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Meet The Founder: Hema Selvaraj of Hep Audrey

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Hema is the founder of British jewellery brand, Hep Audrey . An accomplished digital native with a successful corporate stint behind her, Hema is seeking to disrupt the jewellery sector with fresh, elegant, high-quality designs at affordable prices. Her jewellery is created to inspire you to ‘be your sparkly best’ at all times.

Tell us a little bit about your career journey; have you always been an entrepreneur?

I have worked for corporates for most of my career. I was a general manager in retail and have worked for the likes of Disney, Tesco and Samsung in the last decade. In many ways, my corporate career prepared me for this innings as an entrepreneur. Starting my own business was always a ‘someday’ aspiration. Distant yet sparkling with possibilities! Recently, I had the ‘life is too short to wait for the perfect moment’ epiphany and decided to take the plunge. I haven’t looked back since! It’s been 6 months since ideation and 2+ months since the launch of Hep Audrey. I couldn’t be happier!

How did Hep Audrey come into being? Can you share the creative process with us?

Once I decided to start my own business, things fell into place swiftly.  I came up with 3 different business ideas. Hep Audrey stood out among them. When I closed my eyes, I could actually visualise Hep Audrey bringing joy, beauty and memories to people’s lives. What could be a better business objective? I am a relentless thinker, so I pretty much ideated the business model in a day! I distinctly remember it being a rare blue moon on the 31st of January 2018. As the whole world was admiring the moon, I was thinking if one could have the moon physically close to them, it would have to be as some form of jewellery. Gemstone jewellery! And, that has become the core focus of the business.

 

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Hep Audrey is a beautiful online boutique showcasing bespoke designs that are made in India – do you design the pieces yourself?

Once I settled on gemstone jewellery, I decided to source from India where most of the stones are naturally formed. As I looked into the pool of suppliers and available product designs, I decided to curate the products rather than design them myself for launch. Why reinvent the wheel when you can swiftly bring a kickass Minimum Viable Product to the market and adapt based on customer demand? That said, I am incredibly proud of the product assortment we have put together. The designs are all original, exclusive and elegant. What’s more, they are all made of high-quality materials like sterling silver or gold and feature natural gemstones.

What is it about jewellery that fascinates you? 

Most physical goods are for consumption and have a transient effect. But, in my opinion, jewellery is timeless and forever. Over the years, I have peeked into the jewellery boxes of so many female friends and have marvelled at the stories/memories packed into such small boxes! A family heirloom, birthday gift, anniversary present, holiday treat, first date impulse buy, unwanted Christmas gift (yes, that one!) – the stories are all so rich and sweet. The enduring emotion attached to the pieces is what draws me to jewellery. I want to help create the stories and memories!

Your name makes it clear you’re inspired by Audrey Hepburn; what’s the fascination and how does she inspire the pieces?

Oh, thanks for asking the question! I have been dying to clarify. Hep Audrey is actually an imaginary persona of a cool and stylish female who signifies the customer. In reality, it is not named after any one person. That said, it is inspired by all the style icons of the last century including Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Ingrid Bergman among others. I like the ‘less is more’ ethos advocated by these icons and this is reflected in all our products. All our designs are light and fresh with understated elegance.

Your tagline is “be your sparkly best”, what does that mean for you?

This might sound counterintuitive coming from a jeweller but I am a big believer of beauty from within that is simply complemented by jewellery. A woman who is loving, kind and courageous is already beautiful. If I could add that spring in her step or evoke a smile by accessorising her with beautiful jewellery, I would have done my job well. For me, the slogan ‘be your sparkly best’ is about being the best version of yourself.

 

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What is your favourite piece and why?

I love all the collections! The Artisan Collection is quirky and inspired by real-life objects like grains, leaves and even bread baskets! The Corona Collection is all about showcasing the gemstone in all its glory. You will find different shapes and cuts of gemstones encased in sterling silver in this collection. The Aurora Collection is unusual and features multiple gemstones in exquisite designs. Finally, the Hema Collection (I had to lend my name to something!) comprises of elegant 18ct gold pieces. If you were to make me choose, I would pick these classic pearl earrings from the Hema Collection as my favourite. No explanation required! ☺

Opening an online boutique is a goal for many women, what is your best advice to someone starting out on this path?

Knowing your market, target audience and brand proposition are key. I am guessing most entrepreneurs know this already! What takes you by surprise is the slow growth in the early months.  Nothing prepares you for that. You have to experience, digest and process it for yourself. Whilst an online business with a real business model has high growth potential in the medium to long term, it will not take off right away. Building awareness takes time. You have to persevere and continue to deliver on what you believe is your USP. This could be content, new products, new distribution channels, social media campaigns etc. As Amazon’s Bezos says, you stand at the intersection of your passion and a real market need and wait for the wave to catch you!

What are the main challenges of your business? How do you overcome these challenges?

At this early stage, it is all about driving awareness of the brand and demonstrating value for money to the customer. As a starting point, a lot of effort and thought has gone into the website content, creative and UX. Plus, I have invested heavily in social media to drive brand awareness. I am also reaching out to micro influencers for creative collaborations. Last week, I opened a pop-up shop in The Pommier at Covent Garden. There are many more interesting developments to come but it has been an assertive start! I am metrics driven and take comfort in numbers. Shopify says Hep Audrey ranks among the top 10% of websites launched in the same week globally for traffic. This gives me perspective and the motivation to work harder!

 

Finally, what do you feel has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?

When this is all over and it is time to reunite with the big guy, I will be sure to join Frankie and sing, “I did it my way”! For me, it has been and always will be about choice. To be able to dream something and bring it to life with passion, courage and a little bit of humour is the most rewarding part. This has meant different things at different points in my career. Right now, it is about taking Hep Audrey to commercial success and creating an ecosystem of happy customers, happy employees and happy suppliers! I hope all of you wish me well on this journey.

 

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