Helena Jansen van Vuuren

4 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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How (possibly) not to start a business or my find of the century

How (possibly) not to start a business or my find of the centuryh
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Friends knew that I was looking for a business opportunity and in response to a call I went to look at stock that factory clearance agents did not want or really did not know where or for how much to sell.

Boxes and boxes to look at - three hours later,  I was the happiest bunny imaginable.....hundreds of pearls in perfect condition.....all graduated.....from the tiniest little 2mm pearl to 5mm centre pearl or starting with a 4mm end pearl to a 8mm centre pearl.  By this time I had also noticed that the individual packages/wrapped pearls were all labelled in Spanish.  At a guess about 2000 strings of pearls including what I could salvage from what appeared to be damaged

Then the inevitable price question.  XXX,  who is a supplier of all manner of beads to the jewellery trade, was not interested in supplying these pearls to her customers as the stock was limited and her customer base required vast quantities and ongoing supply.  This was in my favour and after some haggling we agreed a price.

Agreeing a price was in my case definitely not the same as having access to the ready monies.  The next couple of days were spent exhausting all avenues of credit after which I hot footed it back to Birmingham to buy my pearls.


Took delivery and took my booty back home. 

Then the shock of what I had done hit home.....I had just spent a small fortune on buying pearls.  I did not know a thing about making necklaces.  Oh sure I had spent a considerable amount of time in the jewellery trade and yes I know my stones but this was a different baby altogether.

For a few weeks I kept sidestepping the pearls in the hallway.....I did not want to look too closely because I had a sinking feeling that this may well be one of my most costly mistakes to date.  

The next move was to hide them as my son was due home for a weekend and I had no idea how I was going to explain what I intended doing with all these pearls.  All the pearls were put to the back of the cupboard under the stairs and that is where they stayed for the next four months.

Number One Son visited and left, none the wiser that his mother had spent a small fortune on the off chance that she could create an income and believe me, I managed ignore that hall cupboard for a long time.

Eventually I plucked up the courage, pulled out all the boxes and started sorting the pearls.  The colours were all very muted and had a depth that made me think of the double strand of pearls my mother used to wear 50 years ago when I was a young girl.  The only time I saw something similar was amongst antique or vintage jewellery dealers stock.

For weeks my sitting room floor was covered in various piles of pearls, eventually I got to the last box which also had a couple of envelopes and some written notes that appeared to be stock records.  At last I knew and had confirmation that I had a huge stock of vintage pearls.  The envelopes contained two invoices from a Spanish company which explained the Spanish stock references written on each parcel of pearls.  The invoices were dated 1941 and 1940 and the invoices made reference to the fact that due to the war the shipment contained no silk in the way of ribbon or thread. 

So although I cannot confirm that these pearls were part of the consignment mentioned in these invoices, at least it gave me an indication as to the era from which my pearls came.

I had no idea how I was to turn these pearls into necklaces with a clasp....something you could actually wear and that someone would be happy to pay for but I knew that this was my find of the century!


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Helena Jansen van Vuuren

Helena Jansen van Vuuren

4 years ago #2

#1
Thank you - pretty accurate - knew I could create an income although I was not sure of the how and needed to acquire a set of new skills. My son has a very enquiring mind (academics do) and would have pressured me for a point by point business plan. I would not have been able at that time to say where I would find the time to learn to build a website, make jewellery, learn photography and how to approach social media. Social media is the last and current learning curve. Happy to say that I have his full support now.

CityVP Manjit

CityVP Manjit

4 years ago #1

My take on reading this story. This is a hard part where instinct moves us but emotion keeps us waiting. The emotion of buyers remorse is where impulse rather than instinct were at play, so this story is not about buyers remorse. The instinct on seeing the pearls was entrepreneurial but this story for me speaks to the emotional response to risk. In this case not being clear how the instinctive purchase would be turned into a viable commodity simply created entrepreneurial pressure. The hiding of the pearls coupled with the slow burn of figuring out how to turn them into product did produce a gap. The emotional battle between questioning our own instincts and not being criticized for that decision is the management of risk, but the desire to find a solution stems from absolute pressure. It is interesting that the initial instinct remained alive, though doubt clearly crept in and this is where the lesson is how our emotions work on us. Today we are so afraid of negative emotions that we fail to see how such emotions can forge or shape a mind that is instinctively entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurs are associated with risk, but they take intelligent risks, many entrepreneurs I have known are actually conservative in nature - they don't like wasting money but they also learn to trust their instincts. Where others see nothing but downside, the entrepreneur makes a move but in this case the opinions of others and having to navigate a learning curve pushed the problem to the side. Yet the emotions would have kept working on the inside and when the solution finally arrived and the desire to convert pearls to product, that is the difference between cutting one's losses and turning instinct into innovation. Sometimes our negative emotions are helping us in the background - this is where instinct and pressure combine, and fortunately a solution arrived, and the rest they say is history.

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