If you haven't heard of new kid on the jewellery block Mona Mara then you sure will soon. The brainchild of Junk Jewels' Zoe Jones, Mona Mara's debut collection exploded onto the UK jewellery scene early on this year, and has already graced the necks of the likes of Rihanna and Jessie J, to name a few. We catch up with Zoe about the delights of running two brands, on working with her partner and what the future holds for jewellery with a story to tell.
You manage two jewellery brands, Mona Mara and Junk Jewels. Why the split between the two?
I started making jewellery as a hobby when I was 19 and had my first stall at Portobello market. My jewellery didn't have a brand name at the beginning and I loved experimenting with found/recycled objects to make statement jewellery pieces.
I was always a big fan of accessorising and was studying fashion at the time, focusing on fashion styling so it was a great thing to have fun with in my free time as it often overlapped with my uni work. It was just a bonus that I happened to be earning money at the same time and it started to overtake my dull part-time waitressing job.
I wanted to be a fashion stylist when graduating from uni and also had a strong focus on fashion photography but my little jewellery business started to grow very quickly at the same time. I was assisting established stylists and did many magazine internships whilst my Saturday stall at Portobello market kept me afloat.
I started to rethink my career plans after a year of un-paid internships and soon realised that that side of the industry just wasn't for me. I loved working for myself and decided to dedicate more of my time to my jewellery brand as my stall at Portobello started to become very busy. Soon after, I launched the brand as Junk Jewels - online in 2007 - and received my first feature in Look magazine. The website sales went through the roof as a result!
Junk Jewels was always my little baby and a reflection of my personal style but after many strong years of running the brand I started to out-grow it very quickly. There was also a sudden boom of many other similar online jewellery businesses popping up after our launch which is always very frustrating when you have poured your heart and soul into making something unique. Ever since then I have wanted to break away and start something totally new.
What are the biggest challenges to simultaneously running two different brands?
I decided to continue running Junk Jewels after our launch of Mona Mara as we have many loyal fans that have stuck with us for years and it is always a great affordable option for those that wish to spend less. Now I have the best of both worlds!
I struggle with making sure that I dedicate the same amount of time with both brands. As Mona Mara launched only in April this year, there has been so much work to do as a new business; all rather exciting might I add. I tend to focus most of my time on Mona Mara and feel that the business is a much better reflection of who I am right now, 8 years after my initial experience of designing jewellery.
Like us at Crown and Glory, you work with your other half, John - how did that come about?
John and I are very lucky that we have very similar taste and opinions on most things. We have both always been very creative people and were both at a stage where we wanted to embark on a new venture and decided to do this together. It's great that our skills seem to compliment each other so well. So much so that between the two of us we manage to have all areas of the business covered; we wouldn't have been able to launch Mona Mara without one another!
We both shared a very similar vision of a brand that we wanted to create. We didn't want to launch another online trend-led jewellery store. We hope that our designs offer self-affirming charms and thoughtful gifts for the positively cultured, engaged and creative individual. Each piece has a unique story to tell and is designed with care, made with quality metals and supporting of British trade. We offer our items in 22kt gold plate and will be launching our entire collection in sterling silver over the next few months so there is something to suit all budgets.
With John on board we are able to take our jewellery business so much further than I could have ever gone with Junk Jewels on my own. Within only 6 months of launching, our jewellery has been spotted on the likes of Rihanna and Jessie J, featured in Elle magazine and soon to be launched in a Selfridges pop-up and on Asos.com. It's a dream come true!
How do you go about deciding on your roles within the company?
Our skills compliment each other really well and we very rarely disagree on decisions made for the business. We always discuss anything to do with the business with one another. We started the plans with quite definitive roles but they seem to have merged into one another. We just make sure that we can both work on what we're strongest at, at the same time as helping one another.
What's the best thing about working together?
It's always good to have a second opinion that you can trust, and who better than your partner. Running your own business can be quite scary at times especially when making very important decisions. It's great to have the support of another person with you along the way. If there's anything that I am unable to do then I know that John will have it covered and vice-versa. We make a great team!
Any tips for other couples considering going into business together?
Obviously there will always be difficulties when working with your other half, we are still in the very early stages and trying to balance our work and personal life isn't easy. As we work from home our work always seems to be on top of us and is very difficult to escape from. Making sure that we spend time together at the weekends away from work is always very important for us and makes us both so much happier when starting our working week,
Photography: Ellie Gillard