Can you have a side hustle whilst working full time? Absolutely! That is exactly what Eliza Walter does in the shape of high-end sustainable jewellery brand Lylie’s. Launched last October, Lylie’s jewellery is entorade in England from Salvaged Gold and Silver that is 100% recycled from electronic waste. Lylie’s also up-cycles unworn and unwanted jewellery, either by recycling the metal, offering clients credit notes to be used against a new design, or by renewing it and making it into something new, through their bespoke service. Did this mean Eliza had to spend 3 years at university studying a niche degree in jewellery design? It most certainly doesn’t. Uncover how Eliza pursued her passion in jewellery and made it into her business whilst working a full time job…
Eliza ‘Lylie’ Walter
Recycler of precious metals / Entrepreneur
Did you go to university and was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?
I studied History of Art at Bristol University.
Being creative was an absolute must, but following my Art Foundation Course at Oxford Brookes, I decided to opt for a written based degree course and pursue my passion for jewellery on the side.
After graduating, I spent a year completing a diploma in Hatton Garden, the historic jewellery quarter of London, and then working for various workshops in different capacities really understanding how the jewellery trade works.
What is Lylie’s and when did you launch?
Lylie’s jewellery made in England from Salvaged Gold and Salvaged Silver, 100% recycled from electronic waste. We release 2 collections a year.
Lylie’s also up-cycles unworn and unwanted jewellery, either by recycling the metal and offering clients credit notes to be used against a new design, or by renewing it and making it into something new, through our bespoke service.
We launched in October 2017.
How did the idea for Lylie’s come about?
Unusually, my school had a resident jeweller, so I learnt the very basics of wax carving from her when completing my Design GCSE. In order to cast my final design, we worked with a local foundry that was just getting going, run by Peter Crump. It was Peter who explained to me that my mobile phone’s circuit boards contained gold, platinum and silver, because of the metals properties of being inert and conductive. We have been working together ever since, and his foundry, which has grown considerably, still cast all Lylie’s pieces.
In my second year at Bristol I won a tiny grant from the Enterprise Society, and – typical student and being in ‘green’ Bristol – I started researching clean, green and recycled jewellery options. It reminded me of what Peter had told me…
Have you left full time employment to pursue Lylie’s full time and if not how do you juggle the two?
I work full time in the art world, for a Secondary Post-War and Contemporary Art Dealer.
I am therefore limited to before work, lunchtimes, after work, and weekends. It can be frustrating when you have so many ideas and just want to spend every waking hour on building them up. That said, my mother’s mantra is ‘do everything to 80%’ which I tend to find frees me from perfectionism and helps me get thing done.
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for Lylie’s?
Accounting, forecasting and correspondence with HMRC & Companies House (which, irrationally, still raises my heart rate every time I get a letter from them).
What is the typical process someone who wants to get into the industry should follow?
There are so many routes in, but to join the jewellery industry you absolutely do not need a degree in it. You can complete a bench work diploma for free (in you are under 25) at The British Jewellery Academy or The Goldsmiths Centre, you could begin with a Gemmology course at GIA or Gem-A, CAD training online, or approach a local jeweller and be a dogs body, learning on the job.
Once you dip your toe in, you will realise how many parts there are to making a ring, and how symbiotic they are – that ring probably passes through 6 workshops and specialists, before reaching the customer. The challenge is working out that you want to specialise in!
How did you initially get the funds to set up Lylie’s?
Lylie’s was self-funded through my savings, the profits of the jewellery business I ran whilst at Bristol and through family and friends.
Have you got a mentor and what is the best bit of advice they have given you?
Yes, I have two mentors who I meet every few months and find completely invaluable:
Annoushka Ducas is my mentor on all things jewellery, from suppliers, to designing, to press. She is exceptionally generous in sharing information and spot-on suggestions. I grew up loving Links of London and then I saw her interviewed at the V&A museum whilst I was completing my training in Hatton Garden. She raised points then, that I still consider now, such as the importance of the weight of the jewellery, and the fact that it should be as beautiful from the back as it is on the front. I then saw her at an exhibition opening, and seized the opportunity to go and introduce myself.
