Painful condition proves no barrier to business start-up

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Being diagnosed with a painful nerve condition saw Monica Milton give up her day job to follow her dream of becoming a jewellery maker full-time. Now Monica Milton Jewellery, which is based in Crossgates, Fife, supplies its handmade unique pieces to customers all over the world. 

What does your business do? I am a jeweller and specialise in sterling silver jewellery that is designed and handcrafted in my home studio. I currently supply around 20 shops all over Scotland and some in England. I also do commissions, designing one-off pieces for customers for a special occasion and often use their old jewellery to make something new.  

How and why did you start in business? I originally taught myself jewellery as a hobby while working in an office full-time, however, back in 2010 I had to stop working due to my health, at one point I was bedbound for four months and was eventually diagnosed with a very painful nerve condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). In 2011, I decided to set up my own jewellery business, as it let me do something I am passionate about and helped me cope with my pain.  

How did you get to where you are today? I started off doing small craft events and fairs with the help of my mum and my husband, building up to larger events. In 2014 I started to attend Scotland’s Trade Show in Glasgow and now exhibit at it twice a year, showcasing my jewellery to potential shops. Through my attendance, I now supply about 20 shops all over Scotland and in England, which I couldn’t do without the help of my mum. I also do commissions which are usually word-of-mouth or via my Facebook page. I also sell online via Prince’s Trust’s Tomorrow Store and on Etsy where I sell to America, Australia and to Europe.   

Who has helped you along the way? I originally met with an adviser at Business Gateway Fife who told me about The Prince’s Trust and the support it could give me, as I was 28 at the time. I found coming to terms with my illness hard, as I had been an active person who is now using a wheelchair, and I can definitely say I wouldn’t be where I am today – both personally and businesswise – if I hadn’t meet Marissa and her team at The Prince’s Trust. They have helped me overcome my fears and have given me the confidence to speak to people. Business Gateway Fife has also given me a lot of advice and helped me successfully apply for grants to attend trade fairs. The team has also helped with marketing and have let me bounce ideas off them for my business name and the design of my logo. 

What was your biggest mistake? Not believing in myself and not starting my business sooner. I had thought about starting a jewellery business but didn’t believe in myself or believe people would like my work. Even my husband Gareth kept telling me to set up but I always made excuses. Looking back, I wish I had taken the jump and done it sooner.

What is your greatest achievement to date? Personally, getting to where I am because of my health. I have been in and out of the hospital, unable to move due to pain, but I love what I do. I can’t work in the studio as long as I would like, but to do what I am doing in the amount of pain I am in, to me, is a great achievement. Businesswise, it would be getting to the final of the Fife Retail Awards, unfortunately, I didn’t win, but hopefully next year.

What do you hope to achieve in the future? To keep doing what I love. At the moment I sell to individuals in other countries but would love to supply international trade buyers too.

Do you want to recruit in the future? If I am able to and had space, currently I work from a home studio, then yes I would. 

What is the hardest thing about running your own business? Knowing when to switch off. I am always coming up with ideas on designs or items to put on the website. 

Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs? If you have a dream and are prepared to work hard, then go for it. Never give up. The feeling when you look at what you have created and know that ‘I did that’, is a fantastic feeling. 

Find out how Business Gateway Fife can help your business by visiting their local pages or by calling 01592 858 366.

Outwith this area? Find your local Business Gateway office or call 0300 013 4753.

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