No Bling During the Time of Covid-19

Bling and extravaganza are mere memories of a time when people would get together for a party.

Join Insight for an interview with the founder of the Miss Mathiesen jewellery to learn how her brand has fared.

Written by: Victoria Wæthing

15.04.2021

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Photos provided by Erica Mathiesen.

SHE Community believes in lifting female founders. Covid-19 has given a hard blow to business all over the world, while founders with young companies find themselves exposed to a dwindling market and an insecure future.

At Insight Magazine we will tell the story of some of these founders. It is not all about supporting only your local business. It is also about supporting each other.

Erica Mathiesen launched her jewellery line Miss Mathiesen in 2015, quickly becoming a favourite among Norwegian and international fashionistas. Her statement earrings designed by Mathiesen herself has appeared on magazine covers, television, musicians and royals.

Erica Mathiesen, founder of Miss Mathiesen.

With her extravagant design and luscious colours, Miss Mathiesen was a hit right off the bat, and quickly received loyal customers all over the world.

That was until the day that bling and extravaganza were mere memories of a time when people would get together for a party.

Pearl chokers are not your typical accessory for sweat pants – not even for a conference call. Mathiesen, being the founder of her company and sole employee, not only saw how productions in India came to a halt, but how shops all over Norway were closing and people, understandably, would choose to spend their money on kitchen supplies rather than their looks.

We spoke to Erica about the story of how she built her brand, how her company took a hit during the pandemic and how she intends to rebuild and move forward with her brand in the times to come.

But first, Erica: Could you tell us a little bit about why you decided to create Miss Mathiesen? What was your inspiration and what are you ambitions now?

— I have always had a fascination with jewellery, and let’s be honest, in general all things that sparkle. I’m like the magpie who picks up all the glittery stuff I find on my way. Borderline hoarder some may say. I always wanted to be a jewellery designer from I was quite young, but somehow convinced myself that there is no money in that, so I studied to be a journalist instead, as writing is my other great passion.

— With a little four-year detour as a gallerist in London (I also love art) I quit my job after realizing this is really not what I want to do with my life. Suddenly I stood there thinking, what now? The time seemed right to actually start following my dreams. Pin pointing exactly what that was took a little while but a little seed in my consciousness that said jewellery, jewellery, jewellery, kept growing.

— So I started collecting more vintage jewellery and looking for inspiration everywhere I went, especially on my travels. But it was a trip to India that set the whole thing off. It was like I had woken up in sparkle paradise. I went slightly mental and trawled around all of Jaipur with shining eyes. I brought lots of beautiful Indian handmade pieces home with me, and (reluctantly) started selling to my friends and family. I had a stall at one of my good friends’ markets at the old Whitelight Studio in Oslo, and my stand was constantly surrounded by other sparkle loving chicks. It was a great day.

— I didn’t really think Norwegians had it in them, but from that day Miss Mathiesen was born. It has been a super slow and organic process since then. In the time between going to India and launching Miss Mathiesen a year later, I unexpectedly had a baby, became single, and moved home to Oslo after many years in London.

— It was a whirlwind of change and emotions, and things were stressful. But my one steady thing was Miss Mathiesen and working towards developing the brand, that in all essence is me and the things that I love. And that is my ambition to continue, keep designing and bringing to the world the things that I love, and just hope that people continue to love it too. I want Miss Mathiesen to be a well-recognized brand worldwide one day. That’s my hope for the future.

Loving jewellery and creative ventures while building a business plan and keeping track of logistics could be viewed opposites. How did you experience facing the challenges of running a business, and not just working passionately for something that you loved?

— Oh my god, that has been a steep learning curve. I knew absolutely nothing about any of that stuff, and to be honest, still not in the clear about some of it. I made no business plan, still haven’t. Instead I made a plan of dreams and what I wanted for the brand, but that plan wouldn’t have provided me with any bank loans that’s for sure. I had no idea you had to pay VAT for the first six months of returning to Norway, but rest assured, I do know that now.

— I have learned by doing, and that’s the only way that works for me. In retrospect, maybe I should have read a book or tried to get a job with another jewellery designer before throwing myself into it, but maybe that would have put me off doing it in the first place. If I had known all the boring sides of running a business, and there are many, maybe I wouldn’t have done it. Anyway, hindsight is a b… and I did things the way I did.

— Over the years I have met so many amazing people that I have worked with, and that has taught me so many things along the way. For some reason almost all of them have been female, maybe they get my vibe better, I don’t know. But great collaborators are key, because being alone through everything all the time is hard. One of my biggest inspirations are people and their energies, so after we’re on the mend after Covid, I will strive to be up and running again, bringing lots of amazing people back into my universe.