My other mentor is an Asset Manager and family friend. He supports me on financial strategy and longer term considerations for bringing investors in – it is surprisingly motivating to keep on top of financials (which doesn’t come naturally to me) when you know you can pick it apart with someone you really admire!
Who do you seek out for support and advice?
My Mother and Stepfather are my biggest supporters. They are so patient, generous with their time, provide practical advice and lots of proof reading!
I have a few entrepreneur friends who are running their own creative businesses, and I seek them out regularly.
Do you ever doubt yourself?
No I didn’t actually. I often doubt my ability to get everything on my to-do list done. I also feel pretty nervous when presenting designs to bespoke clients, but that is more to do with wanting them to love the ideas.
How are you marketing Lylie’s?
My current focus is Instagram. I am making bespoke pieces for Influencers who have been my muses when designing (spirited, intelligent, curious, well-travelled Londoners). I have also invested in creating imagery solely for Instagram. And finally, I am now working with a ‘community management’ agency to help grow the following and a Social Media consultant to track the analytics.
I created a directory of journalists and stylists whose work I love, so I email a handful each week. I am also planning a Press Event for later this summer, to meet more of them in person.
How do you think Lylie’s differs from the competition out there?
All our jewellery is made from 100% recycled e-waste and Lylie’s has an additional ‘recycled’ hallmark from the Assay Office to denote this. Therefore, we offer customers a considered jewellery option and an alternative to Fair-trade.
Lylie’s also goes above and beyond for customers, in day to day service. During Christmas last year, the demand was so high for last minute orders that I ended up dropping the pieces off around London one by one myself!
Is there anything you wish you had done differently along the way?
- Hold back more working capital when launching, for the second collection. It would have made things easier.
- Built up an Instagram following before launching. That should have been part of my initial strategy.
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now?
- Get the travelling in before launching!
- Find a business partner from the outset, with a financial background.
- Design with a cost sheet in mind – make sure there is a range of prices.
What’s a typical day for you working on Lylie’s?
I get up at 6am, go running and then walk to the gallery for 8am. I pick up a coffee on the way in (reusable cup, of course) which might sound extravagant, but I have found it really motivates me up and in. I do 2hrs on Lylie’s before the gallery gets going.
Lunches are usually spent dashing to Hatton Garden and gobbling lunch down on the tube, or meeting clients around London who are commissioning bespoke designs. I try to devote two evenings a week on Lylie’s, and tend to stay at the gallery late, to avoid distraction.
At weekends, I usually work one of the days, around what else is going on. I find, if I spend some time on Sunday planning out my time for the following week, I can be my most efficient.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
Not accepting ‘no’ for an answer.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Lylie’s?
Seeing a seriously stylish woman walking along the street, and then noticing she was wearing a pair of my earrings. It happened in April and was wonderful moment.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
- Cash is king. I have learnt this the hard way over the last few months, but I am pretty on top of it now.
- Be pushy. If you need to email that supplier for the fifth day in a row, do it.
- Find something to de-stress. For me it is running and long baths.What do you think is next for Lylie’s in the next year?
What do you think is next for Lylie’s in the next year?
The next collection is launching in September, so it is full steam ahead with that, in terms making prototypes, planning photo-shoots and sourcing recycled diamonds.
What’s the dream?
The dream is to be the go-to jewellery brand for compassionate, conscious customers in London.
I also hope that it becomes the norm for a customer to ask who made which parts, and where. And for them, when considering a purchase, to send the chosen brand all unworn/unwanted/broken pieces, to be recycled in exchange for credit against the new piece.
Just for fun…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…
Love and its future
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually… think it was worth it!
The Twenty Mile Club is…. a wonderful resource for readers like myself trying to carve out a enterprising path. The ‘You & Your Money’ pieces are great – a millennial version of Money Box!
Find Lylie’s social media handles and links below
Follow Lylie’s on Instagram – @lylieslondon