Lockdown Economy Cyprus in a Handmade Jewellery Brand with Tiffany Khoury
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Tapasya Das
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Tiffany, the founder of Artisan with Love, handmade jewellery, in Cyprus. Artisan with Love is a jewellery brand for the soul handcrafted from semi-precious stones, gold plated charms and sterling silver. Tiffany has a very special relationship with each piece and design she creates. As an entrepreneur who started her own business in the wake of a pandemic, Tiffany is on the constant lookout for the best business practices, she is focused on having a digital presence, especially in today’s world. The biggest challenge was taking the first step, getting started, and believing in herself. As a result, Artisan with Love is now operating from a virtual online and shipping worldwide due to Tiffany’s dedication, talent, and business acumen. She has a pretty widespread customer base with people who live in Cyprus, UAE, and Lebanon.
What do you do as a business?
Tiffany: “Artisan with love” is a jewellery brand for the soul. It is handcrafted from semi-precious stones, gold-plated charms and sterling silver charms. The brand combines creativity, love and passion. It was launched in early November. So that was approximately a month and a half ago. What makes the brand unique is not only the selection of the stones and the unseen designs. But each piece tells a different story, which creates a special bond between the wearer and the piece itself.
So this is a business that has been opened recently. I’m sure you are putting your heart in every piece. How many employees help you in your designs and in choosing the items for you to create the unique pieces?
Tiffany: Right now it is only me. So I am in charge of everything, from the selection of the stones to handcrafting the pieces, and also overlooking the marketing and management, and so on, as well. So it is just me.
I’m sure that you will be able to understand the business requirements more and more. I think you will have an additional team on board after the business grows. It’s been one and a half months since it’s operating. So do you have a customer base and have you recognised a pattern or target customers within this period?
Tiffany: I do have a small database. It is not as big but I’m sure it will grow eventually. I hope so. Basically, my customers are located here in Cyprus, in Dubai and in Lebanon. They are doing well but you know the pandemic right now. I realised that I do like to listen to their feedback a lot. Especially, because I just started. So I do like to see what they like the most, what they didn’t like and so on. So we are always in constant contact as well.
So you are able to understand their preference more and create your designs accordingly. So that they would fit the customer base and maybe reach a wider segment.
Tiffany: Exactly, but also at the same time my collections have a variety of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and so on. So I do a little bit of everything. That way I know that I can cover people’s preferences. At the same time, I like creating stuff that I would wear as well.
That what you have on yourself as an accessory, is it your design?
Tiffany: Of course! I wear my designs all day.
Of course, I would put them on as well if I have beautiful designs. So speaking about this business that was born during the lockdown, one understands that it definitely carried its own challenges. The lockdown started and you decided to move. I think you moved from Lebanon to Cyprus. So you were brave to go on this venture with flexibility and openness required to have a business of your own. I think the second wave or the ease of the lockdown happened. But there were still some restrictions. So tell me, how did it affect your business, when you were still launching? What key challenges did you experience because of these circumstances?
Tiffany: As you know, I’m located here in Cyprus and my base is here in Cyprus. When I moved here, we had the first lockdown, which was fine. Then they relaxed the measures a bit and then we got into a second lockdown. But it wasn’t really a lockdown as we were not completely forbidden to go out. It was a situation with certain restrictions like we can’t go out after 9 pm and so on. So I do think that it comes with some challenges. Especially because I don’t have a physical shop. I do have a digital shop. So people can’t always just come, see, buy and leave. So everything has to be done in the virtual platforms. But at the same time, I guess, you cope with it, like everything. I mean there is nothing you can actually do, other than that.
I totally agree. So with every circumstance, there are some elements we are able to work with. Being an entrepreneur, everyone has a mindset that there is a challenge, this is a tour. I was speaking to someone else the last time. He told me as well that his preoccupation was “How do I figure another route of overcoming it?”. So because of the passion that drives you, you are already embracing the obstacles that you have. You see them as just another challenge. “How can I stop here!”
Tiffany: Exactly! You just always have to find a way, irrelevant of what the way is. You just always have to find one.
True! Do you have any challenge in particular, besides having a shop, moving to a virtual platform and using social media to sell your items, that you were able to solve?
Tiffany: I won’t really say it’s a challenge. But I think it comes with almost anything, just like really getting started with something that you are really passionate about. Well, this is my opinion and I don’t know about everyone else. I’m just going to talk about me. So I always have liked the “what-ifs” in my head, like- “What if I fail?”, “What if I don’t succeed?” or “What if I don’t get the results that I wanted to get?, let’s say, in the first six months”. So this is one of the biggest challenges is like getting started. So it did take me a while to get started because I had to really convince myself, saying, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do and I’m going to do it with all my heart, blood, sweat and tears. Whatever it takes!”. But at the end when you just get started, you will be like, “Okay, as long as I’m keeping busy, I’m going to do something I love. I can’t fail.” You know what I mean? So that was for me, the biggest challenge. Just like starting and not doubting myself.
