You know when you meet someone who you just know is going to go far: incredibly talented and with a great business idea? Well, Hannah, who works part time here at the Kiosk, is one of those people. And making the perfect latte is just one of her talents. She also makes beautiful, high quality jewellery under the name épanoui. We caught up with Hannah in between jewellery-making and coffee-making to chat about her business, her inspiration and what exactly the word épanoui means (you'll love it!)
So Hannah, tell us a little about the jewellery you make.
épanoui is a line of high-quality hand-made jewellery. I only use the finest precious metals and gemstones to make my products, which include bracelets, necklaces and earrings. I sell online, (you can see the lovely website here) and also through a few shops across Beds, Bucks, Suffolk - with more stockists in the pipeline.
What inspired you to set up your own business?
I've always been creative, and it's something I've always wanted to do, I just needed the right moment! After I graduated from Nottingham Trent (Fashion Marketing and Communications), I went on to do a short course in jewellery making at Central St Martins. I knew that was the direction I wanted to go in, but with little experience and no money behind me, it would have been hard to just set up on my own. So I went and worked in entertainment PR in London, ending up working for Disney. It was great experience, and gave me a really good grounding in branding and promotion, but after a few years I wanted to do something more creative. So in February 2012 I moved to Bedford, and in June 2012, I left Disney, ready to set up on my own. I took a long creating the brand and website; I really wanted to get it right first time.
Where did the unusual name come from?
I first heard the word épanoui (pronounced e-pan-wee) a few years ago – long before I had decided to set up my own business. It's a French word, and I first heard it used to describe a garden that was flourishing. There is no direct translation into English, but it basically means something that has reached its full potential – to blossom, to grow, to be in full bloom. It must have really struck a chord with me, because I remembered it when I was setting the business up, and it just seemed to be a perfect fit with the brand I was creating: natural, fresh, connected. People did warn me against using a name that people might not be able to pronounce or spell, but the word sums up perfectly what I do, so I stuck with it, and I still love it!
What's been your best moment so far?
Winning the Bedford Business Women (link) Young Achiever award in my first year of business was incredible. I was so excited just to be nominated amongst all these women doing such amazing work; to actually win was unbelievable. And it was at their Silver Ball, celebrating their 25th Anniversary, so I got to dress up and go to a beautiful ball, which was great as well! The award is in pride of place on my mantelpiece, I'm still so pleased to have won!
What's been hard about going it alone?
The financial change of going from a well-paid job with a regular income to being self-employed with initially very little income was a challenge! Luckily my boyfriend has been very supportive – he's self-employed too, so he's been really encouraging, and supported me thorough that transition. It's also quite hard to adjust from working in a busy office surrounded by people all the time, to working by yourself, for yourself, and being on your own a lot more. That's why I got a job at The Kiosk, it gets me out and talking to people, as well as being a bit of regular income. Through working here I've been able to meet loads of people, get to know the community and make new friends. Nansi and Emma have been so supportive and are really flexible, so it's been possible to work here alongside growing my own business.
What has a year of running your own business taught you?
Well I've learnt a lot about myself! And I have learnt a lot about my customers and my market. But mostly I have just learnt to stick to my guns – lots of people will offer you advice about altering the way you do things to make it easier to sell, or to appeal to a wider audience, but I think you have to stay true to your principles and brand ethos, and figure out what works for you. If you don't compromise on your brand, it will grow in the way you want it to.
What is next up from épanoui? Any exciting new products to tell us about?
One of our most exciting new additions to the brand is personalised bespoke pieces. We are now offering designs engraved with special initials & dates for the ultimate thoughtful gift. I love to work closely with each individual customer to create the perfect design be it for a loved one or even a treat for themselves the beauty is that each piece is completely unique and comes beautifully giftwrapped.
You can feast your eyes on some of Hannah's beautiful designs below. Clearly a rising star of the jewellery world, our advice would be to stock up while you can on this locally-made loveliness. A selection of épanoui jewellery is available locally at Pensieri in Castle Quay, or you can see the full list of stockists here.
We would also like to remind you that Hannah's creative skills extend to beautifully made coffee, and as such are on show at the Kiosk - the home of artisan lattes. (A bold statement, but we'll go with it.)