This week, Home Grown is steeped in romance and diamonds are in the spotlight. Diamonds have come to symbolise everlasting love, making it a popular V-Day treat. We spoke with three of the brightest minds in the business, Home Grown members Lewis Malka, Lydia McCarthy-Keen, and Howard Levine, to get an insight into how they managed to turn those sparkly rocks into successful ventures.
We first chat to Lewis Malka – yes, that Lewis Malka, the specialist engagement ring maker based at 100 Hatton Garden. His love for diamonds was born when he was only 15, during a creative apprenticeship. Of his diamond-selling process, he says: “Customers pick a design, and afterwards I make the ring in my workshop. It’s a process which people love, because each piece of jewellery is unique.” We ask him what the biggest virtue of a jewellery maker is. “Patience,” he explains. “There have been instances when I’ve spent 12-13 hrs making a ring only to melt it down and start again as it just didn’t look right. Would the client have noticed? Probably not. But I wasn’t happy. And that’s the difference.” He explains that the business is challenging, especially when it comes to attracting clients, but the rewards make it worth it: “My 2016 book The Engagement Ring was picked up by ITV ahead of Valentine’s Day that year. Another highlight is the course that was named after me by the BAJ (British Academy of Jewellers”. To those choosing an engagement ring, he advises to do their homework: “Understand what your partner already wears. Keep in mind the lifestyle she leads, whether she spends time outdoors or sits in an office all day. There is a reason why a fifth of all women hate their engagement ring. The main one is that the guy picks something based on his likes and not hers.” You’ve been warned! Lastly, we want to know how he has enjoyed his experience at Home Grown so far. “Home Grown has been fantastic. I’ve met such wonderful people and each one seems happy to help.”
Next up is Founder Lydia McCarthy-Keen, who came into the jewellery industry via the corporate diamond-mining sector. We ask her what her business is all about. “We’re a company that offers design experiences which support men from proposal all the way through manufacture and into aftercare and insurance.” About growing a business, she says: “Inventing any new product is challenging when it’s just a concept and you have no market feedback. For ages I felt like I was getting nowhere. But one day, as my jewellery design skills developed, I realised no one was supporting men in how to choose the right engagement ring. So I created a method that gave that support”. She makes it sound so easy! Her advice to entrepreneurs, too, is quite simple: “No one knows what you’re talking about – find a simple way to show them”. We ask Lydia what makes her business unique. “I’d say what makes us different is that we offer guys a framework for success that allows them to propose in an authentic, effortless, and fun way, capturing the moment in the best way possible and so they both remember the day forever”. As well as lab-grown diamonds, Lydia’s company uses ethically sourced diamonds – we want to know more about that. “We use both ethically sourced natural diamonds as well as lab grown diamonds according to customer preferences, although ethical sourcing and clean metals are the roots of what we do. In general, ethics is really important for the LMK brand and we work closely with a charity and private company which enable us to fund limbs for those who’ve been negatively affected by diamond mining”. Finally, we are delighted to learn that she has “loved” her experienced at Home Grown so far, where she has made connections for life.
Our final chat is with Howard Levine, managing director of Diamnet. Levine wasn’t always passionate about jewels: “I trained in advertising and my passion was high end Hi-Fi. I kind of fell into jewellery when I was offered a job at Euro Pearls whilst trying to get into advertising.” And how exactly did Diamnet come to be? “I was managing director of a boutique diamond jewellery manufacturer widely regarded as one of the best in the UK by retailers. For some time, I could see that the industry was changing as internet sales started to gather steam. I wanted to stay relevant. I had all the contacts and the experience dealing with diamond dealers across the world and knew that I could bring them all together into one online portal.” We ask him what gap Diamnet fills. “Due to the sky-high costs of stocking diamonds, retailers don’t have all the choice that their customers expect in an internet-enabled world. Also, those very same retailers need to go multi-channel if they want to survive. Diamnet makes both options possible for even the smallest high street shop.” Finally, what should consumers consider when choosing their diamonds? “The main thing you should look for in any diamond is the sparkle. This is what separates a diamond from all other stones”. Of course it’s the sparkle.
Who knew that the stories behind diamonds could shine even brighter? We certainly feel privileged to be able to tell them. Happy Valentine’s Day!
If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.