Jo Hayes Ward uses her transformational process to adapt and thrive
After 15 years in the custom jewelry business, Jo Hayes Ward knows a thing or two about resilience.
The bulk of Jo’s work consists of custom-made gold jewelry for clients who she works with one-on-one. She meets with them at her London workshop or during local open studio events, and, after an in-depth consultation, creates complex bespoke pieces in her unique style. Many of her clients are repeat customers and even more become brand ambassadors — spreading the word and sending more people to her door.
Her jewelry line is also available in stores around the world. “They’re an invaluable resource for me,” says Jo. “How else am I going to show my work in America, Paris, Seoul and beyond?”
Jo has worked hard to build a large and loyal following, and to expand her retail network. So when March 2020 came along, adjustments needed to be made. Jo found herself in the same place as nearly every small business: in the midst of a lockdown and needing to rethink the way she did business.
DIY for the digital age
If she couldn’t sell her jewelry in person or in stores, she needed to reach her customers where they were — online. So she built her own Shopify e-commerce website from scratch.
Jo had never worked on a website before, much less created one. But she was undeterred. “If there’s something I need, I have to sort out how to do it. That’s always how I’ve worked.” Jo figured if she could teach herself CAD, 3D printing and casting, she could learn how to build a website.
“It’s amazing what you can do now just through online tutorials. This is the one good thing the pandemic has shown everyone: how much you can do yourself. It’s not as difficult as you think.”
Establishing an e-commerce presence has been a huge learning curve with a big payoff. Armed with her new web development skills, Jo now has control over every aspect of her branding. “It’s changed the way I sell my work. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner!”
Make it snappy and keep it moving
Web stores rely on excellent photography to capture attention, showcase products and help make the sale. This is especially true for high-end custom jewelry sites, where viewing a piece from different angles is necessary to see every gorgeous detail. Jo needed great shots, but her photographer had stopped taking pictures for clients since the lockdown. So she watched a few more tutorials, started snapping and found she could achieve professional-looking photos using only her phone and a supplemental light and lens.
Jo also discovered she had a natural eye for it. That made sense to her: “As a jeweler, you know the best angles for your work and taking the photograph. You know how it’s going to look perfect.” By taking her own pictures, she was able to better capture what she wanted.
Shooting compelling videos was the natural next step. “Videos are really important for jewelry, particularly my jewelry that comes alive through movement — that’s not something you’re ever going to see in a static photograph.”
Once Jo had an online marketplace populated with exciting images and videos, she needed to attract people to her website. Jo had found inspiration on Instagram in the past and realized it could be a powerful — and free — marketing tool.
“Your Instagram feed doesn’t necessarily have to be this perfect, polished thing,” she says. “You can create your own lo-fi but very effective marketing campaigns yourself. It’s a fantastic thing for small businesses like mine to be able to do.”
The reasons Jo follows people on Instagram are she likes what they do, what they say and/or what they give her. So she shares things that aren’t just about selling jewelry – it’s a bit of a portfolio but also an inspiration board. And it’s personal; her voice comes through on all her posts. To Jo, curating an Instagram feed isn’t fundamentally different from curating a jewelry line. It needs to be beautiful, it needs to be functional and it needs to have her unique style.
And like Jo’s jewelry design, her Instagram marketing has drawn a crowd. “The pandemic inspired me to get a move on,” says Jo with a laugh. “Myself, along with many other small businesses, have taken steps [to bring ourselves into the digital age] faster than we would have otherwise.”
Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. And by shoring up her custom jewelry business with e-commerce and digital marketing, Jo has made space for another necessity — family time.
“Outside of jewelry, I’m a mum. I have three boys, ages 9, 7 and 3, and they keep me very busy. Life is manic and joyous and exhausting in the best of times.” And during the lockdown? “It wasn’t that different, to be honest, apart from not having any spare time at all.”
Jo and her husband became full-time caretakers, homeschoolers and entertainment ringmasters. Board games were played, trees were climbed, marshmallows were toasted over backyard fires.
“There was a lot of LEGO going on! Well, there always has been, but we created even more amazing LEGO models as a family when we couldn’t leave the house,” says Jo. “I think my boys definitely have 3D minds.”
The knack for making complex creations with interesting geometries clearly runs in the Ward family.
Jo Hayes Ward