“You know you are on the right path when things feel easy” — we chat with Irish jewellery entrepreneur, Jane Asple.
From leaving her job to subsequently launching her own brand, ‘Emma by Jane’, and pitching on Dragons’ Den, we learn there is always life after London.
“It has been just over five years since I left the beautiful, exciting city of London after enjoying a life of adventure, new challenges and new friends”.
London, a chance to find myself
I moved to London straight out of college at the age of 22. Having always lived at home in Dublin, bar a few summers abroad, it was my first real chance of independence. I lived with two friends from home, one of which is the Emma in my business name — a jewellery brand called ‘Emma by Jane’.
For the first four years in London, I found it such an incredibly exciting city. I was making my way up the career ladder in fashion buying, starting with Disney and then moving to Primark. My love for London was its sense of diversity, the Irish expat community, and the idea that you could be anyone you wanted to, because you lived in a big city where no one really knew you.
When something is easy, go with it
After four years, two of which involved a long commute to Reading for work, I decided it was time to try something new. I wasn’t ready to move home, instead I set my sights on further afield, looking at Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. After a year of applying for jobs and a lot of rejections, the fashion director in the Irish office for Primark offered me a job in Dublin. It was something I had never considered before, but once I did, it made complete sense and it was easy. It made me realise that I didn’t get the jobs I had applied for in Singapore or Australia, because I was meant to move home. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and when something is easy, you should go with it, as it is where you are meant to be.
I moved home in September 2015, and for the next year and a half, I worked in the Dublin Primark, (or Penney’s as it’s called in Ireland), as a buyer. The transition was easy because I had made so many friends in the Irish office over the years and I just slipped back in to life in Dublin. However, when I moved home, I noticed a lot of my friends didn’t work in the city and were settled down with partners, so the social life was quieter than London. In London you can so easily meet after work because of the ease of public transport, and everyone worked in and around the city. I was very lucky with my work friends and I definitely think it would have been harder to settle if I did not have that ‘London style’ social outlet after work.
Walking away from my job and walking onto Dragons’ Den, and beyond
On Friday the 13th, January 2017, which I like to think of as a lucky day, I quit my job and took the leap to start my own jewellery brand, ‘Emma by Jane’. I had been working on it as a side project for a few months and, as I lived back at home with my parents, I had saved a bit of money to buy stock and start small. Six weeks after quitting my job, I pitched our plans on RTE’s Dragons’ Den, where
I won investment, however after a few meetings, I decided it was not the right route for me and my brand.
We are now heading into our fourth year of business and thankfully, growing bit by bit. Over the past few years we have been featured in numerous magazines, including British Vogue as a ‘brand to watch’. In 2017, I won Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur for Dublin and won €15,000 investment into our business.
Adapting during a pandemic
Over the past few months we were very lucky that our business is predominantly online, so we could continue as normal as possible. Our customers have been incredibly supportive and some days we were as busy as we are for Christmas.
Other parts of our business were severely affected, our wholesale business dipped, but we pivoted with some of our customers and launched our designs on their e-commerce platforms.
As we’re an online business, we have had to be innovative in our thinking. Events have always been a great way to reach new customers, as they can try on pieces, or see them in person. As all events were cancelled, and continue to be cancelled, we launched online styling appointments where our customers can book a 20 minute styling appointment with us to see certain pieces through a video call, they can ask questions and see what pieces might go together, to build a look, or give as a gift.
I feel our business will get through this by understanding and being open to changes in how our customers are shopping, and by catering for their needs. While it is a tough time for every business, we also need to look at it as exciting, as change is coming and we need to adapt to ensure we survive.