Lucy Lee is an ex-TV Producer, who once she had kids decided to start an online business. After some tries, she built Scream Pretty, an e-commerce that design and sells beautiful jewellery. It took about 2 years from initial idea to Scream Pretty going live and Instagram influencers were their best marketing strategy to grow. Learn from her successes and mistakes!
Hi Lucy! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
I am an ex-TV Producer, who once I had kids decided to start an ‘easy’ online business so that I could work from home and find that elusive work-life balance! Fail.
My name is Lucy Lee, (43 years) based in Windsor, in the United Kingdom, Scream Pretty is my second jewellery brand after starting Lily Charmed in 2011. I no longer work from home and have a studio and 6 full-time staff, and numerous part-time staff, and have even dragged my husband and sister into the business too!
My title in the business is ‘Director’ however I wear many hats, from designer, sales strategist, merchandiser, stylist, account manager, event manager and tea maker. We have a very collaborative approach - which means that we pull together as a team, to get the work done!
In Summary - our business model for both Lily Charmed and Scream Pretty, is to design beautiful jewellery, and sell it via our websites and find resellers at trade shows to build the brands’ reach.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before Scream Pretty, I was, and still am, running a successful Jewellery business, Lily Charmed - but the focus of Lily Charmed was on sentimental, gifting charm jewellery and I wanted to flex my designer muscles (Along with my sister Jessica on the left of the photo below), and work on edgier more fashion-led design. This was the inspiration behind Scream Pretty.
Before starting in e-commerce, I was a TV and Event Producer - which is a great job - you discover, that with research and hard graft you can become an ‘expert’ in almost anything. I had already tried to start a business. pitching TV show ideas to big Channels in my twenties - turns out they all had ideas ‘just like mine’ in development already! (exhausting) so I decided this wasn’t a business model to continue with.
As I’d already tried running a business, setting up another when I had two very small children seemed like a great idea, I could work from home and look after them too. I had a business partner who was already running jewellery shops, so had contacts and knowledge, so starting an online jewellery business seemed an easy step - even though I had NO experience selling online.
Sadly, after working for free for two years building and creating a profitable business, Lily Charmed, my business partner decided that he wanted out, and asked for a vast sum of money for me to ‘buy him out’ or split the business (we had created 2 brand names by that point) as I couldn't afford to buy him out - we had to split the business, and I felt very bruised by the whole event. With hindsight though, this backward step, as I saw it then, was the launch-pad to grow Lily Charmed in ways that my previous partner wouldn't (we are now in the largest UK jewellery chain, and exporting to China), and it gave the scope, finances and creative space to launch a brand-new site Scream Pretty.
How did you build Scream Pretty?
Scream Pretty was a side project for me, so I took my time building the look and feel on the Shopify store, and creating the right jewellery designs and imagery. There was no rush or agenda, as it was self-funded, and we had no investors wanting returns - a luxurious start really!
It took about 2 years from initial idea to Scream Pretty going live. My sister and I worked on the designs, and finding the right ‘look and feel’, then had to find a manufacturer that suited the style and could also deliver the quality (and be ethical in their employment record), we used a talented cousin to design the Logo, and another to model for us, I worked on the website in my free time - and Shopify was an amazing platform for me to play on, with no tech knowledge, but lots of creativity!
I love starting new projects, and starting Scream Pretty was a real buzz.
The jewellery looked fantastic from the outset - although there were a few quality issues to be ironed out.
Jewellery can be expensive, so we wanted to find a way of creating an affordable luxe brand, so you can treat yourself on payday, rather than having to save all year! Pricing is key to our success for both retail and trade customers. It means our margins aren't large on trade orders, but volume sales and repeat sales from these customers makes us see that we were right to keep trade margins low, so that retail customers get a good affordable price - and keep coming back for more.
We launched the website using social media and sending one email to our Lily Charmed mailing list (they are very different customer groups). Our first promotion was to reward our first 100 customers with a 10% discount on the site, for life! On anything, even sale lines.
