Breastmilk, locks of hair, and baby teeth were the reason behind Erin Parnell launching her bespoke jewellery business, Eternally Cherished – Family Keepsakes.
We have interviewed many successful women for our Girl Bosses of Great Britain series here at House of Coco Magazine, but we can honestly say that this is one of the most unusual businesses to date, yet we now wonder why no one else had thought of it before Erin Parnell, because it is something that is both beautiful and ingenious!
Let’s find out more about Erin’s unique and exquisite jewellery making business, and why it differs from all the rest.
HOC. Tell us the reason why breastmilk, locks of hair, and baby teeth were at the forefront of your mind when you embarked upon launching a jewellery enterprise? And, how do they now fit into your design process?
Erin. As a first time mother I was determined to breastfeed. Throughout my pregnancy I had planned and planned and planned. I knew I was returning to work at 4 months, due to financial constraints and my partner would take shared parental leave for 5 months after this. In order to facilitate this I knew from even before my daughter was born that I would need to express breastmilk to continue our journey.
I worked hard to express a large amount which was both physically and mentally draining but I wanted to ensure my daughter could continue the have breast milk when I returned to work. I was very proud of this and started to wonder what I could do/get/buy as a small token/reward for this (other than a healthy happy baby of course). So I did a google search and discovered a small niche market for breastmilk jewellery. I was amazed and really intrigued by this and really wanted a piece for myself. I couldn’t afford one due to being on maternity leave and thought, well I have some spare time on my hands let’s see what I can make for myself.
I did a bit of research into how they were made, although the specific process for treating and encapsulating the milk is different for each supplier and they rarely share their technique, I started attempting to make some items. Initially the only silicone mould I had was a Darth Vader ice cube tray so my first attempts were not very elegant! It took me a few months but I finally perfected it and managed to create the purple heart that is on my website, this is actually the first piece I made for myself and the inspiration behind my logo. I was so proud of it, people couldn’t shut me up talking about it and before long my friends wanted something made. Not all of them breastfed and asked if I could incorporate baby hair into pieces instead, so I tried and managed it. Word got around and after some encouragement from friends and family I started Eternally Cherished – Family Keepsakes.
HOC. Your concept for adding personal keepsakes into your jewellery designs makes Eternally Cherished a very special business, did you know of any other businesses like yours before you set up?
Erin. I had done some research to find out what was available and saw a few other businesses however I choose to focus on my business. It is always important to be aware of the market however my focus is on ensuring anyone that orders from me gets a personal experiences, from start to finish. I don’t outsource any work and always respond to every enquiry on any platform, from email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.
HOC. We love all your designs, especially the rings and necklaces that you hand make the gems for, are there any that are your personal favourites?
Erin. Other than the purple heart I also made myself the Artemis Ring to match the pendant. I love big bold jewellery and it came out so beautifully, I love showing it off and seeing people’s reactions when I tell them that my breastmilk is inside! Although I hand make all of the breastmilk gems I do actually use experts who are reliable and of the highest quality for the findings or ring settings.
HOC. Which is your biggest selling item to date, and do you know why it’s the ‘go to’ Eternally Cherished product?
Erin. My biggest selling and most popular item is the Gaia Mama Bead. It has so many variations which are possible, from colours to metal leaf inclusions and also a variety of real flowers. Every single one is totally unique. Every woman’s breastmilk is different and even if it is the same pigment added it will always be slightly different which helps represent every woman’s different breastfeeding, motherhood or just a journey, which I love. It fits Pandora and this style bracelets perfectly. There are lots of photo’s in the reviews section which shows mama’s wearing their beads with pride, and this makes me so happy.
HOC. You add many unusual items into your jewellery designs from breastmilk to animal fur and everything in between, have you ever been asked to add something too unusual that you weren’t able to work with?
Erin. So far, no. I will always try to do anything someone asks me and try to make it work, after all it is what is important for them not me. The whole purpose of these keepsakes are for someone to be able to encapsulate something so precious (whatever that is to them) in something beautiful that they have had a hand in designing, and keep forever.
I sometimes craft items which are very hard emotionally, for instance when I use ashes, especially children’s ashes. It does affect me somewhat but I know I am creating something so special for someone to have forever.
HOC. How long have you been running Eternally Cherished and was there ever a point that you thought it was too difficult to get the business off the ground?
Erin. I started Eternally Cherished in the Spring of 2018. I have always worked full-time alongside running my business. As much as I try to manage my time sometimes it is really really difficult. If my daughter is ill, I am working and the business is very busy I find it a struggle. This business is my passion and I enjoy making these pieces so much, even when it gets tough I always find joy in creating these pieces.
I think because of my career, outside of being a mother and running my business, I am quite disciplined with time management. I do find it hard to switch off and I get a lot of queries at all times of day or night; but I have a customer promise to always respond to each and every enquiry myself as quickly as I can.
HOC. Did anyone offer you a core piece of advice before launching your business that you still remember to this day?
Erin. Actually no, I didn’t really ask anyone. Perhaps there was some element of imposter syndrome or shyness about it. Even now I find it really difficult talking about my business and I am not sure why. I am in a number of different forums and groups for women in business and try to contribute where I can to support other businesses. But for me, I just research, practice and do what I do. I taught myself how to do this and continue to self-learn each and every day. I didn’t really intend to embark on this small business venture, but now I love it and can’t imagine my life without it.
HOC. Have you ever made any bad business decisions, and if so how did you come back from them?
Erin. Wow what a question, yes! I think one of my strengths is resilience and I utilise this in my career and my business. I ran a Christmas promotion and also started a new job at the same time. This meant that I was extremely busy in the business and in my new job. I made a few mistakes but worked so hard to sort them out and improve them. It is so important to me that anyone who orders from me is as in love with their item as much as I am and if they are not then I have to sort it out!
HOC. If you were to offer one piece of advice to someone thinking of getting into the jewellery business, what would it be?
Erin. Find love in what you do and everything else will fall into place. Join some women in business forum groups, the sisterhood is amazing for support, asking questions and generally just being in touch with amazing women! Be fearless, be brave, be bold!
Thank you for taking the time to answer all our Girl Bosses of Great Britain questions for House of Coco Magazine.
Visit Eternally Cherished for more information.