Luka bar

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2019-11-08 13:40:17

Since Chupi Sweetman founded Chupi Jewellery six years ago, it has achieved incredible brand recognition, becoming a household name here in Ireland.

Here, the Wicklow native talks about what drives her, how she makes time for herself and the life of a successful entrepreneur.

What drew you to your current career?

Design is about making things that inspire other people. And I've always just loved that from my very early days working as a designer. 

I did one year of fashion design and then I got scouted out of college by Topshop when they were opening their flagship store.

I think college is incredibly valuable in a lot of ways, but if you want to be an entrepreneur, you want to go do things, you can feel really impatient! So when I got the opportunity to leave after a year I was so excited.

I was 27 when I officially left Topshop and about 29 when I started Chupi. The first two years after I left, I was really just figuring it out.

I trained with this incredible jeweller called Cormac Cuffe. So I spent those two years learning, and just making sure I was good at it. I wanted to go and realise that thing of 'fail faster'. We spend so long thinking how to be perfect, and how to get it right. But actually the only way to learn is to do.

The flagship Chupi store in Dublin's Powerscourt Centre in Dublin 2

What do you love about your job?

I think it's such an amazing thing to get to do. I started making jewellery because Brian, my now-husband then-boyfriend, proposed when I was 26. That was a huge moment. It's a pretty incredible thing, your engagement ring or an heirloom. Thinking that you're a caretaker for a generation and then it'll pass down to your daughter and granddaughter.

We were in France when we got engaged and I remember coming home and just falling in love with the idea of that.

I feel really lucky that I get to come to work every day and work with this team of giants. You know, we've huge challenges and there's a lot of things facing us as a business. We're a very fast growing company.

But I feel very lucky and I've designed a life I love. I think that's a huge challenge for all of us because I wasn't always happy, I wasn't always perfect. But I've worked really hard on building something that makes me happy.

Is there anything you’d change about it? What are the challenges?

It's crazy, and I wish it wasn't one I had to say, but it's being a woman. It's ridiculous that in 2019 I still have to say that being a woman is one of the biggest challenges of the business! We've a really beautiful, multi-award winning, huge brand now. We've got 35 people working for us. 

But it's still challenging being a woman. In those older institutions like banks, you have to make so many of the stakeholders you work with believe in you as a entrepreneur. It can be really hard to have to prove the business again and again. It's just challenging. But I think it's really important that we do challenge. We challenge so our daughters won't have to, you know?

What does a typical working week look like for you?

We had our senior management team at a big off site meeting yesterday. So we were planning for Christmas, and coming up with all the campaigns and ideas and what we're going to be doing for it. 

Today I'm in the office and then I'll be doing a podcast later, so that'll be fun. And then I'm working on strategy for the afternoon. I love that, and I love giving myself space to think about what we're doing and why we're doing it. 

Then later this week, as part of our Give Back programme, I'm going to be working with Plan International, who are an amazing charity that support young women in the developing world. So I'm doing some work with them.

Then we're shooting all day Thursday. There's going to be a big shoot on, so that's really fun. We're shooting some of the new beautiful diamonds.

I've got a few meetings in store on Saturday, and I'm also going to go in and choose something special to mark the moment. I recently won the Network Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year Award and then an AIB Strategic Growth Award, which is just amazing.

If you could give any advice to someone looking to start their own business, what would it be?

The best piece of advice I've ever been given is to start. Delay is the death of success. Everyone is starting something tomorrow. Everyone is going to start a blog, going to start a company, going to start a brand, going to start an Instagram account.

But what about today? It's never going to be 'good enough', it's never going to be perfect, it's never going to be right. But unless you try, you'll never know... You may as well try.

We're six years old now, and the first four years are unbelievably tough. I think if anyone tells you different, then I don't know what they were doing!

Is it sometimes hard to juggle the personal and the professional?

One of my mentors told me that there's no such thing as a personal life. I think there's truth in it. I don't really have a work life and a personal life; I just have a life! And it all tends to go together.

So sometimes that means I'm working on Sunday mornings. But it also means that sometimes I have Tuesday afternoons off. 

We travel a lot and we're doing a lot in New York at the moment. I'm back and forth there all the time, but I always try and make sure that there's really good moments in there. You know when I'm there, that I go out for dinner with friends, or when Brian and I are travelling that we stay somewhere cool and have a nice time.

I think in a way 'work life balance' has become a stick to beat women with. You know, it's something that we say to make women feel guilty. Like 'how's your work life balance?', 'are you getting your exercise in, are you drinking your water?' And sometimes you can't do all of the things.

Finish the sentence:

Being a creative entrepreneur for someone who is...

Passionate. I think passion is the overriding thread that runs through every successful business. Someone who is just so passionate about why they want to do it. 

There's days when you'll get knocked back, and everyone tells you what you're doing is rubbish and what you've created is rubbish. But you have to have that relentless belief in it being possible.

But it’s not for really anyone who...

If you don't have a passion, it's not for you. No one has to be an entrepreneur!

There's a term 'intrapreneur', which means brilliant women and men who are building a business, but they're building them from the inside. You don't have to go out on your own to run business, to be an invaluable part of the business.

I work alongside a team who are all intrapreneurs, who are all about driving our business and building a better vision for the future. Who are passionate about ethics and sustainability and beautiful things. 

It's just about finding a passion. That's what life's about.

What does success mean to you?

For me, it's happiness. Does it make me happy? That's the number one thing that I measure success by.

Is what I'm doing making me happy and challenging me. I really like to be challenged. I like to wake up in the morning and think, 'Okay where's the mountain, and how are we climbing it?' What are we doing today?

Success is working with brilliant people too. I've been lucky enough to work with some incredible people over the years. I'm so excited to work with the team I work with today. They're so inspirational, and they're such leaders in their own right. 

Who’s your biggest inspiration, both professionally or personally?

That's a really good question. There's three people in my life who really drive me. So there's my husband Brian, my business partner Kate and my general manager Cheryl.

Each of them are completely different to me, they've totally different outlooks on the world. But we've all ultimately have the same passion. That drive to create something beautiful and to do it here in Ireland. We work really, really well together as a team.


rsvplive.ie
really have were work going business doing think life your theres chupi


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