In the second installation of our student-owned businesses series, Lauren Manning interviews Libby Elliott: a second-year student who makes and sells her own wire wrap jewellery.
So, can you introduce us to your business?
I sell handmade crystal and bead jewellery using wire wrapping techniques. My aim is to make products that are as affordable and as sustainable as possible! I think too many mainstream brands who sell crystal pieces are massively up-charging.
Where did the name Libra Dream come from?
I’m a Libra. One day the name just came to me … I liked it, so it stuck.
How did you first get started making jewellery?
My friend gifted me a crystal ring making kit for Valentine’s Day, and it all stemmed from that. I researched online what tools I needed to make wire rings and earrings, watched some tutorials, and started selling them. I was really into crystals and spirituality at that point, so I had a lot of crystals laying around my uni room. I used those wrapping them with wire to make necklaces.
Originally, I started the business to raise money for Nordoff Robbins, a music charity my Dad used to raise money for. It was a lot of trial and error at first … it was hard making sure the crystals didn’t fall out of the wire. I just had to keep reminding myself that I was learning and as a start-up people aren’t expecting expensive and meticulously designed perfection.
It really helped that my friends and flatmates were so supportive as well – they’d always send me ideas and tutorials that they stumbled across.
So, you started your business because of your own interest in spirituality. Is that still what inspires you?
Well once I started making jewellery and getting custom orders or suggestions, it gave me so many ideas about different stones, patterns and methods I could use in future.
I have a lot of new ideas I’d love to try out when I make a bit more profit, which motivates me. It is a slow process at uni because I don’t have all the time in the world and being on a student budget poses challenges.
But I’d love to be able to make more TikToks and hopefully go viral! I guess the prospect of future success inspires me. I find a lot of inspiration from other small businesses too. People are so supportive and are willing to promote and collaborate with you – it’s a community I love being a part of.
Who is your jewellery mainly aimed at?
It’s aimed at anybody who’s interested in spirituality and crystals and wants to wear them – just people who like jewellery! Obviously, the jewellery is more ‘effeminate’ so to speak, but I’ve had boys model for me.
I’m also working on making larger, plainer spoon rings that are catered more towards the male jewellery market. I started making beaded chokers and necklaces due to demand, but my primary aim is to get people into crystals via affordable jewellery. Spirituality is becoming more popular amongst Gen Z, but I have a considerable number of adults who buy from me – which makes me so happy. It’s nice knowing my jewellery doesn’t look too ‘young’ or ‘cheap’, meaning older people will take an interest too.
That’s a pretty large target market. How do you market your products?
Social media is a big part of marketing for me. I sell on Etsy, so I mainly operate out of Instagram to direct people there easily. It’s also the easiest way to post updates about new drops. I’ve posted a few TikToks and I’m hoping to gain more of a following there in future. T
o be honest, word of mouth has ended up being a lot more important than I thought it would be. When my friends tell their friends about my products, that’s usually a guaranteed sale. Exposure on Instagram is obviously very important too, but it doesn’t mean the person who liked the photo is going to make a purchase. I know I’d personally rather buy a ring made by a friend than one I saw on an Instagram ad!
Nevertheless, I do work with some influencers for exposure. Romeo Beckham’s girlfriend, Mimi Regan, promoted my products which helped me gain a lot of followers and sales. It’s great that loads of influencers now have a big focus on supporting small businesses, as many often reach out to me!
That sounds like a lot of work. How do you manage to balance everything while at university?
It’s harder than I thought. The business ultimately gets put on hold when I have uni work or big social events which is frustrating. I hate knowing I’m neglecting my business and taking a while to reply to messages – it does have a knock-on effect on sales.
I’ve learnt that keeping your followers engaged by planning ahead and having content ready is extremely important. I’ll often save photos or TikToks to drafts now so I can post them when I’m busy. I’ll also just go back to promoting my classic products – my rings and earrings. It’s easy to forget how important the original quintessential products are and get carried away with the anxiety of not making loads of new elaborate pieces.
What’s been the most difficult part of having your own jewellery brand?
Finance. I didn’t originally budget very well, or get financial advice. My overdraft took a huge hit as I jumped in at the deep end. Over time I’ve learnt to discipline myself and keep a log of everything.
It’s all too easy to get a business idea and just want to get started right away, but you have to budget. I’m keen to make spoon rings, but the equipment to do so is currently out of my budget. For now, I’m going to wait until I have more in savings than what I think I’ll need just to be safe. If they don’t sell as expected, it means I’ll still have money to fall back on to invest in something else.
What advice would you give to other students who want to start their own businesses?
Money will not always be constant! You’ll make so much money on your original drops from friends and their friends but, after a few drops, this reliable customer base will stop. They can’t all keep buying off you, so you need to market outwards or have money to invest in lots of different products. I’d recommend spending the first profit you make on paying for Instagram ads. They’re easy to buy and you can direct people to your account or your website.
I’d also say be honest with your customers about why you’ve priced something how you have. When I first made phone charms, I explained that it took a lot of trial and error and was a very time-consuming project to get going, so they were about £15. People appreciate transparency and it’s important to communicate your process.
Where do you see your business going in the future?
I really want to work with more influencers, create a bigger presence on TikTok and eventually make products that both men and women would be interested in wearing. I still need to learn to time manage a bit better, especially for next year which will be my final year at uni. But I’m hoping to find the perfect balance.