We are shining a light on one of our fantastic, fashionable Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) businesses, Delmora, founded by Judy Chicangana-Matthews. Demora offer a variety of beautiful jewellery items and accessories for women. We spoke to Judy to find out more about her business journey and her experience with the SiLL programme.
Can you please tell us a bit about your business and how it came into being?
Delmora is a brand that helps women turn a 'good look' into a 'great look'. How do we do that? We sell the best jewellery and accessories for women's outfits. I always say "we" because I foresee Delmora expanding into a company that offers many jobs and does great things for its community. At the moment, it's just me doing the production, packaging, quality control, marketing and so on. But behind Delmora's progress, it's not just me. There are a lot of people and small businesses behind the curtains. For example, my husband that motivates me during those difficult moments as an entrepreneur, all the Delmora suppliers (at the moment, 85% of our suppliers are British) and finally our partners, we donate a part of our net profits to the Charity LAWA based in London.
What was the inspiration for Delmora?
My father and aunt are entrepreneurs, and I always had the idea that I would follow in their footsteps, so I studied business. I remember once I suggested to my father that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and he told me that he wanted a better future for me. He wanted to see me working in a big office for a big company. So, I shut down my dreams, believing that being an entrepreneur wasn't good enough. Now, looking back I am grateful for the advice, but I suggest to any parents listening, please support your children and help them try to achieve their dreams.
I choose jewellery because:
- It is my passion
- That market doesn’t have many barriers to entry which is good, but it also makes it super competitive
- The initial investment required wasn’t too high
- I found suitable suppliers quickly
Why did you want to start up a business?
Independence and support. I am looking for financial freedom and being able to manage my life in a way that I can care about myself. While working in offices, I was tired of doing nothing but working for someone else. I used to dream about having a hobby such as painting or crafting. I love working with my hands and creating new things. That is how I found out that jewellery would be perfect for me.
My second motivation is supporting others. When I was living in Colombia, I was a lecturer in a university that aimed to help people that couldn’t afford private, professional education. It was great! I worked there for 6 years, and I felt fulfilled because I was doing something good for others. One day I realised that I was not achieving my dreams. The working conditions made it almost impossible to dream about having a house or having enough money to travel for holidays. I had the same car that my father gave me before graduating from University. So, I realised that I needed to help myself first to be able to help others. I decided to launch Delmora and look for that financial independence to help myself at the same time as I help others. Currently, Delmora is supporting the charity LAWA based in London. My dream is that in the future, I will be able to help many girls that are living through domestic violence or any other type of abuse.
How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?
SiLL is a terrific project because it's available to anyone. Even if you don't have your own business and you have an idea. That is how I started the programme; Delmora was just an idea when I decided to attend the masterclasses. Although I have a business background, I didn't know where to find information or how to address the British market. That was the most significant help. Learning about COBRA and how the library supports businesses with industry guides and multiple resources such as Mintel and Euromonitor reports, helped me to create my marketing strategy to start Delmora.
In the marketing masterclasses, I learnt how to approach the different e-platforms with good content and how to reach my final customer. As Delmora has a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest, that was super important. There is still so much to do, but this was an excellent starting point.
What was the most helpful part of the SiLL project for you?
Learning about all the free tools that the Library offers to entrepreneurs. After I enrolled in the project, I started to be more interested about the activities, webinars and seminars that the Library provides and I have attended the ones on Intellectual property, marketing and how to take photos with an iPhone.
I am an avid consumer of the market reports to educate myself about the behaviour and product preferences of my customers. When I go to the Library, I spend hours taking notes and reading all this info.
The masterclasses are also very helpful as they teach new trends that help entrepreneurs to improve their processes.
Can you tell us a bit about the business community that is developing as a part of SiLL
I love when I’m around other entrepreneurs as you can learn from other business’ experiences. Also, being able to share your experiences is therapeutic and make you realise that you are not alone. SiLL facilitates those conversations and networking. I always look for other small business that could potentially be my suppliers.
What was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your business/plans to start up a business? How did you respond?
The impact was huge. I launched my first product at the end of February and then in March, Covid hit. In the beginning, people were buying the essentials such as food and toilet paper, so jewellery was considered a luxury. Nowadays, many people are concerned about their jobs and how that is going to impact their finances.
Covid also affects my KPI’s in terms of delivery. I use the service Royal Mail 24, and I have had severe delays on the delivery of the parcels. To compensate my customers, sometimes I offer discounts as a part of the customer service. This practice has seriously affected my margins, so surviving has been very difficult.
My response has been offering discounts to my customers and creating programs to increase the brand’s recognition. For example, I offer the Delmora Club discount to all my customers in which the members have exclusive access to special discounts and pre-launch of our collections. We also recently created the program named “Delmora Brand Champion” that aims to get more positive reviews around our online presence.
What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?
Do it. I was petrified before I started Delmora as I had a good job with a steady income, and I felt my professional future was promising. I had job interviews in big companies, and I was starting to love the London nightlife with cocktails/wine on weekends and shopping during my free time. So, starting a business required for me to save money and Goodness knows when I will take a steady pay cheque again however, I really enjoy being my own boss and working for myself instead of using my talents to line the pockets of other business owners.
When I started, fear was always a factor but I'm glad I went through that phase and decided to create Delmora. It gives me a purpose and the learning has been immense. After a year, I have spent all my savings and I am not at the point of taking a salary yet. But the reward has been incredible experiences, and I have known incredible people that are going through the same.
Also, it is good to remember that the options are endless. If an idea doesn't work, there is always another idea that could be the one, but you will never know if you don't try.
What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?
Before I started my business, I took the Clifton Strengths Test, which reveals your main strengths. One of those for me is that I am a Learner. That was a big revelation because I wasn't aware of that, but I have since realised it is true. This has been crucial for me as an entrepreneur.
When I started, I thought that a bachelor's degree, a postgraduate diploma, an MBA and a qualification in Project Management would be enough. But I had to learn Photography, Photoshop and I am in the process of learning Illustrator and how to shoot videos.
I also thought the most difficult thing would be negotiating with suppliers, but that was the easiest part. Establishing processes and organising all the info to give the customer the best possible experience is very difficult. For example, every time I sell something, I need to go through a long quality control procedure involving a 30-point check list to ensure the customer journey and service levels are excellent and consistent. It is easy to get lost in the countless files and e-files that I manage.
Another example is when I receive raw material, I need to assign a code to every unit, and I need to fill in a file that records all the updated stock, which is crucial when I am planning a new collection. Also, I need to put that info on my cash flow to monitor where the money is going.
Key points, I would say, organisation and the willingness to learn have been skills of paramount importance that I have developed during this process.
What would you say to anyone looking to go to a SiLL workshop / talk to their local SME Champion?
It is a great help. All the masterclasses and tips will help you at some point. I would advise you to organise the information by subjects, and then you can come back as and when you require. I was always taking notes and filing the info I got from the programme. For example, I haven’t done my Canvas business plan but thanks to the programme, I know I have the template and all my notes ready to start it.
I think it is vital to say thank you to all the people that have helped entrepreneurs throughout their formation and to the Bexley Library and British Library for offering these programs and making them available to anyone. Thanks to Bexleyheath library for the time and effort invested as well as to the instructors for sharing all the tips and information. Finally, thanks to you Ioanna, because you have been an approachable person from the beginning of the programme showing a sincere interest in helping us.
For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.