If Gen Z has learned anything over the past two years, it’s the power of the online world. From making life-long friends to building careers, this new era of the internet has allowed young people to flourish. As scary as building a life online may be, the modern pioneers of this online era have paved the way for many to follow. With YouTubers, Podcasters, Fashion Influencers and Entrepreneurs like Emma Chamberlain, Charli D’amelio and more, why not take the plunge? That is exactly what Hannah Leonard has done. The founder of the online jewellery business, GemsByHan, has risen in popularity over the last two years, and I’m in love, to say the least. So, it was an honour to speak to her about her journey!
Below is a conversation with Hannah on all things GemsByHan!
What was the inspiration behind starting GemsbyHan?
I had an art Instagram account before starting college where I’d post paintings that I’d done, but I wasn’t very good or anything. Then I started making crystal rings during the lockdown and people really liked them so I was like ok I could maybe sell these because I was making jewellery for myself anyways, and I loved it. I was having so much fun, so I started selling them on that Instagram account and then I renamed it @GemsByHan.
So there wasn’t necessarily any great inspiration I just enjoyed doing it myself and always enjoyed making jewellery as a little kid!
What was the start-up process like?
See I started out really small. I started out during Covid, and I didn’t actually put any planning into it. Then I think it was just a lot of trial and error and realising that I had to keep track of everything because a lot more people started wanting to buy things.
Did you have any doubts when starting?
I don’t think I even had doubts in the beginning because I was literally just doing it for myself. Then I was like geez well I’m making money so I might as well sell a few. I never intended it to be as big as it became.
If anything I had doubts about coming back and getting back into it again after my break because it’s like do people even remember who I am? But, it’s been really lovely being back so that’s kind of been eased so I’m not too worried anymore, but I did have that doubt when I was starting back up again.
What’s the most fulfilling part of having your own business?
I suppose the most fulfilling part of having my own business would be to do with what I actually make. I just love doing creative things and it’s almost like meditation for me. I’m able to switch off and it doesn’t actually really feel like work which is really nice because I’m obviously doing my small business but also like it’s really my self-care time. I find that really fulfilling. It just feeds my soul as cringy as that sounds. But because I love doing creative stuff, it allows me to do that on a daily basis which is really really nice.
What are the greatest challenges of having your own business?
I suppose the greatest challenge of having your own business, one of them is keeping track of expenses. I find that very difficult. My dad has to help me out, to be honest. I find it so difficult because I’m just bad with numbers.
Aside from that, I suppose I might start selling something that I think is amazing and then nobody likes it which can be a bit disheartening. So once again I think it’s like the trial and error and the disheartening feeling of like when it is an error! But honestly, that is so outweighed by when things do succeed.
It is very time-consuming too. Even though I love that I can sit and make jewellery and it doesn’t feel like work, I do have to bring my laptop with me everywhere I go. I’m constantly updating the website and taking product photos so it is very time-consuming. So that is one thing and sometimes I don’t know when to switch off from like business mode into self-care mode.
You also just launched your own website, what was that process like?
I actually found launching my website really scary. It wasn’t that difficult to set up and it was actually really fun to get to design. I set it up completely myself it was really fun to completely tailor it to what I wanted. Before I was stressing myself out to bits. I was taking all my orders through Instagram DMS and overloading myself with too many orders. So it is better now because it’s controlled.
But I found it really scary because I have never gone that far with the business. It’s kind of scary because you’re a lot more visible once you have a website and it’s like I’ve actually committed to doing this, even though I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. This is a big commitment!
That was the process. The process was me getting scared.
What are your future goals for the business?
I have some short-term goals. I’d love to start selling in markets. I just think that would be really nice and I like that you can meet the customers face to face.
Long term, I just want to keep growing and expanding the business. I want to get to a point where I am constantly able to drop new products on the website. I suppose I just want the business itself to expand. I think now that I have the website it has the potential to do that which I am really happy about. I think the website just makes it a lot easier for people to shop too. I did enjoy talking to people when they ordered via DMs, but I know some people don’t like that, they just want to go to a website and order.
I would just love to be that business where, if it’s someone’s birthday people are like ‘oh I have to order something from GemsByHan. I want to be that go-to place for cute girly gifts.
What are the most Important Values for you as a business owner?
Definitely customer relations would be one. I love being able to build friendships and rapport with the people who are buying from me. One of my really good friends I met, I never knew her before, but I met her when she bought from my business. Which is so nice. I love that!
I try to make sure that all my crystals are coming from ethical sources too. There can be a lot of child labour in crystal mining, so I try to focus on making sure that the crystals are ethically sourced. My tote bags are 100% organic cotton too and with the dye, it’s ok to go into water systems. It won’t hurt any fishies which is really nice! I also try to use packaging that I have recycled and reused. I try to extend the life of everything that I can. I also try to buy from all Irish businesses, so I’m not spending money on emissions to transport to Ireland.
The other value is being able to have my own personal touch. I think the reason I loved doing this from the get-go is that it’s so personal to me. Even though some people might not like some products that I release, I don’t release anything that I don’t like. I don’t want to just hop on trends. I want to release products I’m proud of.
Do you see yourself continuing after college?
I actually do see myself continuing after college! I used to not, because during Covid I took on way too much, way too many orders. I was so stressed all the time, I was like there is no way I can do this. But now I’ve gotten better at managing it all and I definitely do think I’ll keep it up after college. I love doing it, and the whole reason I’ve done it is because I love it. It’s not because I wanna make money. Even if people stopped buying from me I’d still make jewellery for myself, and whether or not people still buy it, I’d like to manifest that people would still be buying it!
I just have to know, what is your favourite product you’ve launched so far?
Maybe the new pink tote bags I’ve just released? And the rings are always a staple, maybe the new gift set too!
Any advice to young women in business?
I think that when I started out in lockdown I was too nice. I let myself be a bit of a pushover. I got taken advantage of a lot, especially by other small businesses, which is so not the vibe because small businesses are supposed to lift each other up, not put each other down!! But yeah, I got taken advantage of and scammed sometimes by other small businesses. Some said they wanted to do joint ventures and then it didn’t work out because they scammed me basically.
Also being a pushover when it came to price, and not valuing myself enough. You need to learn to value yourself and know your worth. Know what your time costs because at the end of the day you need to be making a wage, not just breaking even, especially if you’re doing it full-time.
I think the main thing with being a woman in business you just have to learn to not be a pushover. And I was a pushover for so long, and still can be sometimes, but it helps a lot to stand up for yourself a bit!