My Best Mistake
How a tight budget led to sparkling success
By Michelle Hammond Startup Smart
Friday, 16 November 2012
Building a jewellery brand with international aspirations may seem like the glamorous end of entrepreneurship, but, like any business, if you’re strapped for cash it can be difficult to maintain momentum.
For Marissa Gouras and her mother Gina Kougias, of Sydney-based jewellery label Georgini, a lack of funds meant thinking outside the square with regard to staff and operations.
“Georgini has been running for about six or seven years now,” Gouras says.
“We have over 350 retail stockists in Australia. We have around 60 in South Africa, 35 in New Zealand, 15 in the UK – we just started distributing there – and our two flagship stores.”
While Georgini is now a global jewellery brand, it has risen from humble beginnings.
“I think my mother is a success story because we don’t come from money… My parents owned a rally car company. But after September 11, the tourism industry just dropped,” Gouras says.
“My mum went to a jewellery home party one night. The lady hosting it made $1,000 that night. My mum thought, ‘I could do that’. She started bringing in jewellery and just started selling it.”
“From that, it just grew.”
In what was a major coup for the tiny business, Kougias was approached by jewellery retailer Angus & Coote. From there, she and Gouras began attending jewellery fairs.
“A few years after that, we were approached by jewellery buying groups. One of them wanted to know if we would be part of their group and sell to their jewellery stores only,” Gouras says.
“The biggest issue for us was finance – money. We were growing faster than what we could keep up with…They gave us money, which enabled us to purchase more stock.”
Without this financial backing, Georgini would have been a very different brand.
“We didn’t have enough money in the beginning. It didn’t really hurt the business but it was very difficult for us to grow,” Gouras says.
“When we hired staff, we didn’t say, you’re a receptionist or you’re a pick packer or whatever. We did whatever had to be done to get the job done.”
“All the staff were multi-taskers in the beginning, and my mother and I would travel from state to state selling stock because we couldn’t hire reps.”
But as Gouras explains, this scrupulous approach to money has put the business in good stead. In addition to expanding overseas, Georgini now employs almost 30 staff.
“My mother’s very good at forecasting, which is very important… A lot of business owners get that wrong – buying too much and faced with big bills and no one to buy the stock,” she says.
“I think we’re very good at being able to manage our finances very well.”
“Even though we aren’t in that situation [anymore], we have a lot more overheads now. Our bills are large and everything is more expensive, and we outgrew our last premises.”
“In the beginning, every cent we made we put back into the business. That’s where a lot of people go wrong… We’re not the type of people who go out and splurge.”
With its finances in good shape, Georgini is in fine form to further its expansion into the UK.
“We’re really focusing on the UK. We’re flying over in February to do the biggest jewellery fair in the UK – the Jewellery Show Birmingham…We really want to build the UK,” Gouras says.
“For a jewellery brand, especially being in Australia, we’re always looking to what the European market is doing and all those major international brands, and that’s what we want for our business as well.”