When LoA heard about South African jewellery designer, Ashley Heather, and how she is creating beautiful, handcrafted and contemporary jewellery pieces from, of all things, precious metals reclaimed from computer circuit boards, we just had to find out more.
As part of our month-long focus on Africa’s Women Jewellery Designers, LoA had the pleasure of speaking to Ashley Heather about her entrepreneurial journey to becoming the only company in the world (that she knows about) to be offering single source recycled precious metals to be used in the creation of beautiful jewellery. Here's her story….
"Entrepreneurship allows me to wear many hats, to learn constantly and to work with all the parts of my brain."
Tell us about your company, ashley heather jewellery
We are a small South African jewellery studio specialising in handcrafted pieces in precious metals reclaimed from circuit boards.
What inspired you to start your company?
I stumbled into jewellery making quite by accident. I had always discounted it as an option for myself because of the issues associated with mining and precious metals, but one day I was visiting a friend and she just happened to be melting a crucible full of silver. I was completely spellbound by its shimmering viscosity. I signed up for a part-time course the next day, and just one lesson in I signed up for a full-time jewellery design and manufacture course. Armed with my technical metalworking skills and a background in fine art, I knew the only way to bring together my dual passions of sustainability and crafting precious metals was to go it on my own - and so, ashley heather jewellery was born.
"The business I run today is nothing like the business I had in my head when I started. It has been a process of learning and unlearning lessons, of making adjustments, and of letting go and celebrating every victory, no matter how small."
What makes your company and your jewellery unique?
We are the only company (that I know about - if anybody knows of another please pass along their details) in the world to be offering single source, recycled precious metals. Single source recycling has many advantages over mixed recycled silver. The biggest of which are traceability and transparency, as well as the ability to develop specific and incredibly efficient, clean and safe extraction practices. That, however, is just part of what we do - we pride ourselves on our craftsmanship and attention to details. Our design style is clean, minimalist and contemporary, allowing the craftsmanship and the wearer to shine.
Tell us a little about your team
Right now my “team” is just myself and one completely indispensable manufacturing/everything else assistant.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
The business I run today is nothing like the business I had in my head when I started. It has been a process of learning and unlearning lessons, of making adjustments, and of letting go and celebrating every victory, no matter how small. Entrepreneurship is intensely personal - it is your passions and your energies made manifest for the world to see and growing a business has been an amazing process of self-discovery and of personal growth.
In answer to your question about whether I come from an entrepreneurial background, the answer is yes, both my parents are entrepreneurs. My dad started his company in recycling and resource management when I was very young, and it is from him that I learnt just how much hard work goes into building something form the ground up, the long hours and sacrifices that are required. That being said, he never was too busy to play ‘my little pony’ with me. That lesson of balance is one I admit I’m still trying to master.
My mum works in sustainable rural development and she has taught me everything I know about creating a community rather than a company, of putting ethics before profits, and is also just about the only one I listen to when it comes to “you’re exhausted. Take a break before you collapse”.
"Entrepreneurship is intensely personal - it is your passions and your energies made manifest for the world to see and growing a business has been an amazing process of self-discovery and of personal growth."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
These could fill a book, but right now I am excited to continue along our current growth trajectory and be able to hire another person to add to our little team. I believe in what we do and I want as many people to benefit from it as possible. Our gold range has also just launched and I am thrilled by the response we have received, so we’re working on getting that up online as soon as possible and adding to the collection.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The process of building something that is in keeping with my values and passions, as well as the opportunities for meaningful, creative and personal growth through my work every day. And believe it or not, I have even come to adore admin - I love attending business courses and talking tax options and export codes. Entrepreneurship allows me to wear many hats, to learn constantly, and to work with all the parts of my brain.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Have patience. Ask for advice but also be prepared to disregard it - your intuition can be as powerful a tool as all the best business books combined. Be kind to yourself.
Contact or follow Ashley Heather
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why LoA loves it….
It is always so wonderful to hear of a woman entrepreneur that is doing something revolutionary in her field of expertise, and at the same time also passionately committed to sustainability in her work and industry, and finding a new way of achieving that sustainability in the process. Ashley Heather is just such an entrepreneur and a real talent to watch in Africa’s jewellery design and manufacture landscape. At LoA, we are blown away by the innovative approach to finding an eco-friendly way of dealing with the issue of computer waste, and using single source recycling as a sustainable materials resource. She also has a fabulous creative eye and is designing truly beautiful jewellery pieces that appeal on so many levels. We are predicting great things for Ashley Heather and her company - and well deserved too! --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief