Leo + Elk On Running A Family Business During A Pandemic
Meet Kat & Rich, a power couple who decided to follow their dreams of running a handmade jewellery business together! At the height of the pandemic, the couple launched Leo+Elk where they promote and sell their handmade designs through Instagram. We hear more about their experience of selling on this platform, discover what roles they both play within the business, the challenges they have faced along the way and what the future may hold for them both.
How did your passion for jewellery making begin and what resources did you use to learn?
I have spent much of my career working in jewellers and have a passion for jewellery and almost anything shiny! Rich likes to try new things and loves to learn new skills. As I love jewellery so much, rather than buying jewellery from others he thought, why not make our own! We started with a basic jewellers kit and was practising using copper at first due to the cost of silver.
Tell us how Leo + Elk started and the inspiration behind your new venture!
In early 2019 we had our only child Leo. We live in what we feel is a fairly hostile world at the moment and wanted to do something personal and create our own business at home.
Rich has had health problems recently and due to this, we felt that we needed to go for it! Luckily Rich is now back to full health, but the drive to succeed and make lovely handmade jewels has not changed!
What's the story behind your business name?
We wanted to incorporate our son's name Leo. We are huge animal lovers, both vegetarians and our last name has Elk in it. We are both fond of deers, dogs, birds, marine creatures and dinosaurs. We felt that Leo + Elk sounded great, so here we are now!
How would you describe your jewellery?
We make personalised jewellery and every piece is handmade from scratch. Each piece takes time to create and is treated with love and care every step of the way!
We have a few rings which are important to us as they have been designed around a certain moment. Rich likes to make unique looking and rustic pendants - these are just starting to finish the design and will be dropping soon.
What are your roles within your family business and what's your favourite thing about working with each other?
So I run the Instagram page and also design the jewellery. Rich is the jeweller who makes each piece, from scratch, all handmade and using basic tools! We work together for the bulk of our venture - I am very keen on detail so every piece is quality checked before leaving the workshop and getting wrapped up for its new home!
What was your experience like with launching a business during the pandemic?
Exciting! Just exciting! We’ve never run a business before. We’re both so passionate about it and love the comments we’ve had about our jewellery. Really it’s just so much fun and we’re looking forward to seeing where it goes in the future!
What's your favourite way to promote your jewellery?
So at the moment we are only on Instagram. We are going to move onto Facebook and maybe Twitter soon... we are in the future also going to be opening our own website, we’re just making sure we have everything exactly where we want it before we make that next step.
What has your experience been like with selling through Instagram?
It’s been a great time! We’ve had lots of comments and love for our jewellery! Rich is super keen to open a website! But together we need to both feel comfortable with the decision we are making. We’re looking forward to the lockdown easing off and seeing what normality returns - this will give us a better chance to realise what we do and don’t want to do yet.
Tell us about your workspace and how you make it your own.
Rich works in the conservatory, on an old kitchen table - with tools from anywhere he could find them. He’s spent many hours changing it one way or another. It’s definitely not a traditional jewellers table - but I suppose he’s not a traditional jeweller! He’s self-taught, learns very quick and is super ambitious!
What are your top 3 tools you couldn't be without in the workshop!
Favourite commission and why?
“The Isla” is a pear cut labradorite set in a sterling silver bezel with 4 silver moons on top. It’s so pretty and the colours are delectable! It’s just a very simple yet very striking piece!
What technique would you love to master and why?
Lost wax casting - would love to have a go at this but have just never had the chance yet to actually do a casting session. Would like to create hugely delicate wax sculptures but I just need to be patient and carry on practising!
Where would you like to see Leo + Elk in 5 years?
We are so humbled by the response we’ve had already, we are honestly just taking each day as we come! Rich would love his own workshop and store - he would also love to do jewellery lessons for new starters as he is a teacher in his 9-5 anyway! To do Leo+Elk as a full-time venture together would be a dream come true!
Favourite gemstone and why?
Either an opal or a garnet! Opals are so popular right now and for a good reason, they're incredibly pretty and striking and so delightful to work with! Leo’s birthstone is garnet - it’s a cheaper alternative to ruby and we absolutely adore the colours and properties it holds! We also love amber - we would like to make a tiny version of the cane from Jurassic Park as used in the film by Richard Attenborough!
When you're not making jewellery, where can we find you?
Running around after a chaotic 2-year-old who is so fun and full of energy! He is so positive and makes us feel so lucky to have a healthy little boy. Leo is the reason we started our venture and he is the most important part of our life.
We love your behind the scenes videos, why do you think it's so important to show the process to your customers?
We just think it’s really interesting! It’s not your normal video you’d see on Instagram so we thought some time-lapse videos would be smart! People seem to really like them too.
What has been the most challenging part of running a handmade business so far?
Agreeing on the advertisement of the business! Rich is an “all guns blazing” kind person and wanted a website and everything up straight away. As it stands at the moment we are only on Instagram - and it’s keeping us pretty busy for now. I am the calmer one who looks at things carefully and then together we need to make a decision, which can be tough!
What advice would you give to those wishing to give jewellery making a go?
Honestly just go for it! It’s a proper cliche but we actually do “only live once” - if you want to give it a go, then dive right in!
The community of artists is so good - everyone is so helpful and before you know it you’ll be making lovely jewellery in no time.
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