Name: Shona Bain.
Age: One should never ask a woman her age.
What is your business called?
Sheenashona Jewellery – a combination of my sister's and my first names.
Where is it based?
Our head office and fulfilment centre is based in North Ayrshire and we currently trade exclusively online.
What does it produce, what services does it offer?
We design and manufacture luxury jewellery in both sterling silver and gold which reflects contemporary design and craftsmanship.
To whom does it sell?
Women who like to buy jewellery for themselves and for friends and family. We are also building up a good client base of men who often buy jewellery as gifts for special occasions.
What is its turnover?
Our website went live in February 2012 and sales have continued to grow month on month, we have repeat customers and when we get to the end of our first true financial year in June 2013 we will be able to give a more informed financial assessment.
How many employees?
A few full time staff members.
I have a core belief that you should partner with the best companies in their area of expertise while understanding your own core competencies.
I work with freelance photographers and designers along with major British manufacturers who have the ability to work on bespoke projects while providing scalability and short turnarounds, which keeps the supply chain efficient.
Our telephony, IT, Web Design & associated services are contracted out to enable a 24/7 robust service.
When was it formed?
I registered our company in June 2011.
Why did you take the plunge?
I always love a challenge and it was always my intention from a very young age to establish my own company and brand. I have no clue where it comes from as I didn't come from a family who had a business or had lots of money but I have always had a passion for business, a love for the finer things in life, an interest in entrepreneurs and their values along with the glamorous lifestyle of people such as Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly.
With an Honours and Master's Degree from Strathclyde, I had worked my way up the corporate career ladder in consulting and the oil and gas sector. I had lived and worked abroad and travelled extensively. I loved working with dynamic, smart people on interesting projects but I feared I was caught in my corporate bubble which was safe.
After living for eight years in The Hague, Netherlands, I knew I wanted to come home to Scotland. I had always kept a home in Scotland and I had the option of moving jobs within Shell Netherlands or joining Petrofac in Aberdeen. I chose to change companies and move back to Scotland, but knew within a few days of starting my new role as a director that it was not going to be for me. Having a philosophy, however, that there is no such thing as a mistake in life, I decided to take action and put my apartment up for sale.
In the same month I bought a house, which I had been watching online for two years. I was getting myself set to establish my own business. I had an epiphany standing in the kitchen: I thought jewellery, I have no clue where the thought came from; I just knew I had it. For me jewellery is engineering in miniature and I knew there was a gap in the market.
I then roped in my sister who has a design background.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I worked my way up as a project manager in a London-based consulting company with clients Like ICI and Chevron Texaco before joining Royal Dutch Shell. I worked with many Shell Downstream refinery assets to improve their performance, particularly in the USA, as well as developing and converting multimillion-dollar improvement projects to enhance the performance of government-owned assets in Trinidad & Tobago and Serbia.
I then moved to Shell Upstream as a senior business advisor in strategy and finance working on confidential capital projects globally across LNG, wind and coal gasification, before being head-hunted and briefly moving to Petrofac Aberdeen. When I set up my own business it was a shock to many people. Most of my Shell colleagues thought I was crazy.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
I financed my own business. I did visit Royal Bank of Scotland but only to set up bank accounts and establish all the payment gateways for our website. I wrote a business plan but it was to aid my own thinking not to raise capital.
What was your biggest break?
Finding our first major manufacturers, who were in the process of developing and growing their bespoke area.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
I enjoy the challenge along with the business side including strategy and finance. I like to make things happen and get really excited when I see an idea come to life like a new jewellery design. I am now very focused on marketing and I am happy to get out there and talk to people while Sheena looks after the jewellery designs along with the website's look and feel.
My skill set of strategy, finance, project management; analysis and client-facing presentation are transferable to my new business.
Any gaps such as design are more than covered by Sheena.
What do you least enjoy?
Not sure because I work with "to do" lists and if it is on the list it needs to get done.
You have to be prepared to muck in and do what is required whether you enjoy it or not when you set up your own business, with a smile on your face.
My biggest bugbear is people who don't deliver on time, I work to schedules and if you say you will do something I expect it to be done to a high standard on time and in full. I am very corporate that way.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
To become a well-established luxury jewellery brand and to remain a private limited company.
What are your top priorities?
To establish our brand in the UK; to continue to grow our sales via our UK website; to establish key concessions and/or our own stores in major British cities; to establish both an online and offline presence in the United States; to continue to develop our collections.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
I am a big believer in rewarding "can do" behaviours so I would like to see a reduction in personal taxation.
Secondly I would like to see all working mothers' childcare costs being taken off of their gross salary before tax, as I believe the current system results in double taxation and inhibits working mothers.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?
If you want to start your own business start planning now, you don't need to know all the answers but you need to know what you want to achieve and have the skills yourself initially to achieve it.
How do you relax?
I love to travel, go for dinner and drinks. I also de-stress by working out at the gym and doing yoga a few times a week.
I read a lot about entrepreneurs and business but can equally be found flicking through a glossy magazine.