Georgie & Flo – Indie Trader of the Month
‘Tread Lightly on the Earth’
Written by Stella Nicholls
A beautiful ethos to live by and as I walked into Georgie & Flo, on the corner of Gandy and Upper Paul Street, I could see that lifelong friends, Erin Cox and Rach Beacham, had certainly created a space with products that live up to this gentle but essential principle. From stunningly designed jewellery, homeware, lighting, candles to skincare, the shop is bursting with all things good and wholesome. I was intrigued, wanting to learn more about the creative women behind the business, so was fortunate to catch up with Erin for a coffee and a chat.
Physically it has been a very short journey for Erin to get to where she is. She was born in Temple Road, St Leonards and she opened her first jewellers in Magdalen Rd before moving into the centre of town to Castle Street. Whilst running the shop in Magdalen Road, Erin not only sold jewellery that she had designed but also homeware and textiles designed by other makers too. When she moved to Castle Street, however, she found that she did not have the space to continue with the larger stock, so this was gradually pared down to just jewellery.
Erin’s favourite quote, which she says explains the ethics behind Georgie & Flo ‘Do unto others as you would be done by’, soon had her yearning to create an environment where she could house the larger stock and work with local makers, and so the second store on Gandy St was opened.
Rach, Erin’s business partner, who has a wonderful eye for aesthetics, has the knack of making spaces look gorgeous, so Erin knew that she would naturally make the shop into the lovely store that it is today. Rach also came up with the name for the shop, Erin’s middle name is Georgina and Rach’s is Florence, thus Georgie & Flo was born and seems to fit the environment perfectly.
Knowing a lot of the makers personally, how where and why they work, has made it easier to form working relationships with them. As the business has moved forward, Rach spends hours researching for new stock and businesses to work with, whilst remaining mindful of the ethics behind the products. Her attention to detail is important to maintain their USP – working with people who care about the way things are done. As a maker and artist, Erin feels strongly that you need to ‘do your bit’ in the world.
The leather bags that G & F sell from a company called Vida Vida is a great example. The leather used is goat leather and is a by-product of the meat industry in Africa. In the process, the local people have been taught how to tan the hides and make the goods that are sold over here, thus helping to improve skills and create jobs for them.
The shop also stocks some lovely ‘smellies’ – soaps and face creams – developed by one of their makers whose youngest child had eczema, she started her entire brand by making products that are gentle and pure enough to use on a newborn baby.
As with all business, there is the necessity of admin, invoices and the clerical duties that go along with it. Conquering the ‘boring stuff’ is the key to starting out as a successful maker, Erin advises. The paperwork, pricing and market research need to be the groundwork on which a creative soul builds their business. Once the basics are there, talent and creativity will be free to flow naturally.
Erin stocks her own silverwork at the shop as well as works by Jasmine Bowden and Laura Hoole Jewellery. She will soon be adding another line by Hannah Louise, a jeweller originally from Cornwall. As I chatted to Erin, who had brought along her lovely baby daughter, she mentioned the empathy that exists between her and the other jewellers, and the need to balance life between young children, family and work commitments.
She manages to juggle her successful career with her family life, by having a great work crew, an understanding mother and her supportive partner, Chris, who, she says is not afraid to get involved with the laundry and cooking. Erin jokes that she also doesn’t sleep, her and Chris own a smallholding – her dream come true – with enough land to house a menagerie of animals including pigs, four alpacas, ducks, geese, chickens, cats and dogs. Rather than feeling tired, Erin finds that she is energised by her job, she loves it so much and she says that is the key – love what you do!
Passionate about the outdoors, when asked what their family motto could be, Erin’s children decided that ‘Be Kind and Be Outdoors’ was fitting and the beautiful Devon countryside has certainly proven to be an inspiration to the creation of her jewellery. Her hobbies include spinning and sewing, cooking and herbalism. She always carries her favourite book, ‘Food for Free’ around wherever she goes. The book is a classic foraging guide of types of food that can be gathered and picked in the wild.
There have been many high points for Erin over the years, one that stands out, was a fun evening that she had last year making opal jewellery for the Two Moors Festival – a festival started by John and Penny Adie. The charity was formed to help the local farming communities in the wake of the devastation caused by the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001. John, a collector of opals, had the idea to get local Devon jewellers to make opal jewellery to be auctioned for charity. Tragically John died before he could see the auction happen, but Erin went to London for the auction at The Bucks Club – Mayfair and was delighted that members of the royal family were there supporting such a worthwhile cause.
With highs, there are inevitably low points too and Erin finds that keeping herself busy and the support of family, friends, teachers and the NHS have helped in getting through them, specifically the loss of her dad at the tender age of 13. She has suffered from depression over the years as a result of the loss, and remarks at how ‘Super Duper’ mums are at getting through tough situations, especially her own mum who had to continue to raise their family alone.
On the best life advice, she remarked, ‘Don’t bring your work home’, sage words from a highly successful businessman in Dorset. Erin worked for him after leaving university and wanted to know the secret to his success at such a young age. Great to be able to make that distinction but perhaps tricky to adhere to in a world saturated with smartphones.
2018 holds some exciting developments for Georgie & Flo as they increase their jewellery range and will also be designing a specific Georgie & Flo brand. For those of you planning nuptials, Erin is launching a ‘break away’ wedding ring company and will be putting lots of work into the designing of wedding rings; exciting news for brides (and grooms) to be! Erin also sees a couple of Dexter Cattle on the horizon and may squeeze in a couple of sheep and a few goats too – on the smallholding that is, not in the shop. She says that she never knows what her other half is going to come home with, it is a constant surprise, and certainly keeps life interesting.
You can reach Erin and Rach at Georgie & Flo – 1 Upper Paul Street, just off Gandy Street, or pop online to: www.georgieandflo.com