How I found my factory

UK-based fine-jewellery brand Fenton & Co creates its ethically sourced gemstone pieces in India. For founder Laura Lambert, that meant a sharp learning curve.
Fenton & Co hero

‘I found people to help me before I found places. My partner Kathrin has a long history of jewellery manufacturing, so I spent a lot of time just asking her questions. With gemstones, there isn’t one person who can give you the keys and say: here’s the hack to the industry. We were really building up that intellectual property ourselves from scratch.

‘I’ll never forget the feeling of touching down in India and just thinking I really had no idea. I’d never been to a jewellery factory; I’d not even seen half the gemstones in person that I’d been looking at on Excel spreadsheets. There was so much for me to learn.

‘We went to some traditional workshops with no job security or safety measures. It was important that I saw the full picture before making any judgments of my own as someone who isn’t Indian and is coming into the industry fresh. My job was not to judge it, but to try to figure out: if I’m trying to create a business that is profitable, what way do I want to do that? A way that lets you sleep at night and feel that you’re doing the right thing.

‘I was going into these factories and they were all coming at it from the perspective of industry people. We spend so much time as founders trying to convince people that we know what we’re talking about and we’re going to lead the way; I’ve always been very comfortable saying that there are moments where I have no idea what I’m talking about. The question is can you find the right path forward and the right people to help you to get to an answer? Sometimes being an outsider means that you can ask questions that no one else does.

‘We must have visited more than 20 different places, one of which became the main factory that we work with to this day. The three things they really fulfilled for us were that they were willing, the owner has a real commitment to his staff’s happiness, and I felt that they could make the products to the level of quality that we needed. I think people should be brave about going in and getting to know their supply chain intimately and making it a very alive part of their business.’

Essential questions to ask your manufacturer

1. Who have they worked with in the past?

2. Do they have a minimum order quantity?

3. What’s their average turnaround time?

4. Do they charge for samples?

5. What’s their standard production pricing?

6. What are their terms of payment?

... and don’t forget to check their business license!

See also: How does a diamond ring get made?

This article was first published in How to Start a Business 2021. To become a subscriber or purchase our newest guide, head to our webshop.

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