Hannah Nuttall: Quirky, Creative Entrepreneurialsm

The NextWomen September Food & Fashion Theme.

Hannah Makes Things is the jewellery and accessories online retailer, created by a Central Saint Martins graduate, jewellery designer Hannah Nuttall. 

Having completed a masters in industrial design, Hannah established the business in 2006, soon seeing her creations appear in national magazines as well as being worn by the likes of pop singer Eliza Doolitle, The Saturdays  and Marina Diamandis.

Based in Manchester’s vibrant Northern Quarter in the UK, Hannah united her entrepreneurial skills with her love of all things creative to produce a collection of stunning jewellery.

Hannah Makes Things offers an eclectic and original portfolio of jewellery designs – all at accessible pricepoints. From vintage- inspired pieces to cutting edge contemporary designs, Hannah makes stand-out  jewellery that’s fun, quirky and sets out to be different from the offerings on the High Street.

Hannah has also set up a wholesaling arm to the business and recently established a retail presence in the US as well as London and (of course) the original HannahMakesThings retail base at Afflecks – Manchester’s alternative and vintage treasure trove.

TNW: How did you come up with the idea for Hannah Makes Things and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality? 

HN: My creativity took me onto a degree course in Design at Northumbria University, followed by a Masters in Industrial design at Central St Martins.

I’d set up a little jewellery design business ‘Hannah Makes Things’  to help to fund my way through College and satisfy my creativity whilst putting my entrepreneurial talents to the test. I’d sold my kitsch designs on Brick Lane Market and had quite a following.

I’d always wanted to work for myself and apply my creative talents to the consumer sector, so I decided to take my business to the next level.

www.hannahmakesthings.com was born, complemented by a retail presence in Manchester’s vintage treasure trove – Affleck’s. At Affleck’s, customers can touch and feel my jewellery. I’d say every designer needs people to see their work in real life as well as online.

TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?

HN: We always try to find a different way of doing things, we don't really follow trends as I believe it makes it more interesting to find new ideas as you go along. I like extremely quirky items and what’s what I try to deliver to my customers

TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?

HN: It’s mainly just myself running the business on a day to day basis with occasional help from friends, contacts and my partner at peak periods. My best friend is an invaluable help and has years of jewellery making experience, so she has often stepped in when we have high volume demands in busy periods.

TNW: Who were your first customers and how hard was it to attract them?

HN: Whilst I was at university I used to make presents for friends and they often bought more  pieces from me for birthdays and Christmas presents etc, they loved the fact my jewellery was so different and of course that I had made it especially for them. Their feedback was really helpful and helped shape the direction of my business.

I then sold at craft markets etc and my business opened up to a wider customer bases. I’ve always found that word of mouth recommendations work for my business but as it has reached a wider audience the word of mouth tends to operate in a social and print media environment too!

Who are your customers and partners now?

HN: We have a wide range of customers as we strive to make various styles of jewellery that appeal to a broader customer base. We retain a key theme of making unusual jewellery aimed at female customers, but beyond this we have an extremely varied customer basis with regard to age range, geography etc..

TNW: What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?

HN: We use a mixture of PR services that facilitate print media coverage, product placement and online blog reviews. In addition to this we have Facebook and Twitter profiles which give quick updates to customers and we also maintain regular customer contact via monthly newsletters featuring new product news, special offers etc.

TNW: What is next for your company?

HN: We are diversifying into gift items and interior design lines to complement the jewellery, but of course as we enter new sectors, we will strive to offer unique and inspired items that will appeal to our customer base.

TNW: Have you come across any other exciting startups recently and what is it about them that appeals to you?

HN: At a local, grass roots level, there’s a new pizza slice shop called “Slice” in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, It’s a great idea to be able to grab a quick slice of good quality pizza throughout the day. The founders have created excellent quality, Italian style pizza in a fast food format but without compromising on flavour or presentation and at an accessible pricepoint – seems like a simple but very effective idea to me!

TNW: What are the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?

HN: The business sector I am in is  predominantly female dominated, mainly as the products we make are aimed at female customers. I have met several male jewellery designers who have a very fresh approach to design, so I think there are immense benefits to gender diversity. In the jewellery design sector, as in pretty much all aspects of business, it never hurts to get different perspectives.

TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?  

HN: I’d say that the main lesson is that you cannot plan for everything in life but you can learn from every experience. Business and self employment can be a real roller coaster at the moment. Every mistake you make changes your approach to business and every success you have should not be taken for granted.

TNW: Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?  

HN: Do something that you love and make sure you know your chosen field/product/service inside and out. Be open to new ideas and ways of doing things and you may just come up with something totally different that gives you a unique selling point.

TNW: What does your day look like?

HN: I get up around 7am and make breakfast then we take our five dogs out for a walk in our local park before heading to work from my studio or maybe from my retail outlet in Manchester’s eclectic Northern Quarter.  Sometimes I spend the day working in the studio or occasionally from home. I adopt basic time disciplines such as dealing with emails, checking stock and attending to any orders outstanding in the morning, whereas in the afternoons I work on making new samples or focus on buying for the business.

Of course some days are taken up with business meetings and travel but in the main that’s the routine I find works for me. After work its more dog walking, dinner, then usually some more design work on the computer at home.

TNW: Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?

I often have my best ideas just as I'm going to sleep or as I wake up! I'm a bit of a jewellery geek so when I do have a new idea I like to get up again and try to make it or plan to make it as soon as possible.

I guess I'm something of a workaholic and I find it hard to stop thinking about the creative process. I get frustrated when I can't get as much done in real life as I have planned in my head.

In recent times I've tried to allocate more time when I don’t think about the business ‘full on.’ Only time will tell whether I’m actually able to achieve this on a sustained basis!

I'm a great believer that you get back what you put in so I'm learning to relax a little and let things take their natural course.

TNW: Do you have any pet projects as an entrepreneur?

HN: I love ‘ hands on’ projects and I want to start building cigar box guitars in the future, maybe with a view to selling them on www.hannahmakesthings. Music has always been of great interest to me and I love using my craft skills to make instruments and generally experimenting in this field.

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