Irish startup Coldlilies’ tagline is "curated and coveted designer jewellery." It has been founded by two Irish female entrepreneurs, Ciara McKenna and Kim Knowles.
The global jewellery market was worth $260 Billion in 2012, competition is heating up in this space with Birchbox recently raising $60 million in venture capital.
What kind of changes did the company/product go through in early stages?
We've just completed our open-beta test of the UK and Irish markets, during which time we grew from a base of 12 Irish creatives to 30 of the most exciting up-and-coming jewellery designers in the UK and Ireland, and a niche craft-loving following to tens of thousand's of repeat fashion-loving visitors. This "proof of concept" has provided invaluable consumer, marketing and sales data for the next phase of Coldlilies' development, and our final site build, which will be US-customer centric.
Do you have investors? Are you looking for further investment?
We recently won Enterprise Ireland's Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs, for which we received $60,000 investment and, significantly, became a High Potential Start-Up ("HPSU"). Our HPSU status means that we are eligible for matching Enterprise Ireland funding for each dollar of private investment raised. We are currently raising a seed round of $500,000 in the US, giving potential investors the opportunity to double the impact of their investment at an early stage in the company's evolution.
Tell us about your industry: What was it like to break into?
Fashion is a notoriously hard industry to break into but we've an advantage in terms of our product. We carefully select our designers and edit our collections – only choosing pieces that are design-led, wearable, and hand-finished with care using quality materials. The design and quality of the product speaks for itself, which has resulted in an enviable following among fashion influencers and many loyal customers.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far? The greatest victory?
Certainly the greatest challenge, but also our greatest decision, was to bootstrap our business initially. As a result we have a very lean business model. Winning the Competitive Start Fund was a huge victory for us, as it was the first time we pitched for funding. Our write-up in British Vogue which cited “Coldlilies.com is the place to click if you’re looking for something to steal the show” was also quite a good day!
What's been the most important lesson?
Trust your instincts, but challenge every assumption.
What are your plans for 2014?
We're planning to raise a seed round this summer and to enter the US Market, with our final site launch, in late Autumn.
What international markets do you foresee the company expanding into?
We're concentrating on the US market at present, for three reasons: (1) the product - the real jewellery sector is expected to grow by 15% in volume & 17% in value to reach US$57.4 bn by 2018, (2) the customer - female consumers in the US are already engaged in self-purchasing; luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter saw sales of fine jewellery more than double in the year between 2012 and 2013, and (3) the channel - US jewellery and watches e-tailers ranked among the top five categories posting the strongest year-on-year growth, at 17%.
At present, the UK, EU and US account for 60% of the global jewellery market.
What advice do you have for other people/companies starting out in your industry?
There is huge untapped potential in fashion technology. So long as your product is consumer-centric, you're half-way there. There's plenty of room for everyone!
How can you scale?
Our brand strength is our exclusivity - as each piece is hand-finished, it is limited edition. We envisage greater geographical expansion of our designer base to encompass the best of Europe, the US and beyond, and a greater depth of product choice, without diluting the brand.
Who do you think are your customers?
A growing demographic of stylish, digitally savvy, and financially independent women in their 20's, 30's and 40's buying for themselves. We are meeting their demand for a premium product and buying experience.
For more information check out the Coldlilies platform.