Zimbabwean jewellery designer, Rachel Phiri, founded her company Silverbox Jewellery based on a passion for beautiful accessories and an inbuilt creativity that was looking for an outlet. The result is a jewellery business being built across two countries in Africa, and involving the family and their talents in its growth and development.
As part of LoA’s special Focus on Africa’s Women Jewellery Designers, we chatted to Rachel Phiri recently to find out more about how she became a jewellery designer and the experiences on her entrepreneurial journey so far.
Tell us a little about your company, Silverbox Jewellery
My company, Silverbox Jewellery is a Zimbabwean enterprise, creating beautiful, affordable handcrafted jewellery. I was inspired to startup the business as a result of my independent, creative spirit and my love for jewellery, which is unique and showcases quality workmanship - plus its greatly priced. I believe that what makes Silverbox Jewellery special is my great eye for the stones that are used and the colour combinations chosen for each piece, all of which is relevant to today's women’s accessorising needs.
"I was inspired to startup the business as a result of my independent, creative spirit and my love for jewellery, which is unique and showcases quality workmanship."
Tell us a little about your team
I have a small growing team at Silverbox Jewellery. I am responsible for the engine work of the business, making the jewellery, coordinating the pricing, ensuring quality control, handling the administration, managing the social media and the photography. My sister handles the South African marketplace side of the business, and is responsible for buying, dealing with customers that country, and she is overseeing our new retail venture which is located in Woodstock. She is also a valuable sounding board when brainstorming new jewellery designs, or identifying and researching markets or events to attend in South Africa, particularly in Cape Town. Graphic Edge in Johannesburg maintains and updates my website. They also create the artwork for my business cards, banners or any other graphic design work I might require for the business. Providing essential assistance on the ground during events or fairs, I have two casual ladies who work with me, Tassja and Tiffany.
"In terms of my entrepreneurial background, my parents set a really great example for me as business people. My mum used to knit, sew and bake items to sell. My father used his retrenchment package to start a grinding mill business that has been operating for over 20 years now."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I started out sewing clothes and knitting, selling the garments to family and friends. I then designed T-shirts and sweaters incorporating beading into the finished products. I was intrigued by the use of beadworking in clothing and decided to pursue it full-time, attending a short course at the Ruth Prowse School of Design in Cape Town to learn more about the tools and techniques of jewellery making. The highlight of my entrepreneurial journey at this point was being invited for a 2nd time by the SABC 3 breakfast show "Expresso" for their arts and crafts segment in June 2012.
Today, I have established a series of retail partnerships in both South Africa (Cape Town) and Zimbabwe (Harare), which I am very happy with. Markets as retail sales points have been my bread and butter since I started out in business, and I still attend them every week. I thrive on the interaction I have with my customers and the feedback I get.
In terms of my entrepreneurial background, my parents set a really great example for me as business people. My mum used to knit, sew and bake items to sell. My father used his retrenchment package to start a grinding mill business that has been operating for over 20 years now.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
My immediate plans are to grow a loyal customer base in Zimbabwe, and at the same time ensuring the successful launch of our Woodstock Foundry retail space in South Africa. My medium to long-term plans are focused on opening a flagship retail store on either side of the South African/Zimbabwe border, whereby we will be best positioned to offer women the most authentic, beautiful and affordable jewellery ranges. I would also love to see a major department store in Africa stock my jewellery, and also similarly such stores abroad. Shops such as Edgars, Woolworths or Foschini are on my vision board in Africa. My wildest dream is for my jewellery to be used for a motion picture movie or a television ‘soapie’.
"I love being in a position to put smiles on my customers faces - a returning customer is the best compliment I can ever receive."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I love being in a position to put smiles on my customers faces - a returning customer is the best compliment I can ever receive. Also, being able to make a living from my own ideas is priceless.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up in business?
I would say always do your best work (especially when no one is watching). Consistency in your work will speak for you louder and further than you ever can in words. And, remember to smile and believe in yourself - if you can dream it, you can do it.
Contact or follow Silverbox Jewellery
Why LoA loves it….
Rachel Phiri is a great example of an African woman entrepreneur who is following her passion and creating a business doing something she loves, which reflects in the jewellery pieces she creates. She is also a great role-model for others to follow, demonstrating that with ambition and hard work, plus an ability to harness her creative talent, she is building a cross-border family business that can thrive well into the future. --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief