Listen to episode 17:
This week's show features guest Alex Angel–Benscher, founder of Vurchoo Jewellery. Alex talks to Jamie about his unique business, how losing his job on two occasions compelled him to start his own venture and the challenges of being an ethical company in the jewellery industry.
For 15% off at Vurchoo Jewellery use code: iwoca15
- Alex started out as a graffiti artist, teaching himself to draw and experimenting with different styles on railway tracks across the South–East of Essex.
- After some other graffiti artists in his social circles lost their lives on the tracks, Alex decided to change the way he channeled his creativity.
- After losing his job twice during the recession, he turned to travel for inspiration for what to do next. On returning, he decided to take a leap of faith and become his own boss.
- Alex created Vurchoo – an award winning, ethical jewellery company that creates timeless pieces.
- He works with schools in Rwanda, Guatemala, India and Cambodia, getting children to draw what means the most to them. He then uses his design skills to turn these drawings into beautiful pieces of jewellery.
- A proportion of his sales are then given back to the schools.
- Getting Vurchoo to a stage that it could support him independently took four years.
- Having a business mentor helped make informed industry decisions.
Running the business
- Christmas is a very busy period, with a number of pieces in his collection already selling out.
- Negotiating deals with trade companies has proven to a challenging area of the business.
- Advertising on social media – while Alex isn't a natural social poster he has a strong following.
- Alex decided to stop selling pearls due to the unethical practices involved in farming them.
- Today, consumers are increasingly aware of what they are spending their money on, and maintaining ethical practice must remain at the centre of Vurchoo's business model.
Things Alex wished he knew when he started his business:
- Choose a name that's easy for people to understand
- Always carry business cards
- Do your market research, analyse what sells well and why
- It's not all about money
- Don't outsource if you don't need to
- Choose a website provider that supports you
- Your own ideas aren't always the best, bounce your ideas of someone with a different perspective
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Brilliant or bonkers?
'People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. Never throw out anyone.'
– Audrey Hepburn
Jamie Maddison is Head of Content Marketing at iwoca. He's written for a range of publications including Lonely Planet, Geographical, Diplomat, and Hidden Europe – and is the host of the ‘9 to when?’ podcast.
Article updated on: 5 November 2019