An Auckland-based bespoke jewellery company has grown rapidly to meet the demand for its made-to-order and handcrafted wedding and engagement rings. Soon expanding internationally, the company reflects on its success to date.
When prospective clients arrive at Naveya & Sloane’s Auckland premises seeking to have a piece of jewellery custom-made, they don’t have to look far to see where their eventual purchase will be produced.
Jewellers ply their craft in a workshop on the same floor as the company’s Queen St showrooms, turning the blueprints painstakingly refined by designers and customers into personal treasures to last a lifetime.
The process takes time: sometimes there will be six weeks or more between an initial consultation and the jewellery’s completion, with at least two further face-to-face meetings plus as many emails and phone conversations as are required in between to settle on a design that suits. Working remotely is common, with clients outside of Auckland and New Zealand choosing to work with Naveya & Sloane over skype and email.
But in a world full of instant gratification, this unhurried approach is clearly in demand, with customers flocking to enjoy the personalised service. In 2015, the firm ranked fourth in the Deloitte Fast 50 growth index, with growth over three years exceeding 550 percent.
The company began in 2010, when co-founder Rachel Sloane first set out to realise her dream of creating a unique New Zealand jewellery brand, firstly with a range distributed through retailers. Business really took off a couple of years later, however, when she and business partner Alex Bunnett began designing engagement and wedding rings and sensed an opportunity to develop the market for custom-made jewellery.
“It’s just blown up over the last few years,” says the company’s chief financial officer Geoff Christopher.
He attributes much of that surge to a buzz created by clients who have appreciated Naveya & Sloane’s personalised attention.
“Word-of-mouth has continued to provide growth on growth.”
These days, the company employs 22 people at its workshop and showrooms, and is recruiting more to keep up with demand.
Christopher relates Naveya & Sloane’s appeal to a general societal trend towards customisation. “I think the modern-day consumer is moving away from pre-designed consumer goods. Where possible, people want that customised and personal option.
“Whether it’s a design that’s already in our signature collection and they choose the centre stone, precious metal and ‘secret spark’ [a jewel hidden on the inside of the ring band], or want something completely custom designed, there is this move to more of a customised solution.”
In an industry dominated by big chains selling jewellery ranges made overseas, there was an opportunity to offer something different. “We’ve managed to come in and do things a little bit differently, with more of a youthful mentality.”
Naveya & Sloane’s approach means it doesn’t have investment tied up in stock.
“Traditionally, there’s a big need for having a shop full of inventory. That’s not how we’ve gone about building the business,” says Christopher. Instead, all the diamonds and other gemstones shown to clients are brought in “on approval” from established suppliers in the industry. “The client then picks the one they love the most,” says Christopher.
In a first consultation, a designer will work to get an understanding of the client’s design ideas, preferences and budget.
Next, a range of gemstones are sourced and shown to them, with discussion around the characteristics of each stone before the customer chooses those they would like used in their piece of jewellery. A final consultation will confirm the design. “There’s a bit of time that goes into it,” says Christopher. “With the time taken it ends up with a product that the client’s really chuffed with.”
In the engagement-ring market, the customers are often men having to learn about something that hasn’t previously been part of their world. “There’s this massive unknown and stress that comes with that. The big thing that we’re trying to do is just make what can be a potentially overwhelming experience, fun and enjoyable and a really amazing experience.”
Having provided something unique in the New Zealand market, the company has identified a global opportunity. Its international ambitions are reflected in plans to open an operation in Sydney by the end of this year, with opportunities in the United States and beyond also on the firm’s radar.
“We don’t think there’s anybody doing that customised jewellery solution at a global, scaled-up level that’s got a strong brand story wrapped into it,” says Christopher. At the top luxury-brand level, custom-made jewellery tends to be at least 20 times as expensive as Naveya & Sloane’s typically low five-figure prices. “You’ve also got all these old-school luxury brands in the jewellery space selling premade jewellery out of a cabinet with very limited options for customisation and personalisation.”
Naveya & Sloane has benefited from past clients spreading the word and also coming back when another major jewellery purchase is on the agenda. It supports that with a strong online and social-media presence, well-suited to the typical demographic in the engagement and wedding ring market.
Christopher says the vision is to create a brand known around the world for its design, craftsmanship and the unique experience it offers. “What we’re trying to build here is an inclusive luxury brand,” he says. “There’s a lot of exclusive luxury out there and we just don’t think the world needs another exclusive luxury brand for the rich and famous.”
He says BNZ has been a “massively supportive” part of the Naveya & Sloane story, helping fund growth and offering useful expertise from a range of specialists. “They’ve got a really good grasp of our cash flow and the working capital needs that we have. They’ve been behind us 100 percent.”
And BNZ Partner Haydon McGrath says it is always exciting for the bank to be involved with such a fast-growing company. “We take a lot of satisfaction from helping them deal with the challenges involved.”
Originally printed in KiaOra Magazine, August 2016.