Entrepreneur Spotlight focuses on amazing ladies who are rocking their online businesses.
This week we have the passionate and driven, founder of the ethical jewellery company, Lydia McCarthy-Keen.
Hi Lydia, What’s your business name and what’s your business all about?
Lydia McCarthy-Keen; we are a luxury, ethical jewellery company. For us, the magic happens at the intersection of where luxury and ethics meet.
We only create jewellery which hasn’t been mined. That means recycled metals and lab-grown diamonds and gemstones. Everything is made is the UK.
Fundamentally, we are changing the way smart people buy diamonds, and approach the task via three key questions:
1. Do you wear (or want to wear) diamonds?
2. Do you know where diamonds come from (really)?
3. Do you care?
In light of these, we have five non-negotiables for all the pieces we create:
1. They must be a celebration of luxury
2. They must be a bespoke, timeless design
3. They must be hand-crafted in the UK
4. They must be sustainably sourced
5. They must be made without mining
What was your “Big Why” that drove you to start your business?
I felt a schism in my brain during my own search for an engagement ring, when I came across the true story of Ismael Dalramy, and how he lost his hands in 1996 with two quick blows of an axe as part of systematic violence during the Sierra Leonean civil war. The war is when we coined the phrase, ‘blood diamond’.
He doesn’t remember the pain, he only remembers removing a crude metal ring made for him by his son, and placing it in his pocket. This was the last act his hands ever performed for him.
It strikes me that, even though the war is over, as long as we take diamonds out of the ground, the potential for violence is always a possibility. I couldn’t live with that. We need to do things differently.
What lights you up about your business?
Oh my, where to start? I think my top thing is knowing that an engagement ring I have sold has provided a prosthetic limb and all the necessary rehab for a victim of blood diamonds in Sierra Leone. I feel like that’s a proposal with a real promise to it. That we can use our existing relationships, our dreams and aspirations, to solve some of the world’s most meaningful problems.
Besides that, I just love my work. People don’t understand how the diamond industry works, and it’s something the industry is happy to keep secret. I enjoy drawing back the curtain on the process, taking people behind the scenes and educating them on how all diamonds are sourced and how we price and grade them. It makes people better buyers – like doing a mechanics course before buying a car!
And the stories I hear are just lovely. How people met, what their plans are. It’s a real privilege to be an insider on someone’s very personal relationship journey, long before their closest friends and family know.
What do you get to do in your business that was not possible in your 9-5?
Um, look at diamonds all day! I used to work in the mining, oil and gas sector, and felt stifled in the corporate environment. In the past, I got emails about miners who have died. Now, I salivate over gems and know that each one has the potential to change someone’s life.
I also love choosing how I spend my time. Sometimes I feel I haven’t spent it that wisely, which is a challenge, but I think it’s important to recognise that it’s part of a process.
What daily habits do you without fail, that make a positive impact on your business day?
I allow myself as much creative thinking space as possible. It’s challenging sometimes, but I think it’s essential to remember that 20% of the work gets 80% of the results.
I also spend time ‘engaging with my animal’ every day. I like to think of myself as a racehorse, because it helps me understand and work with my personality when I feel challenged.
I’m a complete nutter a lot of the time, and need a lot of self-care, grooming time and a fancy diet – I can be a bit of handful. But underneath all that, I’m really good natured, and when I have a goal in my sights, I will outperform – over a short distance – until the goal is met. Then I need to recuperate.
My husband on the other hand, sees himself as a shetland pony. This beautiful creature is strong and will take methodical, plodding steps through thick and thin in all weathers for sixteen hours a day until the goal is achieved.
I recommend finding an animal you can relate to, and using it as a way to manage your thoughts whenever you find yourself behaving in a way you think holds you back.
Would you say you’re living the “freedom lifestyle” and how does it look and feel to you?
Ooh, interesting question, because it implies that we are not free if we are employed – I don’t believe in that world-view. I do however benefit from a life without a corporate job, and generally feel cooped up in an office.
Where do you see your business in two years’ time?
On the map. At the moment, we are under the radar, but that’s set to change. My goal for the next two years is to build a profile, so we can do more, be more, and change more in a positive way through entrepreneurship and as a company. You can help by telling a friend about me and following me online!
What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to give to a woman who’s considering starting a business, or who’s finding the initial set up of her business longer or a little trickier than expected?
Of course there will be challenge, but there’s no strain if you can find a way to flow. Business is a series of small wins, not big breakthroughs. Oh, and those dudes haven’t written the statistics on you yet, so don’t bother worrying about what is and isn’t possible for women in business today.
What’s your favourite motivational phrase/quote/mantra?
“You get what you pitch for, and you’re always pitching.” ~ Matthew Michalewicz
It was wonderful hearing about you and your business on the Entrepreneur Spotlight, Lydia. Thank you for sharing with us, and my very best wishes to you for the future, Sharon xox