Last week I had the absolute pleasure of going over to a familiar location (This was my seventh trip to Lubards Farm, in Rayleigh) to meet Mandy and her stunning Cleveland Bay x Thoroughbred, Luci.
Luci was just the best equine model. She absolutely loved the camera and posed from the moment we started, the moment we tucked her up in bed with her dinner.
Mandy got in touch because she had just started up a new business, creating gorgeous, bespoke, horse hair jewellery and keepsakes, and was in need of some images for her website. She’d planned to have a shoot with Luci, this summer, anyway, so we combined the two. I love how adventurous Mandy was with her outfit choices. She’d always wanted an image of herself in her wedding dress, with Luci, but never got the chance on her wedding day, six years ago, due to a suspected strangles outbreak.
I had such a lovely afternoon playing with pretty pieces jewellery and getting to know Mandy, who really is the most lovely person. Her passion for this new venture shines through and I am so glad to be able to support her by writing this blog, and in any way I can in the future.
Mandy kindly agreed to answer a few questions for anybody who is curious about what she does, so let’s allow Mandy and the photographs to speak for themselves…
Sophie: Tell us three interesting un-horsey facts about yourself.
Mandy: Three interesting, un-horsey facts?? Hmm, not sure they’re all that interesting!!
I am a Snowy Owl (assistant guider) at a local Brownie pack.
I am married, to Mark, we have two children, Kate and Sean.
Apart from the four legged variety, I also love horse power in the form of motorcycles. I currently ride a 650cc Kawasaki. Not bad for a 4’10” lady!!
S: What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
M: My business is called Mandy’s Memories. I set it up in January 2015.
S: Tell us a little about what you do.
M: I create bespoke, affordable memorial jewellery and keepsakes from hair, fur or ashes. Though, it’s not just for horses. That’s just what got me started. I now do any animal fur, feather, hair or ashes, as well as human memorial pieces, too.
S: What made you decide to set up your own business?
M: About three years ago, a friend of mine had a bracelet made from her horses tail hair after he passed away. I thought it was a lovely idea, but like most horsey people, I never seemed to have any spare money to spend on myself, so just couldn’t afford one.
I didn’t like the idea of waiting until my horse was no longer with me to get a keepsake made, so, as I already had a lot of craft and jewellery making supplies around the house, (see above re:brownies!!) I set about making myself a bracelet. It took a few attempts, but eventually I created a piece I felt proud of.
Several friends commented on it and asked me to make items for them, too. Three years later, with my kids growing up and changes in circumstances I found myself considering going back to work full time. I currently work 2-3days at a dental surgery. But what about my horse??
I know lots of people manage full time jobs, horses and kids but I just didn’t know how I could fit it all in and give everyone the attention and time they deserved. Whilst riding round the farm one beautiful Sunday morning, with my good friend, Ann Shannon, discussing my dilemma, she suggested that I start selling my jewellery.
I laughed, asking “Who’d buy that, then?” to which she pointed out that most of the liveries at our yard already had. But they were my friends. Weren’t they just being kind?? Ann assured me that she thought my jewellery was good enough to sell to the public.
But what would I call the business? Just for fun we started throwing names around and Mandy’s Memories was born.
S: And how did you get started?
M: After that ride with Ann, I got home , switched on Facebook and clicked ‘create page’, adding some photos (taken at my dining table!).
That first weekend was both terrifying and exciting. My inbox went crazy with enquiries and orders. The following week hair started arriving. People, strangers, were actually trusting me to create their memorial jewellery. I felt so privileged.
The next step was creating a brand. I sought out a local graphic designer, Chris and Tim Lockhart from Spiro, who helped me create my Mandy’s Memories logo and banner and applied it to my Facebook page and business cards. The same company are also doing my website for me.
I have tried to use local or small business’s wherever possible for my products including my table runner and money belt, jewellery supplies and findings and now more recently yourself for my images.
S: What’s your best piece of advice for anyone looking into starting a new business?
M: I’m not sure I’m in a position yet, to start giving out advice about how to run or set up a small business, but all I can say is if you love what you do and believe in it then give it a go. What have you got to lose?
S: Tell us about Luci.
M: A little about Luci, my lovely Cleveland Bay x Thoroughbred. She’s 19 years young and I’ve been lucky enough to have had her with me now for 9 years. She’s picked me up through some really hard times, enjoyed the good times and been my horse of a lifetime. I really don’t know what I’d do without her and now she’s the inspiration behind my new business. I will treasure the beautiful images you’ve created for us.
S: What are your ambitions for your business in the future?
M: My plans for the future aren’t big or grand. I want to keep it small and personal. People should know that each piece is looked after only by me, from opening the envelopes, to washing and sorting the hair or ashes, right through to creating and packing it up and posting back. I will not be putting a shopping basket on my website. Such a personal keepsake can’t be selected from a drop down box. I need my clients to interact with me to make sure they get the memorial they deserve.
S: So, if we want to find out more about Mandy’s Memories online, where can we go?
If you’re interested in getting a new set of images for your equine business, aswell as an interview on my blog and promotion on my social media pages, click here to find out more.
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