1) Talk to us about Love Charlie Jewelry. How did you get started in the industry?
This business originally started in 2017 as a fun passion project that quickly turned into a profitable side-hustle. My marketing job at Unilever was very analytical and I needed a creative outlet, so I taught myself how to make rings via YouTube.
I put them on Etsy to see what would happen, and suddenly people started buying them. Last year, I quit my job to focus full-time on scaling the business. I found a team of designers in Toronto who now make all of the pieces locally. I shifted from selling wire rings to higher-priced solid gold pieces, most of which are engravable in any language. As we grow the team and seek funding this year, I’m super excited for the stage the business is at.
2) Who or what inspired you to start your own business? How did you acquire the skills needed to be successful in the e-commerce space?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs who inspire me every day. My grandma immigrated from Ireland with nothing and built a business that is still booming today. Her hustle, determination and grit taught me what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
In terms of eComm skills specifically, I learned most of it by researching online. There are a ton of free courses, blogs and videos for anyone interested in the space. I have mentors and a business degree that helps with the acumen, but most of the technical stuff was self-taught.
3) How has the e-commerce industry changed since you entered it five years ago, and/or since the pandemic began?
We are witnessing an exciting era of digital transformation. I was fascinated by the opportunity to build skills and grow knowledge in the digital space to take advantage of this fundamental shift in human behaviour. E-commerce is one of many ways to position yourself for future growth in a digital world. When the pandemic hit, E-commerce sales went crazy across the board and I’m grateful to have benefitted from that. Ten years of digital innovation was crammed into a matter of months. It’s really cool to see how people and businesses adapted and innovated to become future-fit.
4) What would you say to any NJC students / alumni who are looking to enter the e-commerce world or start their own business?
DO IT. When you’re young is the time to do something like this. I always planned to start a business one day, but I thought it wouldn’t happen until the end of my career. When I thought more about it, I realized that when you are young is the time to take these sorts of risks. It only becomes more complicated with kids and mortgages in the picture. Do it while you have the energy. I made sure I had enough money saved to live on for a while. I lived at home longer than most of my friends did, stopped buying clothes & things I didn’t need, eating out, and getting my hair coloured every month. I saw the direct impact and return on every dollar I put into the business.
5) What influence did NJC have on your career / academic interests?
NJC taught me a lot of things. The most important is that there is more to the world than what is immediately in front of you. It taught me how to think big and to have an open mind. Trying new things and having unique life experiences is what it’s all about.
An Ivey representative came to NJC one day to pitch the program. I was pretty sold on the idea of a business degree. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise, but knew there was a business for everything. Felt like a good way to keep the doors open, so I went to Ivey. I should say though, it wasn’t easy to get in. I got rejected the first year I applied which was a humbling experience. So I put my head down, and raised my average by 10% and got in the second time around. I graduated Western a year later than my friends, but 5th year was by far the most fun.
6) Where do you see yourself / your business long term? In what ways do you see it evolving, or are you looking to move on to other ventures?
I’m really excited about the stage the business is at. We’re currently exploring options for financing, and will be expanding the team in 2021. Long-term, I’d love to run a portfolio of different e-Commerce businesses. I have tons of ideas in the space that I’d like to try, but first I need to figure out exactly how to make the machine work. Once I have the processes and sales funnels buttoned down, it will be fun to replicate with other products and niches.
I spend my winters in Costa Rica to surf and enjoy life. Having a business I can run from my computer is important to me.