We were disheartened at how slow traffic was to the site initially, as we are always looking for more traffic! We were using Facebook adverts, Instagram (daily) and Twitter. We were so proud of the site we expected a flood of visitors - but got a trickle.
The conversion rate on the site is high 33.5% in the last month (May 2018) - so when a customer is finding us, they already have the incentive to buy, having generally come to our site from @screamprettystyle Instagram 81%. So, we are still working on ways to push more traffic towards Scream Pretty.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
We have worked with influencers on Instagram and are keen to do more. Our collaboration with Sammi Jefcoate, brought us many more followers and sales of our Starburst Hoop Earrings and Opal Huggies, that she wore in her Instagram posts.
We have also worked with other Instagrammers, which seems to have gained us followers and traffic, but not all of the effort put in can be seen in sales for each and every post.
We also found that one of our blog posts about the #curatedear drove lots of US traffic to our site, so we will be writing more niche blogs about jewellery styling.
We have grown the trade side of the business substantially, by doing the trade show circuit in London, and every trade customer has now re-ordered, which we find really encouraging. And this helps drive awareness of the brand, and people who purchase a Scream Pretty item, often have a look at our website, but have the luxury of touching the item, when they buy it from a boutique! We have found that curated, London fashion boutiques have just the right ‘Scream Pretty’ customers - which makes us think we should be looking at a similar type of store in New York next year perhaps….
Facebook adverts - so far have not really worked for us - perhaps we haven't found the right ‘audience’, but we will keep trying.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?
We are stretched and need more staff - and there aren’t enough hours in the day to run 2 business the way you would want. So, Scream Pretty is a little like a second child, that doesn't get as much attention as they deserve. I would love to find an extra day a week, or 2 more members of staff, then I feel I could get Scream Pretty in front of more people, as I think when people do find us, they like us and return - or buy gifts for their friends!
As I run the business with my husband, we find that work life and family life often overlap, and our daughter (age 9) is the first to say dinner time is ‘family time’ not ‘work time’ as sometimes it is hard to leave work at work, especially as we also have a home office - and often work late into the night! Although as we do run our own business our children are lucky to have one of their parents at the school gates to pick them up each day!
Which are your greatest disadvantages?
There are many, many, many jewellery brands out there, and trying to keep your ideas fresh, and your designs unique is tricky in a world where Google and Pinterest share every design idea across the world in seconds.
We are ‘Screaming’ into a very populated and crowded market, so we need to learn how to Scream louder. As we only launched in 2016, we are not widely known, so we need word of mouth or a publicity ‘break’ to get us the recognition that could take us forward.
During the process of building & growing Scream Pretty, which were the worst mistakes you committed?
We were guilty of over ordering on designs we thought would fly but turned out not to be as commercial as we’d hoped, using up cash flow that could have been allocated elsewhere.
We ordered gift boxes that had not been tested for tarnishing - and this caused issues for our trade customers, that had badly tarnish jewellery after short periods. NOT ideal! So, we had to find a new more reliable and quality box supplier - sometimes you just need to pay a little more, to save yourself time, and money in the long run!
Here are our new and improved boxes!
If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?
If I could give myself a big talking to, I possibly would have delayed starting Scream Pretty until my children were older, as I feel my work life balance is a little work heavy BUT, I love it, so maybe I wouldn’t have listened!
I would also have tried to find a PR agency to help me place my jewellery into the hands of stylists so that we could get more coverage in the press, to boost our initial launch.
We have found doing pop up shops a great way of testing our designs, before launching them on the website and incurring the cost of photography and uploading. I wish we had done more pop up shops prior to the launch, then some designs wouldn't have made the final cut. I would highly recommend this route for all e-commerce channels - if your customer doesn't like a product, don’t move forward with it!
Apart from mistakes, what are other sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?
I read forums on Shopify Facebook groups for helpful advice, and also love reading blogs (mostly by Shopify) on tops and tricks to expand your business.
But for me - I learn from my mistakes, and just throw myself into things - and this approach seems to have worked so far.