Hi, I’m Sarah, and for Week 3 of FFW, I interviewed Catherine Rhys Jones of Catch Rhys. Catch is a solopreneur who’s focus is on encouraging people to buy jewellery more responsibly. Instead of buying low quality plated jewellery that will lose its colour and need to be frequently replaced, Catch wants people to consider the lifetime value of the jewellery that they own. That’s why she focuses on timeless pieces crafted from solid Gold & Silver; chains, hoops & stacking rings that you can sleep, shower, exercise in and cherish for a lifetime. She lives in London, UK. You can check out her website and order pieces here.
Sarah: Hey Catch! Thanks for joining us. Let’s start with what inspired you to start Catch Rhys?
Catch: I started Catch Rhys because I wanted to be my own boss and build the type of company that I would want to work in, rather than working for someone else. I also saw a gap in the market for real ‘forever’ jewellery that was honestly priced, which motivated me to create a responsible jewellery brand focused on the classic jewellery staples. All Catch Rhys pieces are made from solid 9ct Gold & Sterling Silver, whilst designed to be timeless and worn 24/7.
Sarah: You said that you wanted to create a company that you would want to work for. What does that look like to you?
Catch: I want to work in a company that is founded on positive values rather than just greed to make money no matter the cost. A business obviously needs to be profitable, but I can’t see a reason why it can’t be done honestly and with a positive impact. I also strongly believe that it’s time for female founders to get the recognition they deserve and am proud to be part of a growing community of women that are founding businesses in the UK.
Sarah: I love that. When you say that you’re a ‘responsible’ jewellery brand, what do you mean by that? Does it have to do with sustainability?
Catch: Sustainability has become a bit of a buzz word in recent years, however the very nature of a brand that releases new products and encourages consumption is unsustainable, so it can be really misleading! I prefer to use the word responsible, as I believe that as a business I have a responsibility to have as little negative impact as possible on people and the planet.
One of the key values of Catch Rhys is that if you buy a better product you will love it for longer and, as a result, consume less. Along with that, I use recycled metals where I can, local manufacturers to ensure fair working conditions and reduce my carbon footprint, and have reusable and recyclable packaging. It’s impossible to be perfect, especially as a small brand, but I try my best and am constantly learning and trying to improve things!
Sarah: So, how exactly did you get started?
Catch: I had no experience in jewellery whatsoever before I started, but I’d studied Fine Art and had a background in fashion PR, so I was looking to do something creative in the fashion space. The process of jewellery making intrigued me more than clothing, and I saw an opportunity in the market so I went for it. I started by doing some short courses in jewellery making to get an idea of the processes behind the craft. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to outsource the production side of things, but I am a strong believer in having at least a basic understanding of every part of the business to begin with. Next, I started designing pieces and sourcing manufacturers. It took me a long time to find the right people and is an ongoing part of the process. The business has changed and pivoted quite a bit along the way.
Sarah: I’m glad that you mentioned pivoting, because it’s something that a lot of founders have to go through. What did the process look like for you?
Catch: When I first started out, I had planned to design more creative pieces. Pretty early on, however, I realised that everyone was asking me the same questions; where could they buy solid Gold chains, hoops and rings at affordable prices? I realised there was a huge gap in the market for a brand that offered simple solid Gold classics and sat somewhere between Argos and Tiffany’s. Once I started to introduce those pieces they sold so much better than the other items, and so I pivoted the brand to concentrate on simple, timeless classics as my unique selling point (USP) and it has really paid off.
In the beginning, I also wanted to make all the jewellery with UK manufacturers from 100% recycled metals, but found that it just wasn’t possible due to manufacturing constraints. I have achieved that with around 90% of my products, but most of my hoops are now made in Italy as there aren’t any UK manufacturers that make the style of hoop I need. As a small brand you have to sometimes make exceptions and pivot things as you don’t have the resources and power of large stock orders that bigger brands do.
The hoops are my biggest sellers now, though. People love the design and quality of them, so it was ultimately the right decision for the business.
Sarah: As Alex and I both know, learning from mistakes is a huge part of starting a business. What have been your biggest challenges? What motivates you to keep going?
Catch: Some of my biggest challenges have been with the production side of things. I gave myself parameters at the beginning that have been impossible to stick to as a small business. I wanted everything to be made in the UK, but it turns out that being made in the UK doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better quality product, and ultimately the product is the priority. I still keep a lot of my production in the UK and am hoping that as the business grows it can eventually be 100% UK based. Being small can be really difficult with production as you often need to fulfil minimum order quantities (MOQ), etc.
I think the key is to be open to change. If something isn’t possible or isn’t working, then allow yourself to pivot. It’s better to have a slightly different business than no business at all! And you don’t have to lose sight of your dream in order to pivot. I’m still really clear on my mission to create a better business.
I’ve definitely faced challenges being a female founder as well. I had a bad experience with one of my early manufacturers who just didn’t take me seriously at all. We need more female-founded businesses creating change in a male-dominated world, and that motivates me to keep going.
Sarah: How do you manage work-life balance? How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
Catch: I haven’t always been that good at work-life balance, especially as social media is such a big part of my business and it’s a 24 hour a day job in itself! I got sick last year and was forced to take some time off which was a bit of a lesson. I realised that it was the first time I had properly relaxed in a while, as I’m always stressed or thinking about work. I’ve tried to put some rules in place such as putting aside fixed times in the day to go through my social media and reply to messages, otherwise it can be relentless.
When I’m not working I love to cook, hang out with my friends and my dog, and I love to travel (which is slightly tricky at the moment due to Covid-19).
Sarah: What has been your proudest achievement so far?
Catch: I think my proudest achievement so far has to be smashing my sales targets last month. I tripled my target which was amazing. Apart from the obvious financial advantages, it’s always such a great feeling to know that people are loving what you’re doing. It really motivates you to keep going!
Sarah: Congratulations! And last but not least, what is your best piece of advice to other women starting a business?
Catch: Perseverance is key, and don’t be afraid to pivot when you need to. Change can be good!
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