When Kate Sutton started hand-crafting jewellery in her garage in the early 2000s, she had no idea it would spark global demand for personalised jewellery.
Her hand-crafted jewellery company Uberkate is the original home of Ubercircles, a unique jewellery product that allows you to carry the names of loved ones around your neck. These creations began a new, now global wave of personalised jewellery design.
“While I was pregnant, I hand forged my first set of three Ubercircles and I kept thinking about how I could personalise them,” Sutton told Women’s Agenda recently.
“I’d carried a set of vintage letter stamps around for years and one day the penny dropped. I decided to use them to emboss my name, my husband’s name and kept one spare for our yet to be named baby.”
When Kate started the business with her husband Adam in 2003, personalised jewellery wasn’t a big thing. She spotted a gap in the market, took a leap and many years later, Uberkate has over 10 collections.
Sutton tells Women’s Agenda about the early days of Uberkate and how it has taken her 15 years to enjoy the freedom that comes along with running her own business.
Where did your passion for creating personalised jewellery come from?
While working as a TV producer at Channel 9 I fell pregnant with my first baby and I was taking silver smithing classes during the evenings and playing with metal in my garage every spare minute I had.
While I was pregnant, I hand forged my first set of three Ubercircles and I kept thinking about how I could personalise them.
I’d carried a set of vintage letter stamps around for years and one day as I walked past them the penny dropped. I decided to use them to emboss my name, my husband’s name and kept one spare for our yet to be named baby. There was no such thing as personalised jewellery at the time, there was nothing like the circles available.
And so, my little business was born from my desire to carry my little baby Lulu’s name with me when we were together and apart. My little baby is nearly 17 and our business continues to forge and craft these circles for Australian families.
Talk us through the initial stages of deciding to pursue your passion project, Uberkate?
It was all a bit loose and accidental. I had a great group of creative friends in media and one of my friends offered to make me a website.
Another friend offered to take photos and yet another was a graphic designer and offered to pull it all together. It was 2002 and Australians weren’t comfortable buying things online, it wasn’t until 2005 that the website business really started to take off.
I have always followed opportunities because I like to see where they can take you. I set small goals in the beginning of the business and celebrated reaching each one. I still celebrate the small moments in business, a lovely thank you email from a client or a message online telling you you’ve created an heirloom they will always cherish and then pass down never gets old.
What benefits has running your own business brought to your life?
FREEDOM and choice. I say freedom in caps because it’s taken me 15 years to enjoy that benefit of running my own business. I have an incredible team who I adore, and we create magic together. Everyday has to have fun in it or it’s not worth the hard work. For many years I worked 12-hour days to keep the business growing and now that we’ve got solid foundations I get to be creative and travel to source gemstones and for inspiration.
There is now a global demand for personalised jewellery. Why do you think it’s so popular?
Jewellery is a form of self-expression and our personalised jewellery shows the world the importance of the people embedded in precious metal.
When I made the first set of three circles 17 years ago there was nothing like it out there. It’s part of my DNA and I had no idea it would become what it has. I remember when we first started approaching retailers to carry our range, they all thought we were mad trying to customise jewellery in a short space of time and get it out to clients. Many in the industry doubted we could sustain manufacturing and shipping. I’m proud that we are the founders of personalised jewellery and we continue to innovate.
In 2015 we won an award to create the software to allow us to scan and engrave peoples handwriting and drawings into gold and silver. We create jewellery with the words of loved ones who’ve passed, and it brings so much comfort to our clients.
What are the biggest challenge/s you have faced or are still facing since starting Uberkate?
Finding a balance between work and home/life/ being a mum. When my children were little I worked crazy hours and I don’t think I was as ‘present’ as I could have been. But the flip side is that if I hadn’t worked so many hours the business wouldn’t be what it is today. Every day there is a challenge when you are a small business.
My husband Adam and my best mate Sonia both work with me and having two people to bounce things off and analyse a situation with makes you feel less alone and helps you make more informed decisions.
In the early days I was the only one working in the business and I often found the constant decision-making overwhelming. In those days I bounced things around with my Dad who learnt silversmithing along side me during my 20’s. Surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart.
What’s your advice for other women looking to establish their own business in a creative field?
DO IT! Consider it a rollercoaster and you can enjoy the ride. I personally believe every woman has a small business bubbling away inside her. You need a flexible mindset to run a business, and octopus arms to keep all the balls in the air, but it’s so incredibly rewarding to watch something you create come to life and flower. When I’m sitting in my recliner chair in my 90’s I know I won’t be wondering “what might have been” … start that business today!