Samantha Abbott has been doing markets almost her whole life, and has always had a passion for working with glass. Starting a jewellery business came very naturally to her in her small town, but as her industry has changed, she adapted her business model and the technology she used to run her business and supply her beautiful jewellery across Australia. We spoke to Sam about the exciting plans she has for her business, why it’s so important to support local businesses, and how her family have developed their own exciting business ventures using technology to get selling.
Tell us a bit about how Samantha Abbott Glass Jewellery started.
I’ve always worked with glass, all my life. When I first started my own business, I used to supply wholesalers, and I was just a maker, not really a seller. But I had a car accident which was pretty bad, and it stopped me for a few years. So I had a break and re-emerged after six years out of the marketplace. And it was just different.
I went from a world where there was no Facebook, no social media, to one where there’s no middle guy anymore — you had to be that middleman yourself. So we got out and did some markets, and then we launched into our new wholesale business model.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs and materials?
My inspiration changes these days — when you’re an artist, different things inspire you. I’m inspired by the landscapes, by the sea in rural areas — I grew up by the ocean. But right now, what inspires me is a lot of small businesses owned by women who are changing the face of retail. One thing they are really passionate about is Australian products, and that really excites me, so I feel this drive every day to create new colours, and keep giving them something new for their customers. What’s been inspiring me lately is keeping this togetherness amongst everything.
How have you been navigating COVID-19? What challenges have you faced during lockdown?
From a makers point of view, we’re artists in lockdown, so we’re making and creating more than ever before. But I can’t get out, and I love doing markets because it gives me the confidence to recommend product colours and things like that to my stores. For me it’s really challenging because I just love interacting with people, I love the feedback they give me so that I can go away and create what they want. As a result, we’re probably doing a lot more on social media to get that feedback.
How did you get up and running with Square and what tools do you use the most?
We were looking for a way to get up and running and process payments that’s easy, and our customers wanted to pay by card. So we looked around and thought we’d give the Square Reader a go. For us, it escalated our business into a whole other realm actually.
We could process more payments, and in a very short amount of time, the amount of money we made at markets was changing. We started taking it to our Trade Fairs, and that was great because they didn’t have to wait for an invoice, they could just tap their card and the job was on its way. When you look into it, the financial benefit of not having to pay a monthly fee too, it’s just a convenience.
Earlier this year, I discovered the Square Dashboard. We can put in a postcode for reference, and I can manage my invoices, so I’m not sitting there flicking through a manual system. I can just find the invoice instantly, it’s a really good Customer Management System as well. It’s really cool and super easy. We’ve also just bought a Square Stand (for the iPad) - which I’ll use for my brick-and-mortar store.
Do you have any exciting plans on the horizon for your jewellery business?
We’ve got so much coming — we’re about to open a brick-and-mortar retail store! It’s a pretty big deal for us — because not only are our products Australian-made, but they’re made right here in Gippsland and it’s amazing that we will be able to sell them here. So we’re optimistic about how it’s going to go down, even though we can’t open for a little bit.
I’ve got one apprentice that works for me, and I hope that with the retail store we’ll be able to create employment for one more young person. That’s pretty huge for me. Probably my greatest achievement to date has been employing an apprentice jeweller and giving a young person a future. It’s far outweighed any artistic achievement that I’ve ever had in my life — that’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve done. So I want to do that again, and see if I can create a job for someone else.
We’re also setting up some glass burners in the store, and with the social distancing restrictions, we’ve put screens up and state-of-the-art equipment. So we’re hoping we can do 1:1 classes — alongside creating employment for someone else, I’m hoping to teach other people our craft so that they can get out and maybe start a small business, or start making jewellery for themselves.
Your son and daughter both own businesses and use Square, can you tell us about that?
Yes, both my son and daughter own their own businesses and both use Square! Abigail, my daughter, is 20, and she owns Country Lane Cafe, which is a coffee van. She’s just started up, and is very much looking forward to COVID-19 restrictions lifting so that she can get out and do some markets and events. She also works within my business - we’re a very tight family, working with each other and helping each other within our businesses.
My son Jack, who’s 19, started his little business within mine to start with, now he’s branched off on his own with his business partner and friend Anson, who’s 21. Timber Design Co does markets and supplies boutiques and galleries around Australia. They went to the Trades Fair here, and they won Best Small Stand at their first Sydney Fair, so they’re doing really well!
The heart of their business is that they use Australian timber that is grown sustainably and that there’s no chemicals involved in the process. So wherever possible they’re supporting other Australian businesses too.
Now they have this whole network of stores around Australia that sell their products. It has quite a powerful meaning behind it when two young men invest themselves in a small business and achieve success. They’ve become role models for young people.
My brother is also getting on board with my business. He’s in New South Wales, so he will take care of all of our stores in New South Wales. With Square, I could add him into my account as an Authorised Representative. Now he can invoice his stores through our one central account! So we really are actually a whole family of ‘Square-rs!’
It’s just so brilliant that now — for someone who has done markets for 30 years, and coming from a family that has done markets, and being a small business — Square is just such an enabling little piece of technology. And anyone that wants to have a go, can have a go at having their own small business.
Do you have any advice for other small businesses, particularly those who might be struggling at the moment?
Reach out and support each other — look to other small businesses and network. I think relationships are being forged through this if nothing else. Sometimes your sales might be low, but it’s a real feeling of togetherness if you can help someone, even if you’re not helping yourself. If you can help someone else prosper, everyone’s going to prosper. That’s my belief system anyway.