Mums' aptitude for 'winging it' created a diamond success story

Charlotte Donoghue and Steph Porter from Say It With Diamonds
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Two mums with a habit of "winging it" went on to create a diamond in Liverpool's business crown.

Charlotte Donoghue, 33, and Steph Porter, 40, came to know each other through family ties and parties. They grew close during a Spanish summer holiday together in 2014 and even became pregnant at the same, cementing their friendship.

At the time, Charlotte managed an independent candle business while Steph was on maternity leave from teaching children with special needs. Although neither was searching for a new career, a chance conversation about necklaces would snowball into them running a new business.

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Steph admired one of Charlotte's necklaces and sought to recreate it instead of paying the retail price. After hunting around to find out how, she decided it could be a money maker. Charlotte told the ECHO: "Steph replicated a few necklaces by outsourcing materials and asked if there was anything we could do with them. In two hours we had an Instagram set up, posting pictures and even taking orders. It moved very fast very quickly."

Before they knew it, they created a niche jewellery business called Say It With... - an affordable alternative to the high street that kept the same sparkle and gleam as the big names. Charlotte added: "At first, we only sold gold but realised silver was much more affordable and before long people were asking us to do everything from necklaces to rings."

The pair were ordering so much stock - including every single letter of the alphabet in batch quantities to meet bespoke necklace requests - that bills began to rise quickly. Willing to take a risk, Charlotte flew across the world to a Hong Kong trade show in 2016 to learn more about manufacturing, orders and running the business.

She said: "We saw a niche and went with it, now we have designers and we headhunt people but we take lots of gambles and we're not scared of trying new things. The drive is no different from today. When I thought about going to Hong Kong you just have to do it. The next year we went back together and were not scared of learning. Sometimes you have to know what your mistakes can be and learn from them but this was a big moment for us as we learnt so much."

Manager Sharon Power of Say it with Diamonds
Manager Sharon Power of Say it with Diamonds -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

Orders quickly piled up and they could no longer operate from home. Charlotte added: "We started on Instagram and then needed a base because we were doing it from Steph's kitchen... or in a play centre in Aintree. That was another place we'd work. I remember one time we had £10,000 worth of chains in a knot and we had to unpick this ball while the kids ran around the centre. We needed to move."

In 2017, the pair found their first office which doubled as a consultation space for customers ordering bespoke items. They quickly outgrew it for another, bigger office but signed a lease without reading the fine print. Charlotte said: "People told us to get a shop so one afternoon we had a look and found one.

"They asked if if we needed solicitors to look over the contract and we said no, crack on. We could've been signing our life away. We had about four websites at the time but switched to Shopify, moved into a store and threw our money at a lot of different things. We were really winging it and not 100% knowing what we were doing but it was all running smoothly, somehow. Luckily, after four years, the lease ended and we never had an issue but we'd never do something as reckless again. We probably would, actually."

In 2019, Steph and Charlotte would move into their current base in Liverpool's MetQuarter. Say It With Diamonds eventually became Say It With... to streamline the brand's identity but the rolling success, across the world travel and risky decisions were no match for what is still the biggest hurdle in their careers.

Charlotte said: "There was one point we had to deal with what I call the 24 days of hell at Christmas. I'd love to sit here and say we had no problems, especially in the first two years but that period was hell. We weren't a big corporate company and didn't get loans and people didn't realise that. Even now we mostly do everything ourselves but in the early days, there were family members hand-delivering necklaces. We were trying to do so much over our first proper Christmas period that we ran ourselves ragged. Never again. It's a lot more professional now - thank God! But people are still surprised to learn we never had a big initial investment to manage it all. We did everything ourselves.

Say it with Diamonds,at the Metquarter
Say it with Diamonds,at the Metquarter -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

Down the line, the business would deal with critical customers though one worked out in their favour. A negative review online was met by a parade of past shoppers coming to the store's defence, which worked wonders in the grand scheme of things. A single bad review resulted in hundreds of positive public reports which drove even more clients to the pair.

Say It With Diamonds now boasts stores in Manchester and London and has recruited Love Island star Arabella Chi as its ambassador for a unique collection. Despite their nationwide popularity, Liverpool is still their "bread and butter."

Charlotte said: "We always said we were winging it. When we got a business consultant even they said until you make your first million, people are winging it. He described it as a running track: the second time around you know what you're in for and we've learned so much on the journey.

"Liverpool will always be so important for us because it's where we and the business grew. Everyone has supported us more than we've ever imagined and you can't put a price on that. It's honestly overwhelming to think about."

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