Running A Handmade Jewellery Business During A Pandemic With 'Louy Magroos'

A pandemic isn't usually something a small business is prepared for, it's a time of uncertainty and faces many challenges for everyone. Today we chat to the lovely Laura Vernon, the jeweller behind Louy Magroo and find out more about her experience running a handmade jewellery business during 2020. Laura makes jewellery full time from her home studio; when the pandemic hit she was still finding her feet and learning to juggle running a business as well as being a mum to an adorable two year old. We hear all about Laura's challenges (as well as positives!), including having to close her business, adapting to working at home alongside her husband and having no childcare. We hope Laura's story inspires you and if you're in a similar position it shows you that you are not alone during this time.

Hi Laura, please tell us about yourself and your handmade jewellery business?

Hello, my name is Laura and I am a jeweller and owner of Louy Magroos. I make contemporary classic jewellery with a nod to Art Deco design. Clean, bold geometric lines form the basis of my timeless, easy to wear jewellery.

How did you discover jewellery making and what gave you the push to start selling?

I studied Jewellery and Silversmithing for my degree at The Birmingham School of Jewellery. After graduating in 2008 I started selling on platforms like Etsy and Not on the High Street whilst working part time as a waitress. I have slowly built the business up and have worked full time at it since 2016.

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As a full time jeweller, how was your business impacted by Covid?

The main impact of Covid for me was having my 2 year old daughter at home, with no childcare or grandparents to look after her during the week I had to close my shops. It was a very difficult decision to make, but you just cannot run a business or solder with a 2 year old at your feet.

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What were the main challenges you faced during the year and how did you overcome them?

I had been back to work full time for 6 months before lockdown started, after taking a year off to have my daughter, and I was forced to close. I felt like I was just finding my feet and learning to juggle the business and being a mum, so it felt like quite a blow to be closed again.

A lot of suppliers also had to close or were experiencing a lot of delays which meant that it would take me a long time to make and dispatch orders. Communication became really important, making sure I wasn’t over promising things to customers and keeping them in the loop if anything changed along the way.

I make a lot of jewellery for weddings, which of course were not happening during the peaks of lockdown, so I found myself having to look at new sectors ready for when I was able to reopen.

What are the worst and best parts of having your partner work from home for the first time and do you have any tips for people in a similar position?

I tease my husband a great deal about when is he going back to the office to give me some peace, but in reality I couldn’t have survived this year without his support. We have had to juggle both our jobs with childcare, usually taking it in two hour shifts throughout the day, if you are not working you are on childrens entertainment duty. Naptimes are cherished as a time we can both work – although hammering in the workshop is strictly forbidden. We have had to adapt to working evening and weekends when needed but try to limit that as much as possible for our mental heath and our daughter.

I noticed the support from my husband most at Christmas, I know most jewellers can probably relate to the long hours at the bench, forgetting to drink and eat until you are running on empty. Having him at home to remind me it was lunchtime or bring me a cup of tea definitely increased my stamina for the busy period.

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Did you give yourself any personal goals during lockdown?

I tried not to give myself goals, I struggled a lot with the first lockdown and having to close the business, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time but at the same time not put too much pressure on myself.

I took part in Vanilla Inks lockdown sessions, which included invented commissions to design and make, and online tutorials. By doing this I discovered a love for wax carving that I can thank Scott Macintyre for. I used this time (usually during naptime) to sit at my bench and have a bit of creative therapy. I used it for escapism but quickly became addicted. As a result of this I came out of the first lockdown with loads of ideas for a new collection, and it quickly became my goal to design, make and launch this collection before Christmas 2020, which I did!

How do you think your mental health was effected during the pandemic?

I think my mental health was hugely effected during the pandemic but this is something I am conscious of and have been working on for some time. For me it is a process, the year has been difficult for so many reasons and those reasons are so different to each and everyone of us. Closing the business was a big blow and the decision to do so is one I still think about, but I think I would have burned out quickly if I hadn’t done so.

Did you find anything that helped you whilst being at home

I am lucky enough to have a beautiful garden, we spent a lot of time growing flowers and vegetables with my little girl. Long walks with the dog and generally spending as much time outside as possible. The later lockdowns in the colder weather have been more difficult but we do try to get outside most days if only for a short walk.

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If you could go back to the start of 2020, what’s one thing you would tell yourself?

I think I would tell myself to take one day at a time. I am naturally an anxious person, I have a habit to worry about things I cannot control, so by taking one day at a time helps me to focus. I would tell myself that however desperate it feels sometimes, something brilliant might just come from it so hold on tight.

What’s the one thing you will always cherish from the year?

My little girl changed so much during the year, that time we will never get back and I will always cherish the extra time 2020 gave me with her. My husband working from home gave him more time with her than ever before. 2 weeks after she was born he was back at work, but the relationship they have together which has strengthend over these last 12 months is a gift, and it try to remember that as much as possible when we are having a bad day.

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