aligned and, and optimized, or whether it’s, you know, practical in terms of, um, you know, making sure the photography is great, making sure the product’s great, making sure there’s enough of the product.
Um, you know, just really understanding that you have to work very hard to, because they’ve worked very hard for those dollars and these euros and these pounds, we have to work really hard to get to win their trust, to get them to spend with it. And I think You know, most problems can be overcome if we go back to that.
You know, I mean, I was talking earlier about the platform thing. We should maybe have gone to Shopify straight away. Not to because probably we’d have saved some money, but we wouldn’t have learned what we learned on BigCommerce. Our Shopify shop wouldn’t be as good as it is today because of all the stuff we learned on BigCommerce.
So, you know, these things are, these are just life, you know, and just put it behind you and move on to the next thing. Um, just keep learning from these mistakes. Definitely.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um,[01:00:00]
Now I’m going to ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in a, in a word or a sentence or so. Uh, one book recommendation. I mean, um, you’re, you’re, you’re a journalist, but I’m sure you read a lot of books.
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: I like Contagious by Jonah Berger. Um, it’s a lovely book from a marketing perspective.
The, the subtitle is why things catch on. Um, and I just think it’s got so many brilliant ideas for how to make things, um, become desirable and how to make things, um, work in a very, um, saturated market.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Uh, an innovative product or idea in the current e commerce, retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about?
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Well, um, you know, AI, I think everyone’s going to say that and it’s maybe not the most, but you know, it’s certainly going to be one of the biggest and most exciting things that happens in our lifetime for sure. You know, there is absolutely no doubt about it. And, you know, the power and the potential of AI.
I know lots of people. don’t like [01:01:00] AI, they feel, they feel nervous about it, you know, what it might mean. But, you know, I just look at it, it’s like the coming of the railways. It’s like Elvis shaking his hips. I mean, there’s always going to be a lot of people who are very scared of it. But, um, the potential for AI with e commerce is just.
You know, we already, we’re already seeing it. It’s just
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: unbelievable. Are you using, um, anything specifically with the AI? We have,
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: I have, you know, I have barred open all the time. I don’t, you know, I will ask it if I’m, if I’m doing a blog, I won’t get it to write the blog, but I’ll ask it, you know, I’ll, I’ll get, I’ll get questions.
I’ll aggregate material through it as well. Um, so yeah, we will use it.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: tip? We love Klaviyo, or Klaviyo, I don’t know how you pronounce it, but we, we, that’s kind of really revolutionized our email, um, system. So we use that and we’ve just introduced Klaviyo reviews.
So they’re really, really new. Um, Uh, reviews are really important to us. So I’m really hoping that the [01:02:00] whole review experience is as good as the, the Clavio email experience. The education on Clavio is brilliant. If you get on their live webinars, unbelievably good. Some very, very good training. Oh, and also Ahrefs, we love Ahrefs.
That’s our, that’s our, our analytics tool that
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: we love. Another startup or business in e commerce, retail or tech that you think is currently doing great
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: things. I’m going to shout out to a couple of brands here that we work with that we love. So there’s a fantastic letterbox cocktail brand called Cocktails.
K O C K T A I L set up by a friend of mine, Emil, and it’s just so on brand. They’re doing some fantastic stuff. The other one I would say is brilliant. Go take a look at Sarah Harron. The handbag brand, she looked like her business was never going to go anywhere because of COVID. You know, her, her, she was a bag in every boardroom.
She has completely turned that brand around by giving it a subscription element, which you would never think of with handbags, but it works really well. And she has a community who absolutely, who sell her products. You know, [01:03:00] she has built this amazing community. So go look at the Facebook group, um, Bags of Joy, which is her Facebook group.
And you will just see women. Absolutely ecstatic about this brand and it’s a modular handbag brand so you can change it. It’s like Barbie, you can dress it up, just change bits on the handbag and people go nuts for it. It’s really, really good brand. Well, that sounds
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: very innovative. Uh, a peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you?
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Yeah, I mean, absolutely in my peer community, um, you know, we’re always willing to give a helping hand to anyone else who’s experiencing, you know, we’re just building a community here, an e commerce company, we’ve got an e commerce group, we did have an institute e commerce for Scotland, but there’s so many women, um, and men, but you know, particularly women e commerce in Scotland that I’ve learned so much from and that I now feel I can give quite a lot back to.
So, um, I just, you know, I think, I think it’s a big mistake to look for the guru. We’ve done a lot of that. And I think that is [01:04:00] one of my top tips would be you are the expert in your own business. You know, so often we’ve outsourced things or we’ve thought they know more than us, they know better than us.
And it was one of the reasons we re platformed everything in house. You know, you know, I can say to my team now, we know what we’re doing. And sometimes my team will say, you know, we know what we’re doing. You know what you’re doing. You don’t need to pay someone to do this. We can do this ourselves. So I think, yeah, peer to peer totally all the way.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Final question. Best business advice you ever received or you would give to other entrepreneurs? Very broad question, but…
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: Best business advice I ever received or, you know, it’s a kind of don’t sweat the small stuff, you know, thing. I mean, you do have to, attention to detail. Absolutely important, but you know, there is only so much that you can do in an e commerce day in an e commerce, you have to absolutely prioritize and sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness and permission, you know, it really is.
And, um, you’ve got to just have faith, have faith in what you’re doing. Um, and I think take risks, but take them from a [01:05:00] very, you know, from an analytical point of view, just do all your homework and then take the risks. Awesome.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, Gillian, those were all the questions that I had. I know we went a little bit over time, so I definitely appreciate, uh, um, you know, the extra time that you were able to provide.
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: so yeah, it’s been a fun experience. Thank you so much. Awesome. Really enjoyed it. Thank you.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Likewise. Likewise. Thank you so
Gillian Crawford of Lily Blanche: much. Take care.
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