I have been designing jewellery for nearly 25 years most recently at '' Annoushka '' my own jewellery company which I started in 2009.We have two London boutiques and several department store concessions, with a planned expansion into Saks Fifth Avenue New York and Beverley Hills later this year.
There is much in the media about the 'glass ceiling' and women fighting to break through it. Whilst it is important to recognise the importance of female talent within organisations, it is not the only path to success and I feel that we should also be encouraging women to take the risk and become entrepreneurs by setting up their own businesses.
Women should be careful not to dismiss their talents or passions as simply that - whilst holding onto jobs that do not leave them fulfilled - and be more prepared to act on instinct. My journey into jewellery design and business actually began by chance, when I was 21 and working in Hong Kong selling property. My mother, an inspiring Russian born, French speaking entrepreneur ran a business selling fresh fish to top London restaurants including Le Gavroche and Claridges.She called me in a panic because she needed Christmas presents for 60 of the best chefs in London who at the time were all men.
Having dabbled in jewellery design before, I had the idea to create a pair of fish cufflinks with a. I had 120 made and with the remaining 60 left over I approached Harvey Nichols in London and was asked to design a collection which was the beginning of what became Links of London.
By the time I sold this business in 2006 we had over 60 Links of London stores around the world! Although I had no formal training, I used my instinct and attention to detail to create a product that I knew would appeal and I use the same approach to my Annoushka jewellery today.
One of the most important lessons I have learnt from my years in business is that nothing is possible without hard work. Women today are often juggling family, children and work and this is one of the challenges we face daily. However, as a mother of four children, I know the importance of having a support system, but also being able to be self-reliant.
My mother who was also an entrepreneur, died when I was 24 and I inherited the fish business, which I knew nothing about, I probably couldn't even tell the difference between a cod and a turbot, but with no other options I had to learn on the job.
Another challenge faced by many entrepreneurs is keeping your regular job, in the early stages of setting up your own businesses. When I began , I was also running my mother's inherited fish business. It was a punishing schedule with early starts at 4am to get the fish from the coast, then come back and start designing or selling cufflinks, but in the early days this is more often than not the case and this is when a support system as well as inner drive is needed the most, because it is not easy but the rewards are definitely worth it.
I was lucky to have my mother to inspire me as well as my husband who I met in the early days of Links of London and who has remained by business partner to this day. Few women today have a strong female role model or mentor who can guide them in the early days.I have always loved mentoring designers at Central Saint Martins school of design helping them bridge the gulf between creativity and commercial success ,one of the reasons why I created an ''Inspirational Women'' campaign of charitable initiatives and networking opportunities through the Annoushka.
I have recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia with the charity, Give a Future, which is committed to support a women's micro-finance and entrepreneurial programme.I am proud that Annoushka has committed financially for three years to support the objective of transforming the 5000 lives in Adidas Adaba through providing financing and support for women to create their own businesses become self-sufficient and change the lives of their families in the same way that enterepreneurship has changed my family's life.
Annoushka Ducas MBE
Annoushka Ducas, jewellery designer, was in 2012 appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to the British jewellery industry.She lives in the South of England with her husband and four children