Ruth Morris, founder of Influenstar tells us about building a trendy jewelry business.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ruth Morris: Good, thank you, just missing friends, family and going out and all the ‘normal’ aspects of life. Overall, though, I’m grateful that my nearest and dearest haven’t been directly affected by COVID and are all in good health.
If anything, the pandemic has certainly given me and my family more time to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors and even the simplest of things far more than we would have before lockdown. Being able to go to local parks and National Trust sites has been a lifesaver in that respect!
The biggest challenge for me has been organizing home-schooling for my two daughters and juggling the launch of my new business, Influenstar – all whilst also being on part-time furlough. Despite this, I’ve definitely appreciated being home more and getting to see my family much more than usual.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Influenstar.
Ruth Morris: I worked as a teacher for over 16 years but left the profession last summer to spend more time with my two daughters: multiple lockdowns later, I’ve certainly enjoyed some quality time at home! However, I did then move into a part-time office role and then, like many, spent a large part of 2020 furloughed due to the pandemic. Whilst on furlough, I decided to finally take the leap and set up my own business, which I’d always wanted to do as a jewelry junkie myself. Hours and hours of research and countless samples later, Influenstar was born.
Whilst it was always my dream to launch a jewelry and accessories brand, the desire for it to be eco-conscious and sustainable came during the hours I put into market and product research. I was horrified to learn about the excessive waste and damage that fast fashion contributes to the planet. The fast fashion industry contributes 5% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, which is equal to the total impact of the entire aviation industry!
Whilst many brands are introducing ‘conscious’ or ‘sustainable’ lines or ranges of products, my vision with Influenstar is to always ensure that our entire inventory only consisted of jewelry pieces that utilize recycled materials alongside offering eco-friendly packaging. This way, we’re doing as much as possible to offer our customers a more sustainable option than fast fashion and help to educate them on consumer responsibility.
How does Influenstar innovate?
Ruth Morris: All of Influenstar’s jewelry has had a previous life and is made using recycled 925 silver, which omits the damaging mining and refining processes of extracting new resources from the earth. By skipping this process, we help to create less waste, cut down on C02 emissions, reduce water usage and other environmental impacts.
Likewise, we ship all of our orders in Eco Signature boxes; the paper used for the packaging contains residues from organic products, which replace 15% of the wood pulp. For the brand’s product boxes, a by-product from corn production is used and all glue is water-based. We’re really proud that our jewelry box is FSC®certified products / FSC Mix 70%.
One of my main goals is to educate my customers about the importance of choosing high-quality, recycled jewelry over mass-produced, fast fashion equivalents and hope that this then positively impacts some of their wider buying habits. From the brand’s inception, it was extremely important to me that we’d be able to provide our customers with guilt-free, affordable products that don’t compromise on style or sustainability!
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Ruth Morris: Having launched during the ongoing pandemic, I don’t yet have any experience of what running a business in ‘normal’ times looks like! Whilst it’s been challenging, it will definitely be interesting to see how the easing of restrictions has an impact upon sales, our supply chain, and inventory: our current supplier has been running a massively reduced service due to the impact of COVID-regulations.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Ruth Morris: Our biggest challenge so far has been looking deeper into sustainability and how we can improve further as a business. Whilst the core components of our packaging are eco-friendly, we have had to use less environmentally-friendly options due to budgetary and supply issues in order to protect our jewelry whilst it’s in transit to our customers.
Likewise, whilst all of our jewelry is made from recycled silvery, we’d love to be able to expand our product range in the future to include pieces that are made from other recycled materials. This is currently a supply chain issue and hopefully, we’ll be able to explore some more options for our customers during the coming months.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Ruth Morris: Our main marketing tool is currently Instagram, which is lots of fun because we can share our beautiful imagery and key brand messaging directly with our target audience. We’ve also worked with a range of influencers over the past few months on bespoke campaigns which have helped to steadily build our audience and customer base. Most recently, we also secured a styling campaign with singer/songwriter Ella Henderson: she was pictured wearing our jewelry on The Graham Norton Show and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, which was incredibly exciting!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ruth Morris: From a sustainability angle, we do have a few competitors: for example, Millie Grace has a beautiful range of products that are also made from recycled 925 silver. Other jewelry brands, however, are less focused on sustainability and we believe that as the demand for environmentally friendly jewelry continues to grow, we will be able to rival their market shares.
I believe that Influenstar has a winning combination of sustainability and style with an affordable range of earrings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and rings to choose from; all of which are gold-plated and hand-finished in Europe. This is alongside our active commitment to finding more ways in which we can be even more eco-friendly and innovative with our approach, even as a small business.
Your final thoughts?
Ruth Morris: If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to think more proactively about the future of the planet. As a mother of two, this shift in consumer consciousness resonated with me deeply: I’m determined to do what I can to minimize Influenstar’s impact upon the environment, from our product ranges to packaging.
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