Tell us a bit about yourself.
NICKY: I live in the North East and my husband is North East born-and-bred, but I’ve lived all over the world with my husband including Africa, India and China, and I really got into the business side of jewellery when I was living abroad. I’d pick up bits everywhere I went. I had a business with a friend previously where we sold at events like Living North LIVE and at house parties, and lockdown brought the right opportunity for something new with Instagram and online.
ANTONIA: I’m a Jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. Currently, I’m a design consultant for a furniture company, primarily installing furniture in schools. That’s the Monday to Friday job, but Sister Story is the fun part.
Why was Sister Story launched?
NICKY: I still wanted to work with jewellery and Antonia and I are so close so I was delighted when she came on board with it. I’d actually, bizarrely, already chosen the name Sister Story for the business, but with Antonia on board it’s an even better sister story than I could have hoped for. We’re naming the products on our website after special people to us – sisters, aunts and friends – and the business is very much our baby.
ANTONIA: Nicky was bouncing lots of ideas off me about jewellery. Then the phone call came in asking if I wanted to do it with her. We do a lot of things together so I thought, why not? It’s a lovely adventure to embark on as sisters, and it gives us more of an excuse to spend time together. To do a new business with someone you care about so much is just a huge treat.
Describe Sister Story in three words.
NICKY: Personal: it’s personal to us and we want it to be personal to the customer. We want people to find their own signature style. Treat: it feels luxurious. The natural pearls and stones have weight and drape so it isn’t like acrylic jewellery. It shouldn’t sit at the bottom of the jewellery box waiting for a special occasion. Let it be that special occasion every day.
ANTONIA: Everyday – it’s jewellery for every day. We want people to add those extra finishing touches to an everyday outfit.
How do you choose the products you sell and where do they come from?
NICKY: Where I’ve been abroad, there’s an abundance of natural stones and fresh-water pearls that are accessible and affordable. I wanted to combine that with incredible crafts-people to create unique, handmade designs. Interestingly, more youngsters are enjoying wearing pearls which is something we didn’t anticipate. They love layering pieces so that’s broadened out our market.
ANTONIA: It’s instinctive in a sense that we’re looking more at clothing rather than jewellery trends. We look at chunky sweaters and think how a necklace would complete the look. But we also don’t want everyone to wear the same necklace in Newcastle, so by doing shorter lines and introducing new ranges more often, we make it that little bit more personal.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
NICKY: Just a few! We actually launched on 6th November – the day after the second lockdown. We started at the beginning of the first lockdown and it took us until the beginning of the second lockdown to launch.
ANTONIA: Even getting the photography done in lockdown was a challenge – we couldn’t meet faceto-face with any of the photographers so we had to communicate our vision virtually and that was hard. We wanted to wait to launch until we felt it was right, and it was worth the wait.
What are your best sellers?
NICKY: One of the ranges was named after a cousin of ours who sadly died from a brain tumour. It was one of the first to sell out. Apart from our family, no one knew about these links so it was lovely and absolutely by chance, but we’ve sold right across the range so, touch wood, we’ve got it right so far.
ANTONIA: It was really critical that each product was perfect. There was no way we could have a family member with their name attached to a product that we didn’t like. It means we love everything we’ve put out there
What is your favourite piece of jewellery to wear?
NICKY: I love chunky pearls. You can wear them over a chunky jumper or a little black dress or a shirt. You can dress them up or dress them down. I love earrings on other people but that’s more Antonia’s thing.
ANTONIA: Switching up earrings is really my go-to and I love the pearls we’re selling.
One thing you couldn’t live without?
ANTONIA: My sister. NICKY: Oh what should I say… of course, my family.
Your favourite thing about the North East?
NICKY: I like the fact that the city is so compact but I love the proximity to the beaches. Mostly, there’s a lot of space and the people here are just so friendly.
ANTONIA: The city, the shops, theatres, restaurant and access to the beach. I love Craster. Nicky is very lucky to have a holiday cottage there and, for my children, that’s as good as home. It has a very special place in our hearts.
Why might your products make great gifts?
NICKY: Our products start from £20 going up to £160 so there’s a price point for everybody, whether it’s a small gift for a friend or a major present.
ANTONIA: Self-gifting too. One customer bought a couple of necklaces for gifts and she kept both for herself. Another ordered gifts for nieces and daughters and kept two for herself and placed another order. While we don’t get the immediate feedback from face-to-face selling, we still get it later which is wonderful.
Hopes for the future?
NICKY: When we first started, we didn’t realise quite how much of a lockdown it would be and how big an impact there would be on retail opportunities. It will be very interesting to see how the market changes. Will people want to get back to the more classic ways of shopping? We’re flexible and we’ll be eager to respond.
ANTONIA: We’re also looking for stockists in the coming few months. If anyone is interested they can get in touch.