If you haven't noticed Natalie Marie Jewellery's delicate ring designs all over insta, you're not on insta. We caught up with Natalie in her retail space in Sydney's Avalon to see how she went from small jewellery designer to major business woman.
“I started Natalie Marie Jewellery six years ago, fresh out of doing my visual arts degree. We started out with handmade jewellery and it was really small. Four years ago it was just me and one other staff member, now we have 20 people working with us, so it’s been a busy few years of growth! We specialise in handmade jewellery and bespoke jewellery - engagement and wedding rings. I used to make every single piece myself but now predominantly work with clients on bespoke jewellery and I design the collections.”
“We moved into our flagship space in Sep 2018 custom designing the space to create our first ever retail experience. It wasn’t a priority to have retail as we are predominantly online, but the biggest thing for us was having somewhere nice to have appointments with bespoke clients. So it houses everything from the showroom to appointment rooms to the workshop and office in the back. It’s in Avalon and even though it’s out of the way, clients love coming here, they make a day of it or weekend of it which is really lovely.”
“It had always been just me but two years ago my partner Dan came on board. He comes from a fashion design background, he was head designer at some big menswear labels, so he’s got a really good feel for managing teams as well as as well as understanding production and procedures. We have built an amazing support team now, but have always done most of the running of the business ourselves. I don’t have a business background or formal business training but learnt as I went, especially in the beginning. I used to work in fashion buying so I have an understanding of that but apart from that we just figured it out. It’s great that we can do all that together. we each bring so much to the table from different angles so we are a great team.”
Baby on board
“We had a baby, Willa, 18months ago, it was amazing to have the two of us running the business side by side so we could handle that crazy time. It’s not always easy, my family are all based overseas and I was reluctant to send her into childcare when she was so little, so for the first year we just juggled and made it work. We are so lucky that we’ve got an incredible team.”
“Social media has been really key. It’s perfect for us because we create so much bespoke work that there are new pieces coming through the studio all the time, it’s a constant stream of new content. It really started as us just snapping what we were making and sending out but it has grown into a more efficient system over the years."
"It’s about balance, which is a really challenging thing for me as a person as well as business owner and a mum. Like, when you start a business you don’t take a day off or a night off, you’re always on. And that’s where I found it challenging especially in the first few years. Just making time to stop. Being married to the person you have a business with is also hard because it’s what you always talk about at home.
A big lifestyle health thing for us is setting boundaries - making times where we say, ‘we’re just not going to go there today.’ It’s important, and for me I’m a really high energy, busy person, I’ve had to learn - especially when I was pregnant, learn to slow down at points for health reasons. It was a really good lesson for me."
A couple of years ago both Dan and I did a vedic meditation course with Jacqui at the Broad Place, which was hugely impactful, we try to fit in regular meditation as much as we can. I was able to keep it up when Willa was little but it’s much harder now that she’s so active! We actually had the entire team do the same course earlier this year which has had a huge impact on work flow and creativity in the studio.
Getting enough sleep has been a challenge since the baby was born, obviously. I’ve never valued sleep more than I do now, so just trying to get sleep and eat decent food and trying to get some downtime outside of work.
Having a business is very all-consuming in that growth period. It feels like you’re putting every bit of energy that you have into it so now we’re trying to focus on spending time with family as well. And quality time - just switching off from everything else and having that separation, being more present in other things as well as the business.
Time to workout
I haven’t exercised properly in the last year since having the baby. I did pilates for a while but it’s just so hard to find the time. I try to get outside and walk where I can, I also do a lot of toddler chasing - does that count?
Dan and I try and give each other half an hour out every day, whatever that looks like - go for a walk, go for a swim, sit in the car and meditate. Just individual time on our own to catch a breath. It’s something you quickly lose when you have little one. I find little things like that make a big difference, you have to think about these things and make them priorities otherwise they just disappear.
I try to eat really well and so does Dan, we just need to eat well to feel good and stay healthy because there’s so much going on, so much energy required. So it’s lots of good food but I’m still probably having too much wine. Still, balance!
I can’t eat dairy or gluten since having the baby, it’s so annoying, I miss bread! But it’s meant that I have to figure out other food to eat to feel full. It’s really broadened my scope I guess. I usually try and buy local, organic groceries, lots of wholefoods and organic meats.
I’m very conscious of the environment, especially with all of the disposable things that come along with a baby. When Willa was in nappies we used Toms sustainable nappies. I couldn’t go as far as cloth nappies, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to the washing machine. We live a busy life but try to make the right choices and always with a level of consciousness, we’re plastic free as far as possible at home.
As a manufacturer and retailer of fine jewellery, it is of the utmost importance to us to create responsibly, source mindfully and ensure that all of our pieces are produced with a focus on sustainability and ethical practice.
We are in a great position to manage this; handcrafting all of our pieces in house gives us control over the process, from sourcing, production, setting, finishing through to packaging and freight. We are also aware that the supply chain does not start with us and we have a responsibility to understand every element of where our materials are sourced, how they are obtained and what is involved in each step of the process.
We’re conscious that everything in our industry comes from mining and has a big carbon footprint, so we’re trying to offset that with small steps. We use 70% recycled gold and 100% recycled silver, where we use freshly mined gold it’s predominantly mined in Australia which is a good assurance for us given Australia’s stringent health and safety and environmental guidelines.
We spent a really long time refining down our supplier network, so making sure we only work with trusted suppliers. Building relationships with certain suppliers over the years and really understanding their supply chain and working with suppliers who deal directly with the people who supply them.
For example, one of our key stone suppliers who provides all of our collection stones has got his own mines that he personally visits. He’s at the mine, he’s seeing the material through extraction and cutting and managing that process really closely. That’s the best control we can get from a sustainable and ethical perspective.
It’s definitely at the forefront of our minds and it’s always been a key focus. Trying to really make sure that everything - even when we fit out the shop all the joinery was done by small, local businesses. It’s something our clients are aware of too and we love being able to share the story with them.
My routine has been pared down dramatically since having a baby. I used to have a facial every month, I’ve only had three since she was born! I use Sodashi cleanser and scrub, followed by jojoba oil, and then my one extravagance is La Mer moisturiser.
What’s your superpower?
“I think my superpower is that I am now very productive with my time. Since having a baby my work life has obviously had to adapt, as a mother you have so many more demands on your time, and such smaller windows to work within - the 15 hour working days are just not realistic anymore! I have managed to reach a high level of focus in the time that I do have, and somehow, on the days that I am not in the studio, I still manage to cram in a day’s work into her three hour nap time! I have become very vigilant with staying on top of things, which drives my productivity even further. Being on top of things fuels confidence which in turn fuels motivation to maintain those productivity levels, allowing for balance in other areas of life, and most importantly, less stress which means I can be present and connected and not distracted by work worries when I am with my daughter.”
PHOTOS: Chris Mohen