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77 Diamonds

Diamonds are the real thing, even for online retailers.

Sector: Futurestore
Themes:

Europe’s largest online diamond jeweller, set up by two twenty-something friends, one a banker, the other the son of a diamond miner. Today they run a $25m business, across 77 countries, delivering finely crafted diamond jewellery direct to consumers through a luxury service that offers great value.

77 Diamonds was founded on the premise that with the advent of modern technology and modern jewellery manufacturing methods, it was possible to create a new breed of jeweller to service customers in a better way.

The ambition was not only to offer the largest selection of diamonds in the world, but to manufacture the jeweller to such high standards combined with a market leading service that could outcompete even the finest branded jewellery companies.

But the most outrageous ambitious of all was to do all of this at prices so low that other retailers could not even source their own jewellery at the same prices we sell directly to our customers.

Founders Tobias Kormind and Vadim Weinig are old friends. From backgrounds in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and a third generation diamond manufacturing business respectively, the pair came together with a dream to sell diamond jewellery online.

After leaving Morgan Stanley, Tobias immersed himself in online ventures. First, he helped to restructure and successfully sell businesses, before founding an online marketing agency, taking luxury brands including Estee Lauder Europe online. He also helped other luxury businesses fully leverage the potential of e-commerce, including Anya Hindmarch and Astley Clarke. Tobias’s interest in diamonds began with his family, who established themselves in 1955 and are today a large global diamond manufacturer.

Meanwhile, Vadim had grown up as a young boy in South Africa joining his father for road trips buying diamonds direct from diggers. When his family moved to Antwerp, most of his classmates hailed from the city’s biggest diamond families. He started out as a diamond polisher, helping to broker important diamond deals, and later moved into risk management in London. But he was always looking for the right opportunity to return to diamonds.With similar passions and interests the two decided to set up 77 Diamonds in 2006 and the rest as they said is history.

They took their brand name from the year 1477 when the modern Western practice of giving engagement rings first arose.

“Today, 10 years after we opened our doors, we have managed to achieve all of our ambitions, having created the leading independent online diamond jeweller both into the UK and Europe” says Kormind.

“With a dedicated showroom in the London’s Mayfair, we can proudly offer our customers a truly luxury experience at affordable prices. Our customers can sit with our bespoke team of jewellery designers and create their own original piece, or choose from our extensive inventory of original, delicate designs or speak to our team of diamond gemmologists to learn more about the subtle differences in diamonds.”

The founders identity three drivers of their business

  • Access to 80% of the world’s diamonds. Sourcing our diamonds directly from those that cut and polish the stones, we’re uniquely placed to offer you the world’s most luxurious stones at a price that’s affordable.
  • All jewellery is handmade to order by our master craftsmen. We strongly believe that as no two diamonds are alike, neither should the jewellery and we make each piece to order which in turn keeps our costs down and therefore the price you pay.
  • Proudly housed in the heart of Mayfair, London. With a showroom, workshop and head office all in central London, we are able to control all aspects of your order process in order to guarantee the best quality diamonds have been picked by our experts in order to produce the finest quality diamond jewellery.

Which translate into three simple benefits for customers

  • Affordable luxury at your finger tips. Our business model ensures that you can guarantee the world’s most luxurious stone at prices that are up to 70% cheaper than the high street where the choice in diamond quality does not always exist.
  • You’re in the right hands. With a company founder that is a third generation diamond dealer and a combined experience within our workshops of over 100 years we know what it takes to make your unique purchase extra special.
  • Thousands of happy customers. Don’t just take our word for it, we have made so many dreams come true with our jewellery and you can read online from those that have experienced our products and customer service.

Here is a recent interview with cofounder Tobias Kormind in StartUps Magazine:

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We empower the consumer through choice – offering the largest selection of certificated diamonds in the world, sourced directly from diamond cutters
  • Providing a luxury jewellery experience end-to-end, with our Mayfair showroom, online and on mobile, offering superb customer service, and luxury packaging
  • With our own workshop, we are able to offer superior craftsmanship on our jewellery

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Sealing the European market leadership position in online diamond jewellery without any third party investment within the space of 10 years.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

I am a numbers driven person, so I look at as many as I can every day. These include marketing spend, sales, leads, response times, SEO (search engine optimisation) rankings, etc.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We sell to 72 countries, but the UK is still our core market. We have big plans to expand overseas to various European, Asian and North American territories.

Describe your growth funding path:

Beyond initial seed capital which I lent the business and has since been repaid, we have grown organically and we hope to grow much larger, perhaps even list (IPO).

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

One of our main competitive advantages is having built a custom IT infrastructure, which has allowed us to be innovative and nimble.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

Our ambition is to be become a major global jewellery brand with over £100m turnover within five years and showrooms across the globe.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

We over-hired while suffering from growth pains. We had to let a few people go, a really painful and unpleasant process that I hope not to have to repeat.

What was your biggest business mistake?

We once took our eye off the ball with marketing budget allocation, which caused a dip in sales. Since then, we have been obsessed about our marketing spend and as a result, have a much better performance than before.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

In general, the business environment in the UK is excellent, with very little red tape. The only obstacles are the HMRC, which in my opinion takes a far too adversarial position against small and medium-sized enterprises who are just trying to survive.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Trying to get things perfect. I live by the 80/20 rule; sometimes you just have to throw it out there and see what happens. Waiting for something to be perfect can cause you to miss opportunities.

How will your market look in three years?

It is very difficult to predict as it depends on a balance between supply and demand. Supply is predictable but demand can fluctuate wildly with global economic turbulence.

Diamonds were formed billions of years ago in the earth’s core and brought up to the crust millions of years ago, so they are bound to run out at some point, but not in the next three years!

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Do not try to do too many things at the same time, pick a few … the right few and do them well. Learn to prioritise and build a strong team around you to help execute.

Personally, your biggest luxury:

A boys hiking trip once per year away from business and family to switch off and have some fun! British country side, exercise, good food and lots of wine…

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learn it on the job. The academic side is important but the most crucial business skills have to be instinctive and the rest comes down to execution.

What would make you a better leader?

More empathy and an ability to listen to my team.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

Anyone who thinks the grass is greener on the other side, think again! You had better buckle your seat belt and prepare for a long and bumpy ride.

Business book:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

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