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Interview with Zoe Clark from Alf & Co

Five Minutes with Zoe Clark, founder of Alf & Co. Jewellery

Background information

Alf and Co. Jewellery specialises in equestrian designs. Zoe’s passion and love for animals and her pets is clearly reflected in the unique, creative and timeless designs she produces and sells to the public. Based in Darlington in the North East, thirty six year old Zoe is growing her business via social media and her website


 

Tell me about your background with animals and how your business started…

I have owned horses from the age of 8. I come from a non equestrian background but I was always supported by my father who was very willing to learn. As a child, he recognised my enthusiasm for horses and generously purchased a family home with land, which allowed me to have a horse and two ponies at home – every horse girl’s dream!

Now, as an adult, I value my time at the stables. It is not only where I unwind but also where I find inspiration for future designs, such as the lead rope earrings design. I have two ponies. Brandy is a Welsh Section B and was my childhood pony. Now in his thirties, he has a few health problems but overall he’s doing great! Murphy is a Shetland and he came to me as a companion when my horse passed away in his late twenties. I haven’t ridden since his passing over 5 years ago but I am committed to the plan of getting another horse one day as I do really miss riding.

Animals have always been a huge part of my life. I love dogs and I worked as a dog groomer for fifteen years before I started my jewellery business. The transition to jewellery production happened as a result of the Covid lockdown when my grooming salon had to temporarily close. With lots of time to think, I picked up a sketch pad and started doodling…

My first design was based on a breed which I adore: the Bedlington Terrier. Alfie, my rescued Bedlington, was my inspiration for my debut design, and he is very much the backbone and inspiration of my business. Sadly, he died in 2020 of old age but our Bedlington, Rubble, still flies the Bedlington flag in our home. When searching for jewellery featuring this breed, I was unsuccessful and so it seemed like a unique first design to roll with. From my first sketch to casting and polishing took around 8 weeks and I couldn’t believe it when my first batch of earrings all sold out! This was a huge motivation and allowed me to go on and create over a hundred new designs! 

 

What are your business plans for the coming year?

In 2024, I will be hitting the road with my stock and setting up a stall at local shows. Most recently, I attended Richmond Equestrian Centre’s weekend of arena eventing. It was so enjoyable to mix with like-minded equestrians and I was overwhelmed with the positive feedback from the public about my designs. I am always really excited and proud to see people browse the stall, select an item and to walk away carrying my branded packaging. We have come a long way in a short time and I am so positive about the future of the business.

Abigail Turnbull from Richmond Equestrian Centre offered Alf and Co, Jewellery the chance to become an arena sponsor for 2024. The sign in the indoor arena looks fantastic and I can’t wait for our show jump to be created. It will be lovely to see competitors jumping fillers with our logo on and we welcome riders to tag us in their photos.

As the business has grown, we have invited other local riders to join our sponsored riders team. Local rider, Kim Chapman, was so pleased to become part of the Alf and Co, Jewellery team. We are really looking forward to following her progress this season.

In the more distant future, I envisage having a wide range of stockists. Additionally, I would like to work towards having a regular stand at some of the bigger county shows, including The Great Yorkshire Show.

Alf and Co. Jewellery has featured in the media on a number of occasions, including in an advertorial piece featuring our sponsored rider, Chloe Reynolds, for Femme Country Magazine (Issue 18, Summer 2023). It would be great to work alongside the media to help grow the business more in 2024. We have a photoshoot booked with Meg Higginson Photography and Samantha Osborne in April 2024, and we will use the photos to market our products throughout the coming year.

I am currently in the design process of a new necklace which offers both sparkles and colour. I can’t wait to share the new design in the near future! We also had such a popular response to our branded bobble hats that we have also offered our clients the chance to buy merchandise too.

 

Describe a day in the life of a jewellery designer and business owner…

After the school run, I turn the horses out and walk the dog. If the weather is nice, I take some pieces of jewellery out with me so that I can take some photos for my social media platforms to help advertise the jewellery.

On my return, with a cup of coffee in hand, I make a prompt start on label printing and then I start to package orders. Alf and Co. Jewellery packaging is beautiful and I insist on it looking and feeling luxurious to match the quality of the products we produce.

Once I have finished packaging orders and they have been dispatched, I focus on responding to emails, social media content and developing product photography. Connecting with clients online is heartwarming and receiving such positive feedback about my designs is really rewarding and inspiring. My customers play a huge part in the evolution and growth of Alf and Co. Jewellery.

I have a break to finish the animals for the evening and then return to work.

Evenings are usually spent engraving as we offer a personalisation service. I do this on a night so that items are ready to pack the next day.

 

Which design is your favourite and which products are your best sellers?

My favourite piece is the long riding boot necklace; it’s one of my earlier pieces and one that I’m very proud of.

Boot necklace from Alf & Co

The best sellers are the horse shoes with centre stone, they have been so popular that I’ve just launched the birthstone collection. The different birthstone colours look so pretty and make wonderful birthday gifts hence why they are so popular all year round.

We have a range of collections which we organise into themes on the website. Themes include: Snaffle; Horseshoe; Barefoot; Stirrup and Wildlife. Although the majority of our designs are equestrian themed, we also have some beautiful earrings based on robins, foxes, pheasants and ducks.

Alf & Co Earrings

Alf & Co. Website

Facebook 

Instagram

 

 


Written by Samantha Osborne

Sponsored rider Samantha wearing branded merchandise

Photo credits: Jasmine Punter

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