Jo Herriotts

BTEC National Diploma Art and Design (Design Crafts)

Jo always had a passion for crafts, but didn’t think the university experience was for her as she has dyslexia. But after realising how practical the course was, she soon signed up and embraced all that the university has to offer. Since graduation, Jo has set up her very own business, which has gone from strength to strength thanks to a strong client base.

“I always wanted to go to university and have that full experience, but I’m dyslexic and the idea of studying absolutely terrified me, as I just can’t work that way. But I wanted to have a career. I’d loved design tech and I was also really crafty, but jewellery had never really been offered as an option to me.

I met someone who had studied the course and they told me how practical it was, so it really appealed to me. I went along for an interview and the staff were so energetic and passionate about the course and I just knew it was for me.

After graduating, I decided to set up my own company, and I have been Founder of Hellcat Jewellery since 2014. I’m based at my workshop in the Jewellery Quarter. I do everything for the business, from website uploading, admin and editing to managing SEO and social media, and of course, the actual designing and making of the products too. I look after every single facet of the business, but I love the variety.

When I was young, I knew that I would never work for someone. The idea of having any kind of desk job scared the life out of me, and that eat, sleep, and repeat lifestyle just wasn't for me. In my work, I come in when I want and work as hard as I want to. But, I always want to work hard as I enjoy what I do. I have a job, but I don't really work as such because I enjoy it. It never feels laboured and I just love it.

My day-to-day changes on a daily basis. I do a lot of wedding and memorial jewellery and I have a set range of jewellery as well. At the moment, a lot of my focus is in setting ashes and hair in jewellery. For wedding rings, there's always different shaped stones and different styles, and then different ring requirements too. A huge part of my business is personalised items too.  

I'm really happy with the last year, because I've levelled up the branding aspect, how it all looks, and my collection. But I’m also so proud of being an independent business. I feel like I've got quite a strong client base now, which is hard to build when you're a little bit niche, but I've put a lot of work into it. It feels like the initial hard work has paid off.

I think jewellery is really hard to get into because it's a bit of a dying art with CAD (Computer-aided design). But, it is doable if you’re willing to put the work in and you surround yourself with the right type of people. It’s all on the person and how much you really want it.

In the long term, I'd love to open my own shop. I'm also keen to push the trade and I want to help new people get a leg up and get into the industry as well. My business is number one, and I'm really happy with where I am, so I'd like to continue to push for expansion of my community and for our trade.

My advice to current students is to make as many contacts as you can. There are links in the trade and there are so many possibilities, so get yourself out there. The jewellery community is really caring and sharing. At times, it can be tough, but it's worth it.

BCU gave me the first steps into my career and gave me the ability to create a business that I'm very proud of. I'm really happy that BCU gave me the start of something that I didn't know was going to happen for me, but I'm really grateful that it did.”