A growing jewellery business that’s catching the eye of London’s fashion elite is set to charm a new chain of customers at North Wales’ own ‘Downton Abbey’.
College friends Molly Whelan and Sophie Davies, who are bidding to become ‘the next Pandora’, launched their trend-setting jewellery brand Bee Boho just 10 months ago but can already count a celebrity hairdresser among their customers.
The young entrepreneurs will now be previewing their stylish and sophisticated jewellery products, which include bracelets, earrings, necklaces and scarves, at a sparkling Christmas Craft and Gift Fayre at the historic Soughton Hall Hotel, near Northop, Flintshire, on Sunday 4 December.
The event, which is being held in aid of Welsh Hearts – a charity which raises funds to place defibrillators in communities and deliver CPR and defibrillator training across Wales, will showcase a host of home-grown creative talent at the hall, which was redesigned by the same architect who restyled Highclere Castle – the home of the Crawley family in the blockbuster television series Downton Abbey.
The friends, who studied business degrees at Liverpool John Moores University and have known each other for 10 years, first came up with the idea of launching their own jewellery business while travelling together in San Francisco in 2014.
The keen travellers, who work full-time in healthcare and retail jobs, spent almost a year researching the jewellery industry, attending trade shows, designing a website and carefully sourcing products before unveiling their website www.beeboho.co.uk in February this year.
The brand was an instant hit, sparking international interest online from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, France, Spain, Ireland and the US and attracting a steady stream of orders from London and across the UK including a top hairdresser whose identity remains tight-lipped.
It is all very exciting for Molly, 29, from Ruabon, and Sophie, 30, from Pontfadog, who dream of one day working full-time on the business and opening their own shop.
“It was Sophie’s idea initially, she was really struggling to find all the jewellery she liked in one place and had to buy pieces from lots of different places,” said Molly, who works in the learning and development department at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester.
“We were in a hostel in a town called Cambria on the West Coast of the USA and started writing each other’s life plans. We decided we wanted to create a business and really give it a go.
“The conversation turned to affordable jewellery and we started coming up with some names.”
The girls, who met while studying for an AS Level in Business at Yale College in Wrexham, spent the next 10 months researching their business idea including holding sneak peek events for family and friends before officially launching on Pancake Day.
The brand, which targets stylish, trend-setting individuals and draws inspiration from the Boho chic trend, currently offers 35 products but is growing continually as fashions change.
With little direct marketing work undertaken at this stage, all sales have been through word of mouth and through the brand’s website, as well as Facebook and Instagram where they have had hundreds of likes and followers.
“We were quite surprised how well received it was,” said Molly, who attended The Maelor School in Penley, Wrexham.
“The jewellery is very much on-trend but we wanted to be different and unique. We’ve had people aged between 18 right up to 60 buying the products which was surprising and showed us how wide the appeal was.
“Ideally, we’d love to be able to do this full time and design our own bespoke pieces but first we need to build our brand so it becomes instantly recognisable. We both aspire to being as successful as brands such as Pandora one day.
“We both really enjoy it. Even when we’re up until midnight packaging products we know this is what we’re meant to be doing and following our dream.”
For the moment, the entrepreneurs manage to fit in craft fayres, Christmas markets and trade events after work and at weekends as they continue to build their name. Each event generates lots of additional activity on their website and the same customers keep coming back.
One of the brand’s distinguishing marks is the attention to detail spent on presenting the jewellery, enclosing little notes inside gift boxes and adding additional flourishes such as chocolates at Valentine’s and Christmas.
Sophie, who works as a visual merchandisers for Listers Interiors, said: “Jewellery has always been a bit of a passion for me.
“Our customers get excited about how we display our products as they really stand out. Working as a visual merchandiser has helped with the marketing side of things.
“We’ve created our website ourselves and take all the photos. It’s nice that we can now use the knowledge we learnt while on our degrees for real. It really feels worthwhile.
“We’ve both used our own money to set it up and haven’t asked anyone for help. When we first placed orders, we were really nervous about whether they would sell. Now as time has gone on we’re buying in bigger amounts because we’ve gained confidence and the feedback has been excellent.
“It’s so exciting to see where our products are heading, it’s such a compliment.”
The businesswomen already have one eye on the future and have both recently undertaken a silversmith course with a view to creating their own personalised and bespoke designs.
“We have lots of ideas for diversifying but at the moment we’re just concentrating on pushing ourselves out there and getting everything working efficiently behind the scenes,” said Sophie.
“We’ve really worked hard on developing the brand so we can push ourselves up to the high end events,” added Molly.
“Soughton Hall is the perfect venue to introduce more people to our products and hopefully generate more interest. We always see an influx of activity on our website following these kinds of events and we’re looking forward to it.”
Soughton Hall Hotel was remodelled in the early 1800s by the famous Sir Charles Barry whose iconic work includes the Houses of Parliament and Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame.
It was taken over by Manchester- based Elle R Leisure in February this year which also owns the successful Dukes 92 and Albert’s restaurants in Manchester and the boutique Woodlands hotel in Leeds.
It has since undergone a £150,000 refurbishment including an update of the main guest areas and a transformation of the bridal suite.
The Christmas Craft and Gift Fayre will take place amid the hall’s festive glory on Sunday 4 December between 11am and 2pm and will feature an array of stalls, with tea, coffee and fresh mince pies available.
Entrance to the fayre will be charged at just £2 per adult and £ per child under 12 years this entrance fee also includes entry to the raffle.
For more information go to www.soughtonhallhotel.co.uk