Ireland seems to be churning out some of the finest female entrepreneurs including Norah Casey, Mary Ann O’Brien and Marissa Carter. But there’s a new girl boss in town and the path to success seems to be paved with jewels. Meet Lorraine Hammersley. With a background in science and currently working in clinical trials, Lorraine, along with her boyfriend Fran, pursued her magpie passion and set up Irelands latest jewellery company The Hidden Gem. Whilst Lorraine ever so modestly describes the venture as a hobby, The Hidden Gem is already exporting overseas and no doubt has a glistening future ahead of it. In a time when most twenty somethings are heading overseas in search of opportunities, I caught up with Lorraine to find out what encouraged her to home grow an opportunity of her own!
So Lorraine, Tell us a little bit about The Hidden Gem in your own words:
So it’s an online statement jewellery company. My idea behind it is that if I wouldn’t buy it, or I wouldn’t pay the money for it… Why would I expect anybody else to? So that’s kind of like my main business idea to it. Like, I love statement jewellery. I always have. I always will. And I was just finding that the current market out there was really expensive? And when I started thinking about it and went researching it I realised how much companies were upping there price and it was just… frightening. So my idea was… I want to do that. I want to be the person who can set it up and just have it a little more affordable. I knew I always wanted to do it, but it was actually because of Fran -he designs websites on the side for a few different bloggers and I used to see him up till all hours doing this and he was so excited. It was never about getting paid for it. It was about wanting to want to do something. Wanting to learn something. And wanting a challenge. And I wanted be excited like that.
Was that the big push behind setting up this company then?
Yeah! I remember saying to Fran “I have this idea… here me out” and when I explained he said it’s a really good idea and just to go for it. Then in April last year, my friend was getting married and I remember I had bought a dress months in advance and I needed a gorgeous statement necklace. When I started googling it I was being sent to these websites, which were fab but God, I just couldn’t justify the price. I get that people are trying to make money, but I couldn’t justify spending fifty quid on a necklace I might wear once or twice. And I thought, there needs to be something out there that is more affordable. And unique! So as a joke, every year I kind of set a goal for myself. And my goal for last year was to set up something and make one euro from it. And if I make one euro from it I will be so happy.
So after the whole wedding fiasco I was like “I can do this. I can set it up. I can find jewellery that’s of the same standard, same quality but at a more affordable price. I never went into it thinking I wanted to make loads of money from it. I just wanted to get something good that someone else will love. Because I will get more excited by that.
So what’s been the best part about setting up the hidden gem?
The feedback. It’s the feedback that I love. Nothing makes me more excited and gives me a warmth in my heart like when someone messages me saying thank you so much, I love the packaging, I love the jewellery, I love this, I love that. Now with some positives you obviously do get some negatives as well but even the negatives I’ve been able to talk through and it’s still ended up being a positive outcome. Feedback is the biggest thing because I didn’t go marketing it, like gave a few bloggers some pieces as a “Hey! This is what I’m doing!” but I didn’t go promoting it a whole lot otherwise. So after that it’s really through word of mouth. I was blessed I really was. And so lucky to have Fran, I couldn’t reiterate that enough. He thinks of the little thinks that wouldn’t even have come into my head for the site and stuff no one would ever think about unless you’re knowledgeable in that area.
Fran seems to have been a massive part of this, tell me a little bit about him
So Fran did astrophysics, then a H-dip in biophysics, then masters in nano-physics and has been an engineer at Intel for three years now. So he has the techie stuff down. He usually has three days off a week, so he learns to code during that time and he does so much including another couple of websites. So he’s constantly learning new things, new techniques. Like learning everything he can possibly do to support the site and how to make it better. So that’s something I’ve been really lucky to have.
I see from your Instagram it’s the six month birthday today. How would you sum up the last year in one word?
Eh…….. Busy! (laughs).
And what do you see for The Hidden Gems future? Are you going to maintain it as a hobby or do you see yourself as the next Marissa Carter?
I would love it, I really would. But you do have to be realistic. For the foreseeable future I will have to keep my full time job. But as I said, it’s not about the money… it’s about the jewellery. So I’m so focused on the jewellery and I constantly have ideas. And I’ve so much new stuff in the apartment that I’m dying to put up. But you have to pull back, you know? So my short term goal is focusing on this year. And then next year is a new goal. I sat down in January and set a few goals for The Hidden Gem, and already I’ve done so much for this year so now I’m like I need to step back a little bit.
So obviously taking the plunge and deciding to set up your own business is something most people find really… daunting. What advice would you give to anyone out there that has an idea but isn’t sure if they can do it?
You can! You absolutely can like… the only thing I ever question is the social aspect. That’s the most difficult part. It involves a lot of time and what I would really recommend to anyone that wants to do it is have a social media plan because you could spend all day posting online. Facebook is important for a small business but it is tricky because you have to pay for everything. So if you really want to get your name out there put a social budget aside. A good support base is another thing. Don’t spend time on people who have a pass remarkable comment. You’ll meet so many of them. And little did I think people who would be quite close to me would have pass remarks to say. You don’t need that… just… you can do it. Absolutely.