Who doesn’t love diamonds? These fascinating precious stones that are infused with so many stories, memories, dreams on the part of the owners and wearers. For Clare Appleyard, her love for and extensive technical knowledge of the diamond industry led her to launch her own business, Katannuta Diamonds.
LoA learned more about this fascinating business from its founder, Clare Appleyard this month.
What does your company do?
Katannuta Diamonds is a bespoke jewellery design and manufacturing company, specialising in unique, one-off engagement rings.
"We provide a highly tailored jewellery experience, unlike your typical retail stores. Our focus is on exceptional quality workmanship, outstanding service and competitive prices."
What inspired you to start your company?
As a geologist working at De Beers, I was privileged enough to gain tremendous diamond knowledge whilst working in the company's diamond research division. We worked solely with rough diamonds but I'd always had an interest in the cut and polished side of the industry. One year, whilst helping my father source a diamond for my mother, I met a diamond trader who offered to be my mentor, teaching and training me the gem-side of the trade. I loved the thought of working for myself and I craved the freedom he had, not having to work in a fixed office space, sitting in traffic jams and working set hours. A nervous breakdown was the catalyst I needed to escape from my corporate cubicle - I realised that I had to make significant changes to get myself, and my life back on track. My partner had previously resisted a company when she'd been retrenched a few years earlier so we brainstormed a way to merge our skills and knowledge and formed Katannuta Diamonds.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We provide a highly tailored jewellery experience, unlike your typical retail stores. Our focus is on exceptional quality workmanship, outstanding service and competitive prices. We don't want to be the cheapest in the marketplace, but we do aim to offer the best combination of service, client experience and top quality products. Your jewellery journey starts with an email or phone call to us, and we tailor each stage of the process specifically for your exact needs - from sourcing the perfect gemstones, to fine-tuning a design, to hand-manufacturing or casting your perfect piece of jewellery. Everything is conceptualised specifically for you and manufactured especially for you. Combine this with savings of up to 50% on retail jewellery prices (depending on the item) and it makes perfect sense to use Katannuta Diamonds.
"We tailor each stage of the process specifically for your exact needs - from sourcing the perfect gemstones, to fine-tuning a design, to hand-manufacturing or casting your perfect piece of jewellery."
Tell us a little about your team
Katannuta Diamonds was co-founded by myself and my partner Davina Toale. I'm the main cog in the wheel, in charge of most aspects of the day-to-day running. Our behind the scenes team includes our diamond supply partner, our coloured gemstone supply partner and our 2 main manufacturing workshops.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
It's been quite a journey! Before starting Katannuta Diamonds I had absolutely no entrepreneurial background whatsoever. My family was definitely of the "Go to university, get a degree and work for a corporate" kind of mindset. 10 years after quitting the corporate world, my parents still think leaving De Beers was a mistake! I quit my corporate job with absolutely no back-up plan other than Katannuta Diamonds, and whilst it's worked out in the long run, there have been some hairy moments. There has been so much to learn along the way. My biggest mistake at the beginning was trying to be everything to everybody - we had many garbled ideas of who we wanted to sell to and in what context. We took a paid-for listing on a diamond directory website and I'd get these half-baked enquiries that had me pulling my hair out. It took a marketing friend to ask "Do you really want to attract clients looking for cheap diamonds?". The answer of course was no, and we cancelled our listing immediately. Once we figured out who our ideal client was - their budget, their relationship status, their geographical location - everything else fell into place. I've had to learn and master skills that would never have been required in my corporate job, from SEO to websites to marketing to Photoshop to communication and leadership skills. It's certainly made my life richer, if not given me more grey hairs than before. It's an on-going process. There is always something new to learn, new clients to attract, new ideas to conceptualise - being an entrepreneur is rarely boring.
"Being a small company allows us to pay individual attention to our clients and to provide the best possible levels of service."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Being a small company allows us to pay individual attention to our clients and to provide the best possible levels of service. We don't want to move into a retail space and produce mass-manufactured jewellery, that's not how we've built our brand. In an ideal world, we'd be functioning in a fairly similar fashion, but with a larger team fielding enquiries, marketing our presence online and helping a much larger client base.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The freedom you have is incomparable. I've always dealt terribly with authority so I love not having to answer to anybody. I get tremendous satisfaction when a client's eyes light up when they see their ring or jewellery for the first time. The messages that get sent to us saying "She said Yes! Thank you for helping make me the happiest man alive" always make me feel good. Recently we helped an American client who had been looking for a particular ring, with particular diamonds, for 30 years. I'll never forget the smile on her face when she opened the box - that's probably the highest level of satisfaction!
"I get tremendous satisfaction when a client's eyes light up when they see their ring or jewellery for the first time."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
My sensible side says "Start your business on the side, then, when you've replaced at least part of your fixed salary", go full-time. My irresponsible side says "Sod safety, just do it now.”.
Contact or follow Katannuta Diamonds
Why LoA loves it…
So often in the world of entrepreneurship, passion drives success. In the case of Clare Appleyard, her passion for creating beautiful works of art in the world of bespoke jewellery, using her favourite gemstones - diamonds, shines through. Being able to translate her client’s dreams and memories into unique lasting jewellery pieces that are so personal to the owners, is a real skill, and one that she is passionate about using for the benefit of the people who come to Katannuta Diamonds. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa