Life-long artist and Cape Town jewellery designer, Jenny Woolf of Jenny Woolf Jewellery is noted for her sterling silver and imported leather African collection. Having started her business from scratch three years ago she now employs an additional jeweler and three manufacturers.
Her designs, using a lost-wax casting technique, are currently selling in nine high-end gift shops: the 12 Apostles and Mount Nelson hotels in Cape Town; La Residence, Franschhoek; the Birkenhead, Hermanus; the Oyster Box, Umhlanga; Royal Malewane Game Reserve; Kruger National Park; Africa Nova and Tribal Trends, Cape Town.
Q How did you come up with the idea for your business?
A I’m an animal lover and one of my greatest fascinations has been with African tribal culture. I also have extensive experience as a sculptor and jewellery designer, and bringing together these different areas have formed an ideal combination to launch a new jewellery business.
Q What major obstacles did you face?
A Finding a good business partner who could manufacture my designs to a standard that would be acceptable to an upmarket clientele was probably the biggest challenge. Acquiring the skills required to run a business were a close second.
Q How did you overcome them?
A I found a jeweller capable of running a top-quality, jewellery production company. I learned valuable business skills from the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) in Cape Town. Its mission is to assist artists, designers and craftspeople to develop the necessary business skills needed to run your own company. I took many courses there which taught me the basics of costing and pricing products, managing one’s money, bookkeeping, packaging, branding and marketing, among many others.
Q How have you succeeded against the odds to be where you are today?
A It has taken a lot of hard work, patience, determination and three years to get to where I am in my business today. My nature hasn’t allowed me to settle for second best for any part of the business: design, manufacture, corporate image, packaging, display, customer service and marketing.
Q What have you learned the hard way that you would now do differently?
A There has been much time-consuming experimentation along the way but it couldn’t have been avoided to get the results we’ve ended up with.
Q What advice do you have for people looking to start their own business?
A Know that working within a creative field and trying to come up with a good end-product will likely take much experimentation and time; so be patient, hang in there and try to keep your end goal in sight. Also try to find and participate in a business advisory course and look for mentors.
A There have been a few:
Jeweller Greg Abrahams has worked closely with me over the last few years. He taught me a lot about the jewellery manufacturing industry.
The head of the business department at CCDI, Eugene Newman, has been an enormous support to me.
My life partner James Berrange of Media Creative, who has advised and taught me an enormous amount about corporate image, branding and marketing.
Q If you could replicate yourself, what else would you focus on achieving?
A Designing, running a business and marketing at the same time are extremely time-consuming occupations in themselves so I wish there were two or three of me to handle it all simultaneously.