Evelyn & Rose: Building a business selling bejewelled headbands

Lisa Smith, 34, lives in London and is the founder of Evelyn & Rose. After taking some time out from her banking job to travel, Lisa decided to start a business selling beautiful jewelled headbands.

Lisa Smith Founder – Evelyn & Rose

I didn’t go to university, nor did I finish my A-levels, which often leaves me with some regret. I was, however, lucky enough to get a two-week work placement at a building society during my school years, and was offered a full-time job. 

I had never put much thought into what it was I really wanted to do in terms of a career. If I’m honest, I chased the salary. I bought a house in my early twenties and by the time I was in my late twenties, I owned another. I loved my lifestyle but couldn’t help but feel locked up with ‘golden handcuffs’, meaning I had too much financial responsibility to change careers and explore what it was that I really wanted to do – or so I thought.

Making a move

I moved to London in 2014 for a job at a global bank. Working in compliance roles within the banking sector is not easy. You have to be strong-minded and confident in the decisions you make and be prepared to influence very senior individuals. You have to effectively communicate why changes need to be made throughout large organisations, using regulatory rules which are often ambiguous.

For me, in order to be successful, relationship management was key. People needed to buy into what I was telling them, to trust that the information I provide is accurate and they could rely on my support when they needed to make changes.  

A journey of self-discovery

After 16 years in the banking industry, I decided to leave it all behind and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. I had been very unhappy in my routine for a long time (but didn’t really know it until I started getting unwell) and needed a break to discover what was important to me. I hadn’t been able to switch off for a long time. I often felt that I missed out on the usual gap year antics, so I decided to have my gap year in my thirties! I travelled for five months around South East Asia, ending up in Bali, Indonesia for the majority of my time. 

In Bali, I joined a co-working space called Dojo in Canggu, it was so inspiring to meet like-minded individuals, all had quit the rat race and had embarked on their own journeys of self-discovery, including their own remote businesses! I had no idea how compliance skills would translate to a ‘digital nomad’ world. I was no computer programmer, marketer, or e-commerce specialist, however, I did have great relationship management skills. I was used to ensuring customers received fair outcomes and could communicate pretty well. I made friends really easily and had some of the best times of my life travelling!

Getting creative

Evelyn & Rose headbands
Evelyn & Rose headbands

I had always been obsessed with headbands and had a particular taste for those that were slightly out of the ordinary, embellished with gems, crystals and pearls – these were not the norm on the high street! These particular headbands were true showstoppers and I could only find them online, via boutique stores, which often charged up to a £100 a headband. It would frustrate me. Surely these could be manufactured and sold for a fairer price? And so Evelyn & Rose began… 

Bringing together my relationship management skills, I networked the hell out of the co-working space social events and met my website developer, who has now become a very close friend. I had a vision of what I wanted my website to look like but didn’t have a clue how to build it. I knew if I tried, it would look amateur, so I asked Mish Digital to build my desktop and mobile site. 

Don’t sell something you wouldn’t wear

Evelyn & Rose headbands
Evelyn & Rose headbands

Through having extensive time off my usual 9 to 5, I actually had the time to research manufacturing companies. Initially, I thought I needed to drop-ship. Being a drop-shipper means you never hold any stock, the customer order is sent direct to the manufacturer to fulfil, but this meant long delivery times and no control over packaging. I know how important packaging is and how the smallest detail can make a difference. Knowing how long I’d needed to wait for stock to be sent to the UK, I started to buy stock while in Bali, which would be sent to my dads (sorry!) back home. 

Once I arrived back in the UK and had hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of pieces of stock, I actually didn’t like some of them so refused to sell. I made a promise to myself that I would never sell something I wouldn’t wear. I needed to find a distribution centre to hold the stock and send on my behalf, pronto! I got rejected from so many companies, all they were interested in was volumes of sales. I hadn’t even launched yet! I was about to give up and accept the fact I may have to fulfil all the orders myself, when I eventually found a wonderful distribution centre, which has been a real lifesaver. 

Launching Evelyn & Rose

I roped in as many friends as possible to model, bought myself a pretty good camera and started taking some snaps to upload product pics to my new Instagram page and website. I was determined to re-create that white background look, I really couldn’t figure out Photoshop (I tried) but managed to pull it off through taking product pictures in my dad’s shower (yes!). I edited the background on my phone and they looked brilliant! Thankfully, shower settings are no longer required and I outsource all of my product photos to a wonderful company in Bristol. 

I launched the website at the end of August 2019 and got my first sale a few hours later, it was a wonderful feeling! I have continued to build the brand based not only on the most beautiful products, but on five-star customer service.

Featured on Made in Chelsea

Evelyn & Rose headbands
Evelyn & Rose headbands

Since August, Evelyn & Rose now sells via ASOS marketplace and has 7,000 Instagram followers, with more than 60 five star reviews. Evelyn & Rose headbands have also appeared on Made in Chelsea and were featured in an article for the online bridal magazine, hitched.co.uk.

Having that obsession to detail, which I needed in a compliance role, has really helped my business grow. I accept where I have weaknesses in certain areas (such as technology) and outsource these tasks to others. This allows me to focus on what I am good at and also build new relationships with more creative individuals, who have taught me something or introduced me to someone great. 

I am not yet full time at Evelyn & Rose, however, I no longer work full time in the banking industry. I currently freelance in the sector which allows me to take time off when needed. I have so much more freedom and flexibility in how I conduct my everyday life and whilst it carries a lot of financial risk at times, the benefits are totally worth it. I am a much happier person now I have unlocked my creative side while not losing the important skills I have learned throughout my banking career. 

If you can – travel

I would encourage anyone who is feeling stuck in a job to save as much money as possible and just take some time out to travel. Travelling pushes you outside of your comfort zone and in turn, you meet people who show you a different way of living from all over the world. I would also advise reading as many self-help books as possible. A few game changers for me are The Four Hour Work Week, Start with Why, The Power of Now and Rich Dad Poor Dad. 

Here’s to the future

I have so many ideas for the future in terms of Evelyn & Rose. I am keen to manufacture my own designs and closer to home, without the need for outside investment or crowdfunding.

For now, I will keep networking and attending as many creative events as possible, you really never know who you may meet and who could give you a life changing piece of information – and that’s super exciting. 

To find out more about Evelyn & Rose, visit: evelynandrose.co.uk

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