What were the biggest obstacles in creating your business? And the best surprises?

— VAT, I really dislike VAT. The best surprise, VAT can be returned. I still don’t understand quite how. All jokes aside, there are many rules and regulations to follow and be aware of, which can be quite tedious. Admin is not my favourite pastime, and I feel it kills my creativity a lot of the time, but such is life sometimes. The best surprise is that even I can understand tax-rules, something I never thought possible. Also, it is so great to be your own boss, I don’t know how I ever had a boss before, and that makes all the admin tasks worth it.

In a world where influencers are the new media moguls – how did you go about making your marketing strategy?

— I never really had a marketing strategy. I had great help from my PR-company Presskontakterna who helped me showcase my jewellery and loan it out to the right people. It also helped that the influencers actually liked my things and wanted to wear it. And that the press loved my collections too. But these things go up and down, one day you are in, the next day you are out. And then you are back in again. Business is like life, it goes up and down, you have good times, and then you have not so good times.

How did your company evolve during these years, and how have you fared since March 2020?

— My company has grown very organically. It has all been with baby steps. I only invested my own money into starting the company, and because of that I haven’t had a lot of cash to throw around, and maybe also for that reason I have been more careful. It has been step by step, and it took two years before I gave myself a salary.

— In March 2020 it all came to a screeching halt. Because I produce everything in Jaipur, India, when March 2020 hit, everything in my business shut down. I had my largest store order to deliver, and it was looking to become a record year in March already, but then it all kind of came crashing down. India was on super strict lockdown for a long time, and the orders were so delayed in production. It was a scary time and I had many sleepless nights. Miss Mathiesen couldn’t deliver orders, and everything was extremely delayed.

— Luckily all my stores have been super supportive and had such patience, so slowly we were able to deliver everything as India opened up again. But it set a big dent in budgets to be honest. We were up and running again this past summer and things were going ok, but now we are back to start. I feel like I’m in this constant game of monopoly, and I keep getting sent back to “GO” with out receiving the cash reward. Right now it feels more like I drew a “go to jail” card actually hehe. But…better days are coming, better days are coming, better days are coming.

Erica modeling her curated pieces, where glitter and dazzle take center stage.

We have been told that online shopping boomed during the pandemic? Why not for jewellery?

— I don’t know about all jewellery, I’m pretty sure a lot of jewellery brands do really well online. I think the problem for me is that people resonate Miss Mathiesen with quite over the top statement pieces, and people just don’t really dress up that much right now. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. I have started making smaller studs, hoops and chains, more everyday wear, that people can wear in their home office without feeling way too over the top on zoom. I do also sell online, but almost 90 percent of my revenue comes from the stores that sell my collections in real life. But now I am working towards getting a better online presence and making my position there stronger.

Your thoughts about the year to come? Ambitions for the future and any plans about how to make people bedazzle themselves with your statement pieces?

— I’m working on teaching myself not to take it all so much to heart, and even in periods where nothing happens and sales are slow, try not to lose faith in who I am and what I want with my brand. I am hoping for brighter days when people can go out again and meet, dress up, dance, hug, and admire each other’s extravagant clothes and jewellery. It might sound superficial but beautiful things give me a lot of joy, and I always find myself staring at other people’s jewellery like some kind of freak.

— I will continue to create what I love, because I think making something with love makes it beautiful. I want the brand to keep growing with more stores both at home and abroad. I want to do lots of fun jewellery events again, do collaborations with other cool brands, find inspiration amongst others. I can’t wait to start living again and hang out with everyone, and allow ourselves freedom and happiness, and most importantly, big jewellery.

Words of wisdom or advise for somebody who wants to establish their own business based on their passion – just like you did?

— Free your mind, the rest will follow.

Favourites: Idol/muse/inspirational woman, book and podcast:

— Princess Diana, my most recent pearl collection is based on her pieces and her magnificent style choices.

House of Spirits by Isabel Allende and all of her earlier books for general feminine and spiritual inspiration.

— Dolly Parton and Oscar Wilde, both geniuses in their own ways and very inspirational to me. I love quoting them on my Instagram.

— For podcast I love How I Built This, very cool and teaches you some important stuff about how all the great ones also failed sometimes.

Peace & love,
Erica / Miss Mathiesen

Visit the dazzling universe of Miss Mathiesen at missmathiesen.com