Interview with Setting Out Alumni – Conka Cai

by: Mandana Oskoui

19-Jul-16

Award-winning jeweller, Conka Cai, was part of the Goldsmiths’ Centre Setting Out programme in 2015. Now based in her own studio at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, we catch up with her to find out the latest and see how her business has developed since completing the programme.

Hi Conka, you were part of the Setting Out programme here at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in 2015. How has being part of this programme helped you in setting up and running your practice/business?

With a previous academic background in business management and jewellery design, I can safely say that I am self-driven and have always had my goals and plans in place. What the Setting Out Programme provided me with are opportunities to understand how the Jewellery industry works, saving a lot of time and money discovering it all out in real life by myself. I found the one-to-one aspect of this programme incredibly useful as it is tailor made for each individual's needs.

Having access to the fully equipped and modern workshops of the Goldsmiths’ Centre is really helpful for a start-up too, because it’s good to have the opportunity to try all the equipment and find out which ones best suit the needs of your business. As you can imagine, this helps to choose future investment in tools wisely.

I really enjoyed working in this talented and friendly group, being able to share knowledge and provide each other support. It’s a great environment for start-ups.


What have you been doing since you completed the Setting Out programme?

Since completing the Setting Out programme, I have been busy with commissions, building my brand and putting my new plan into action. I am very pleased to have won the Goldsmiths' Craft and Design Council Awards again this year. I won an award for the Modellers’ section and one as a contender for the National Association of Jewellers section. I also took part in the ‘Spring Treasures Exhibition’ at Craft Central with other members of the 2015 Setting Out Alumni.

In order to focus on my business direction in the wedding/luxury jewellery market, I have been preparing business essentials for 2017. I am also further developing my collections, as they are very precise and contain engineering works; I have launched my new website, and am now working on the SEO; I have designed my packaging; I have put in place a useful accounting system for my business, and so on.

I will attend a few wedding shows and jewellery shows this year to get inspired. I am also learning about social media marketing, wholesale, and pitching online. I will be extremely busy for shows and sales next year.


You have now moved into one of the Starter Studios at the Goldsmiths’ Centre. How has that been for you and what advantages does being based at the Goldsmiths’ Centre provide you?

I will say it is not only a studio, but a professional and friendly community that I am working in.

As a start-up business, and working alone, it is fantastic to work in the Goldsmiths’ Centre as I have all I need at my doorstep. This collaborative working environment is a real benefit for individual businesses.


How do you see your business growing over the next 1-5 years? Where do you see yourself as a jewellery designer?

CONKA’s direction is to be a Distinctive Wedding/Luxury Jewellery Brand with a sense of romance. Products include wedding bangles, necklaces, earrings, engagement rings, etc.

It is my life-time career, 5 years is not enough! The main focus on these five years will be expanding CONKA’s stockists, and development of my brand.


What advice would you give to current and future Setting Out participants?

Get the most out of the Setting Out Programme; it will really save you a lot of time and money in real life. Enjoy your time with your group and the community; they may become your future business partners.