Marisa Hordern first launched jewellery brand Missoma as a side-hustle from her kitchen table in the noughties; now it’s one of the fastest-growing contemporary jewellery labels in the UK, with an annual turnover increasing from £1m to £33m in the last five years. The brand is now stocked and shopped all over the world, with significant markets in the US, China, Germany, Ireland and Australia.
Below, Hordern breaks down her six rules for success when it comes to launching your own brand – from having patience to finding the right leadership team, and the importance of learning from your mistakes…
1/ It can take years to become an overnight success
“When I started Missoma in 2008 I was working in a very corporate environment that just didn’t fulfil me creatively. I’ve always loved jewellery and at the time you could only really find cheap high-street pieces, which lacked quality and durability, or expensive fine jewellery way beyond anything my friends and I could afford. I decided to take the leap to turn my passion into a full-time gig and set out to design and create what is now called ‘demi-fine’ jewellery. I starting making pieces around my kitchen table and then travelled to Jaipur, Bangkok and Hong Kong to source the best factories, most of which we’re still with today. Gold vermeil was still relatively unheard of in the UK when we started making and selling our jewellery; it took a long time to educate people on what it was, the quality and the longevity of the micron-plating process.
“There were years when I felt it wasn’t really going anywhere, and I doubted what I was doing and where it would lead to. I even – many times – thought about giving up. It really was a test in perseverance and resilience; you have to learn to take the knocks and keep going. I am still involved in every area of the business to some degree – although I am trying to learn to let go more – but I have done everything myself at one point or other: from every trade show, factory visit and press appointment to inputting every product on the website and sending every invoice. It makes you really appreciate each little success. It was such a slog to get to where we are now with a team behind me who are so passionate about the brand and what we do and stand for, but I truly believe you don’t appreciate what you haven’t had to work your arse off for. And it’s important to never ask anyone to do anything that you haven’t done yourself.”
2/ Nail your senior leadership team
“I’ve learnt that it’s essential to find the right team that has a wide variety of experience across a multitude of areas; you can’t know everything and your leadership team can bring knowledge to the table that will complement your skillset. It’s important to lean on other people as you can’t take it all on yourself, especially as the business grows, the teams grow, the territories grow… Delegating is key, and trust, autonomy and accountability are vital elements. It’s so important to your overall business development as you expand, but also, just as crucially, to your employee success too. Having the right team filters down into your office culture and is an important part of growth and mentorship.”
3/ Move out of your comfort zone
“This is something we swear by; it’s in our DNA. We believe in breaking the mould, from being one of the pioneers of demi-fine jewellery to championing layering pieces before anyone else was; from creating the first ever influencer jewellery collaboration with Lucy Williams to the first gender fluid collaboration with Harris Reed. It’s important to always move forward, continue innovating and never stand still. We like to challenge ourselves and always try something new. But you must always stay true to your brand DNA and tell authentic and creative stories; it’s all about the emotional connection to your product.
“The riskiest move I’ve personally ever taken in business was evolving Missoma from being wholesale-led to being a direct-to-consumer brand, as we were very early to online, but it was still quite an unproven channel in the jewellery space. We loved connecting directly with our customer on social media and online where we could sell a ‘look’ – not just a ‘product’. Our customers really responded to that, and to our creative story-telling which we are constantly evolving.”
4/ Find your superpowers
“I’ve never had any formal training in jewellery design, but I don’t think that should ever stop you from following your passions and doing what you love. I also didn’t know anything about starting a business when I decided to start Missoma – although I wish I had known more than I did! You have to work it out as you go along. It was a long process perfecting our jewellery style – lots of trial and error and experimentation. Now, as the business has grown, I am surrounded by an amazing team of experts who help bring our designs to life, including a design team, a product development team, and a quality control team. We start by working on concepts and rough sketches, then convert these into technical specifications, then into CADs, and then these are 3D printed, before we even start making the silver moulds. Jewellery-making is a long and detailed process and all our pieces are handmade – but that’s what makes them so special, when you realise how much hard work goes into each and every piece.
“Equally, after years of working across all areas of the business, there are some areas that I have now stepped back from in a day-to-day capacity. It’s just as important to be self-aware and acknowledge your own weaknesses and delegate those to talented people who will thrive doing the things you maybe aren’t as good at. Recognising that is a strength in itself.”
5/ Learn from your mistakes
“I think I had to find my confidence and grow into it, but the journey makes you so much stronger – even if it takes longer than anticipated. You learn so much more from your mistakes, of which there will be plenty, than you do from what went well. Learn fast and move on. And start every day with a positive attitude thinking, ‘What am I going to solve today?’ rather than, ‘Oh no, not another problem’. There are obstacles every day but it’s how you approach them that makes the difference. It’s amazing what a ‘can do’ attitude can do. And you want to surround yourself by other ‘can do’ people.
6/ Build strong relationships
“The customer is the hero of any story and your relationship with the customer is the most important pillar of any brand. Everything we do at Missoma revolves around our community – from suggestions they’ve made to us on social media, to re-evaluating what hasn’t resonated with them. We’re always listening and trying to react. Transparency and showing who you are, and the team that works so hard behind the scenes, are all part of the story-telling that makes your relationship with your customer an open and honest one.
“I also think our supplier-partner relationships are just as important, as they are also a key factor in our success over the years. Working together, we’ve managed to make our jewellery even more sustainable and look after everyone involved in the process of making our pieces.”
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