Well, this is learning as well. Most of our fears come from within ourselves. But you were able to do so because you had a purpose that was driving you to get over it and say, “I’m going to do it, no matter what happens or whatever the stakes are!” And this is where we are today. We are talking about your business. So tell us, how do you stimulate and attract customers? Is your process working for you so far?
Tiffany: I do have a Master’s degree in fashion and luxury business management. I also have a lot of certificates in digital marketing, content marketing and masterclasses and so on. So, to stimulate the business, what I did was put everything I learnt, together. I am someone who is very fond about marketing and I love marketing in all its form. So I think, having a digital presence in today’s world is really important. That’s what I did. And even though I don’t have a physical shop, one day I will but right now I don’t. I think, how to get me going, how to really attract people and how to do those digitally is important. Because everything is online now. Whether it’s because of the pandemic or not, you must have a social media presence, like digital presence. This is basically what I did and so far, so good. I am getting the results that I like and that I want. That’s it.
So basically, what you are doing is, putting yourself where the customer is. Today, the customers, all of them, are surfing online and checking all the social media platforms to get updated about the news. They also want to see fashion. For me, when I want to look at the new designs, creativity and fashion, I check the social media platforms. I do that since a long time, even from before the pandemic. Now, I get more involved. Not only do I rely on the designs, but I also get to see what the new trends are. It’s accessible. We have all the accessibility that’s possible.
Tiffany: I think that is something really important. The reason I like having an online presence as well is that I can express myself not only in the designs but also through the content that I’m putting on the social media platforms.
So the people or the customer get to know you more and you are more familiar as well with what they like or not. You also know what their favourite pieces are. This is instant feedback for you. So would you like to tell me a little bit about the competition? How are they doing now, if you have any competitions in Cyprus or Lebanon?
Tiffany: Right now, my market is in Cyprus. My market isn’t really in Lebanon. But I do sell worldwide. I ship worldwide basically. But I don’t really have any main competitors at the moment because everything I do is really involved with semi-precious stones. That’s not something that you see very often. So I’m sure that despite any line of work. The pandemic is at everyone’s heart. So whether it’s jewellery or business or finance or anything else, I’m sure everyone is just trying to cope with it.
For sure! Everyone is trying their best not only to survive but also to cope, as you mentioned. Despite the uncertainty, there is a drive. And there is a transformation in the world of digital tools, that we are either trying to learn to use. Some people already have more experience and they are definitely advanced. As you mentioned, you have a degree in digital marketing and this also helps you know what you are doing, more. As we mentioned in the beginning, it’s a festivity, this is the holiday time and people are in this mood. Most of them are in a jolly mood and they expecting 2020 to end soon and to celebrate with many other festivities. So what are your plans for the coming few months? What do you have in store for “Artisan with Love”?
Tiffany: Well right now, I just launched the Christmas edition. It consists of twelve to fourteen pieces of jewellery. For the coming month, I’m hoping to continue on growing. Of course, I do have other collections coming down as we have Valentines’s, New Years and so on. It is going to be an active year, that’s for sure.
Well, I’m happy to hear that you are already thinking about doing seasonal items and pieces that would resonate with everyone. This would be a nice gift or a nice thing that can align with the mood and the period and can be bought. “Artisan with love” is growing and it’s still in the first stage. Can you name three things you need help with? You might have more or less than three.
Tiffany: I can’t really say because I just started. But I do want to have more of a worldwide audience. So maybe that would be brand awareness. So someone can maybe give me a push with that as well. Of course, when things get going, I’m also going to need someone to help me handcraft the pieces. I don’t know, I guess that’s it. It’s too okay.
Yes, it is fine and perfect. I hope in the future, we come back to an interview and we ask you about the collaboration that you would have with new people on board, what your next step would be to scale up the business and get to know more interesting stories. So at the moment, the jewellery, as you quote, is not about the pieces but they are for the soul. You also explained the logo to me. Can you tell us a little bit about the idea behind the logo?
Tiffany: The logo is basically the paper plane. The reason I chose the paper plane is that it symbolises a lot of things. Some of them are imagination, creativity, childhood, optimism, design, desire and even magic. I think that’s what “Artisan with love” stands for. It combines all of these things.
About the Guest
Growing up Tiffany was always intrigued by the jewellery world and wanted to be in the Jewelry business. Her studies include a master’s degree in Fashion and luxury business management and an HRD certificate in Diamond Grading. Life took a detour during the Pandemic and she moved to Cyprus in March of 2020 and during her new journey she decided to pursue her passion and start from scratch, hence Artisan with Love was born.