Anna Richerby is on a mission to change the stigma that “beads are just beads” – by crafting and selling jewellery made from high-quality beads.
With a passion for beadwork spanning more than 20 years, her knowledge of beads has seen her sales quadruple since she registered her business in 2009.
Richerby, who moved to South Africa from Britain in 2005, originally planned to work for a non-profit organisation, but her hopes were dashed when she realised she did not have the skills required to work for one.
However, when she was encouraged to start training locals in beading, her students quickly spotted the commercial opportunity and tried to convince her to use her skill to start a craft business.
At the time, Richerby was employed for someone who was producing beadwork. The person she was working for decided to leave South Africa and return to the US. It was then that the opportunity presented itself to Richerby to take over the work from her employer and start Beloved Beadwork.
Now, five years later, she runs a successful beadwork business and employs 18 people. In August last year, she picked up contracts worth
R460 000 during a trade mission to the New York International Gift Fair.
The trade mission was funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and organised by the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI). The CCDI assists crafters and designers with business support, training and mentorship.
“I am not sure we would exist without the CCDI. It has been so helpful in assisting with support,” says Richerby. She credits the CCDI as well as the materials she uses to develop her products (which she sources from Japan) as helping her to land the trade mission contracts. She believes that most crafters go wrong when they settle with using cheap beads and adds that there is a big difference between the quality of beads, aside from their price difference.
However, the price is often the tell-tale factor which should alert one to the quality of the beads.
“Sourcing cheap beads is very tempting when you first start your craft business, but sourcing the more expensive beads offers a better quality in so many ways,” says Richerby. For example, the expensive beads – usually sourced from countries such as Japan and the Czech Republic – offer a variety of colours and effect that customers find more appealing than cheaper beads.
“There are holes in the cheap beads and bead weavers usually have to take extra time in sorting the beads and throwing away broken, cheap beads. These cheap beads are also sharp and often cut the cotton used to make the product,” says Richerby.
Using the right clasps is also essential when developing good-quality beadwork. Silver, she says, is always a good choice and using an ugly clasp cheapens the product considerably. She also believes that having your own retail store in addition to supplying wholesalers can help provide the business with a good income stream.
“Having your own retail store allows you to get first-hand feedback from clients when testing a product, instead of producing the product and then putting it into a catalogue to wait on sales.”
Speaking on how she is trying to change people’s perception about the quality of beads, she says she remains steadfast because she knows that she produces quality products that are made from high-end beads.
“It’s easy to just give in and agree that beads are just beads, but you need to continue to develop a quality product.”
- Visit www.belovedbeadwork.co.za for more information.