Celebrating 10 Years of Honey Willow
A decade ago I opened an Etsy shop and named it after my daughters: Honey and Willow. I loved making jewellery, particularly meaningful jewellery symbolising loved ones - and wanted to make jewellery for others.
I needed to work from home, to be with my small children and to manage Crohn’s disease, which was a struggle for years. I worked during the children's nap-time and late into the evenings, from a desk in the corner of our living-room, making the jewellery, then photographing it and listing it online. Amazingly, despite my lack of experience and amateurish photography, the sales started to come in.
With small children of my own, my favourite jewellery to make was mother’s necklaces: necklaces with birthstones or initials of the wearer’s children. An early bestseller was the ‘Julie’ necklace, which I first made for my dear friend Julie when she became a mum.
The linked ring necklaces quickly became popular and I realised what versatile and symbolic gifts they could be. I decided to present them with meaningful notes inside the gift boxes, for example, ‘Happy 50th birthday, Five Rings for Five Decades’ and 'Three Rings for Three Sisters’ etc. A Honey Willow bestseller was born.
When I became overwhelmed with orders, I realised I couldn’t do it all on my own any longer. Luckily I knew some experienced jewellery makers who agreed to help. The team grew as the orders kept coming in.
We still worked from our family home and the children grew used to Team Honey Willow hammering pieces of jewellery. The team patiently tolerated the children and pets - even Hopsy the House-Rabbit, who was often nibbling laptop cables and handbags.
Eventually the business outgrew our home and needed its own premises. After months of searching, my husband secured a premises on Walcot St, in Bath’s Artisan Quarter. Finally, Honey Willow found its own place - right next door to a cake-shop, which is perfect!
Success has come with its challenges and it has been disappointing to see Honey Willow's products, packaging and wording copied by others. However I try not to waste time looking back over my shoulder at the imitators - instead we just focus on being the best we can be: handcrafting meaningful jewellery in Bath and serving our customers.
We have learned a lot from our customers over the years and love to hear feedback and receive photographs. It’s very touching to see who the jewellery is for or what it represents. I also love seeing where in the world our customers are from. We get a lot of American customers and I’m often poring over maps of the United States. We were thrilled when recently, two of our customers from Philadelphia visited the shop, wearing their Honey Willow jewellery!
One of the best things about Honey Willow for me is our kind and positive team. Honey Willow would not be where it is now without the hard work of the team. We all help each other and learn from each other. It has been rewarding to see many of the team members develop skills and grow in confidence - and to see some of their own creative businesses flourish.
Last year I spent a long time in hospital after serious complications with Crohn’s-related surgery. The team ran the business themselves and I am so grateful to have had that time to recuperate without having to worry about anything but getting better. It makes me appreciate more than ever that Honey Willow is entering its second decade as a team.
The happy ending to that time in hospital is that after fifteen years of struggling with Crohn’s, I am currently Crohn’s-free! I am hugely grateful to still be here - and to have a second chance to be healthy. Crohn’s disease was tough, but without it, I may never have started Honey Willow, so something very positive has come from it.
It is exciting to be entering a second decade of Honey Willow, feeling healthy and with a fantastic team. Who knows what the next ten years will bring?
by Rhiannon, Owner of Honey Willow