Naomi Dootson started Appleye Jewellery, like many of us, in response to the need for a flexible income to suit a young family. With a very useful background in sales, her “creative therapy” was making jewellery at a local bead shop, where she found herself designing pieces that she then sold through at-home parties and local markets. As with everything at Appleye, the development from there to what we see today at the markets has been organic. Naomi started silverware around five years ago. She taught herself and added short courses to help her achieve the effects she was going for, mainly relating to texture. She thought very carefully about going to TAFE to do some courses but was told in no uncertain terms by jeweller friends that no institution would teach her the methods that she was using – and this uniqueness forms the basis of the Appleye range.
The name stemmed from a song that Naomi’s family knew from their church called “The apple of our Father’s eye” It struck them as a wonderful term of endearment that was wholly appropriate for a jewellery business from which gifts are bought for loved ones. Naomi is clear that “if I don’t love it, it doesn’t make it to the table,” so the philosophy carries through to the process of making as well as giving. From a purely practical point of view, the fact that the name begins with an “A” was a factor in choosing it. “People don’t want to scroll down to the letters that are later in in the alphabet in a directory”, says Naomi. “The A puts us on the front page, which makes us more visible”. The fact that the word Appleye is not in the dictionary also works for the business, adding to its uniqueness, and also making the domain name a little easier to claim!
Appleye’s style is earthy, coastal and organic. Naomi’s advice when looking for your signature style is to find your “thing” and have the confidence to run with it and see where it takes you, another case for following the organic route. And that’s how Naomi runs her business. She prefers to use strategies rather than plans. This means that although she has a very clear idea of how she wants the business to work and the direction in which she wants it to go, there is not always a solid plan for how to get there. Because hers is a small business, often dictated by cashflow, her promotional activity is rarely print based, but digital. The strategy is to share on social media as things develop, both personally and professionally. Appleye’s Facebook and Instagram accounts are not separate from Naomi’s own, which means that she paints a general picture of family life, while also talking about her jewellery. “We’re an Australian home grown business – real people with a real family. We celebrate milestones like everyone else and we’re representative of our target market.”
Naomi sees Facebook as slightly on the wane at the moment, with Instagram, a more visual media, increasing in popularity. Her social media knowledge is another organic process, as she is constantly learning. “Getting 1,000 Facebook likes is not a reason to sit back,” says Naomi, who attends forums on social media and is always looking for new information. She tries various promotions and posts to gauge the reaction, which is sometimes very good and sometimes less so. At the moment, she has a Valentine’s promotion on her silver XO pebbles, and even if the take up is small, she believes the promotion gives Appleye a valuable presence on social media. Having a digital presence is the main reason she sells online through her beautiful website. While the selection online is a small but representative part of the range, the website, says Naomi, is essential to make Appleye “legitimate and professional.”
Apple’s stunning photography is incredibly important to its online and social media presence, and Naomi takes the images herself. “I have an eye for it, but if I didn’t, I would definitely bring someone in to do it for me.” She styles the images herself and, like the jewellery, the settings are generally inspired by nature, making the overall look authentic.
It’s this authenticity which is key to Appleye’s success. Naomi believes that people are drawn to the story that the jewellery creates. At Handmade, or any of the markets that Appleye attends, there is always a crowd around Naomi’s stall. She puts this down to the interaction with the pieces and the fun of putting them together. People spend a lot of time building their ring stacks, or collecting pebbles with their initials, and Naomi sees her job as making them feel comfortable playing with them, making sure that the experience of buying is memorable. Her sales background is key to her sales method, in which she often asks “How is the treasure hunt going?” The time she spends interacting with her customers reflects the overall values of sharing and generosity that are core to the brand.
An eye for detail is what gives the final purchase its meaning. The Appleye “A” is stamped on every piece, which is then packaged in a branded linen bag and gift wrapped in natural brown paper and ribbon. The branding is sealed with two taglines, which are used liberally: “beautifully unique jewellery…for beautifully unique people” and “bespoke jewellery designed and handmade in Australia.”
Naomi’s market strategy has developed with experience. She has noticed that the serious shoppers who really want the unique pieces are there early on Saturday morning, while the browsers arrive on Sunday. She draws people with natural displays, but also makes sure that all price points are covered, including earrings at $10. She understands that even though the margin on these is small, they offer a drawcard. Customer feedback is invaluable in driving the business forward and the markets are the best place to watch peoples’ reactions and test product. New for March is an extended range of gold jewellery, which has been created in direct response to the popularity of gold at the Christmas market.
Knowing your audience is a Handmade mantra and Naomi is careful to get to know her customers. But despite this careful analysis, Naomi says “you can never assume you know it all,” and this awareness is what allows Appleye to grow and prosper.