The sad song of the High Street has been played on repeat for months now, with household brands like New Look, M&S, and Byron Burger, to name a few, being forced to shut down branches all over the UK in an attempt to save their respective businesses.
A combination of consumer uncertainty brought on by Brexit, rising business rates, among other things, has made the High Street arena a volatile place to be for many of today’s businesses.
However, amidst the failings of so many prominent names shines one London-based jeweller, Maya Magal, who, in the face of consumer adversity, has been building, and continues to build, a fiercely creative, competitive and unique brand.
To learn more about her business and the reasons behind her success, we caught up with Maya at her recently-opened second store on the postcard-worthy St. Christopher’s Place in Oxford Circus.
It’s been five years since Maya first decided to give her own business a go. But what was it that inspired her to take the leap and do her own thing?
“I was working for another company designing jewellery I didn’t particularly like the style of, with material I didn’t particularly love. Starting my own business was about designing pieces that were more me,” says Maya.
“It was really important to own what I did. I wanted to make something because I loved the design, not because it fits into a current trend or has a certain function,” she adds.
Despite building a formidable brand and being the proud owner of two incredibly aesthetic, picturesque premises, Maya admits that her initial plan wasn’t overly specific and that opening a store wasn’t originally on her agenda.
“I had ideas in mind of the jewellery I wanted to create but not a 5 year plan of what my brand would become. I didn’t always want to open a store!” says Maya.
“I had a studio in Hatton Garden where I worked alongside freelance jewellers. Once our jewellery became more popular, customers would ask if they could come in and view pieces in person. This was tricky as a jewellery studio is a messy place.
“So although I could meet customers by appointment, I ended up spending a lot of time tidying up, setting out the jewellery, pricing it all up and then putting it all away again. This took my focus away from designing and making jewellery.
“It came to the point where people were Googling us and just showing up at the studio, but I couldn’t always let them in.
“That is really where the idea came from to open a space where I could invite customers in and showcase my designs, and before I knew it 193 Upper Street happened” she adds.
It goes without saying that Maya and her brand have come a long way over the past five years, but a great deal of learning and development has gone into her business as she strives to understand the ever-changing needs of her company’s target market.
As Maya explains, one of the greatest challenges was in getting her business to where it is today has been assuming the role of business owner and maker, in addition to being the designer.
““I think taking the step from being a designer-maker to understanding what I need to do to build a brand was the biggest challenge,” says Maya.
“I’ve also had to understand what our brand is and to develop it I’ve had to learn to say no and focus on the best decisions for the company.
“For example, I have been approached by big stockists in the past, and although it can be flattering and tempting I have had to say no because it just isn’t a good brand fit.
“When opportunities arise saying no is difficult, but as we want to build a long-lasting recognisable brand it’s important to make those tough decisions,” she adds.
Naturally, with growing the Maya Magal brand, Maya’s own vision of her products have changed over the last five years, too. In mixing her past training and experience with her ever-growing knowledge of her customer, Maya has develop products that are unique, and carry an incredibly personal touch for all who visit her stores.
“That’s definitely grown (Maya’s vision for her jewellery). I learned from an amazing jeweller called Tony Tompson and he always worked with big, rough stones and I guess because I learned from him my initial thought was to work with something similar,” says Maya.
“You see who’s coming into the stores, what their style is and understand your market. They’re all inspiring women and men, and they all have their own story and fashion so I feel like I can learn from them and make jewellery inspired by them,” she adds.
Overall, Maya has channelled everything into a brand that has developed an incredibly engaged and loyal customer base. But what is it exactly that has helped the Maya Magal brand to thrive as household names and staples of the High Street have faltered around her?
“I think it’s the fact that my Islington store is strong and I believe in it, the customers and they in return believe in the brand. My theory is to take a similar concept, and put it in a few different places, and build that community around each store.
“I’m going to be sharing my time between our locations so they maintain that personal touch, too.”
“We’re sticking to the physical store rather than focusing solely online. Jewellery is something people would rather buy in person, they want to see it and feel it. This also helps us to further understand the needs of our customers.”
Needless to say the future looks incredibly bright for Maya and her business. With a baby girl in her life and more plans for her business in the pipeline there is a lot more to come from the woman who has already been acknowledged by TimeOut, among others, as the owner of London’s best jewellery store.