Inspired by their Sicilian heritage, sisters Francesca Kelly & Marianna Doyle co-founded Soru (meaning “sisters” in Sicilian), a sustainable jewellery company, in 2013. Each piece is designed in the heart of England and made by hand using fine and semi-fine materials by artisans in small family-run workshops in Italy and Turkey, who bring their visions to life. This female-founded and UK-based business has grown a cult following, gaining thousands of Instagram followers and building a core base of devoted customers including many inspirational women such as The Princess of Wales, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Rocky Barnes and Millie Mackintosh.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Francesca Kelly: Wanting to do things your way, not fitting into any expected role, having a hunger for new experiences and an intrigue to learn.
Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
FK: Me and my sister as small children – about 6/7 years old – taking toys we no longer wanted and items from around the house our mother no longer needed and trying to sell them on a makeshift table outside our house to strangers who were walking down our street. We sat for hours writing up prices onto sticker tags. It was not a successful venture at all, but I do remember the feeling of making that first bit of money all by myself being very rewarding.
What is your company’s origin story? What is the biggest reason you started your business? What did those early days look like and teach you?
Marianna Doyle: We started our business after we had children and wanted to do something for ourselves, work on our own terms, around our children. We worked mainly in the evenings and when the children were at school/nursery to get the business off the ground – sometimes until the early hours of the morning. We didn’t put loads of pressure on ourselves though and went at our own pace, that’s the best thing about being your own boss.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
MD: I wish I knew how time consuming it was having your own business, that you can never really be Out of Office. It can consume you if you let it, so you have to have a healthy balance and have time when you can completely switch off. I don’t really think we could have done anything differently because we were learning every step of the way, and you have to go on that journey. I look back and cringe at some of the content I created, but at the time I thought it was great – and that’s fine because we are in a different place now, and it’s always good to look back and have a giggle!
What does “success” look like for you? We’d love to hear your biggest, boldest dream? What do you think will help you achieve it?
MD: Fulfillment and happiness is what success looks like to me. Doing something you love, your own way, having a work/family life balance, good relationships with the people you work with and a happy environment. My biggest, boldest dream would be to grow Soru to a lifestyle brand including resort wear and a bit of homeware. I would love to do more photoshoots abroad and travel guides that tie in with our brand, I would love to grow our team and expand.
What is your superpower as an entrepreneur? What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
MD: Making your own decisions, the freedom to choose what you want to take on, not having to answer to anyone and doing what you think is best- I think these are the main reasons people start their own businesses- it’s not the easy option, but the freedom makes it worth it.
The highs are seeing amazing women wearing our jewelry, most notably The Princess of Wales – when we found out she had worn Soru there was lots of jumping around and cheering! There hasn’t been any really dark moments, I take it all in my stride. There might be the odd disappointment, but nothing that we can’t learn from and move on.
What are your personal driving principals, your top values?
FK: Being true to myself, following my instinct (making the time to connect with myself so I am aware of those inner instincts), loyalty and compassion.
How have your personal principles and values shaped your company’s values and principles?
FK: Soru grew organically through a community built on Instagram, where I was true to myself and our followers, who saw unfiltered images of me and the jewelry and built a connection – I believe – to the unmanufactured nature of our page. To this day we value each one of our followers and supporters on social media and love being able to connect directly. We are a female-founded and -run business, we understand how hard it can be for mothers to find flexible working environments when trying to also raise children while being able to support themselves. It is extremely important to us to provide this environment which is one of our proudest achievements. Being compassionate to each of our staffs needs is a key part.
Have you raised outside capital so far?
FK: No, this is not a road we have wanted or needed to go down so far on our journey.
We prefer to grow at a slower rate, without major risk involved and using capitol we create through the business. Leaving us with full control and only ourselves to answer to.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners?
MD: Working with my sister is great. We have disagreements but we always figure it out in the end. It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off and ask advice. Luckily, we have similar styles and like the same things- if we didn’t then that would be a problem!
Do you have a mentor? Tell us about what makes them valuable to you and your business?
FK: I wouldn’t say there is any one person. However, I do listen to a lot of podcasts featuring inspiring business founders. One of my favorites is ‘How I Built This’ with Guy Raz. I remember reading ‘How To Be An Overnight Success’ by the founder of Rodial, Maria Hatzistefanis and it really encouraging me to continue on in those early days. I am not surrounded by many people in the same industry so podcasts and books have been invaluable, and I would suggest anyone else on this journey without a specific mentor do the same for inspiration and guidance. I must also mention my mother for installing a strong work ethic coupled with a strong belief in myself without which I don’t think I would have begun my own business.
What role does mentorship play in your world (as a mentor or mentee)?
FK: Since beginning on this path a couple of my friends have also started their own ventures and I am so happy to be able to help in any way I can, passing on tips I have learned along the way. I have spoken about how to collaborate successfully at an entrepreneur online conference (where Maria Hatzistefanis, who’s book I mentioned earlier helped me in those early days, was the speaker before me) and I am easily contactable through Instagram where occasionally followers do reach out for business advice; I am always happy to help wherever I can. I think it’s so important to share experiences, that’s part of the journey and part of the reward being an entrepreneur brings.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?
FK: I have discovered over the years that putting time aside each morning is a vital part of growing a business. Whereas in the past I believed constantly doing and showing up at the office were signs of hard work, dedication and growth needed for the business to expend, in actual fact the business thrives with new ideas, creativity and focus. I could be in the office for eight hours a day unfocused, uninspired, and not feeling as if I am getting anywhere or I could be in the office for half of that time but so much more productively because the time spent away has given me clarity and inspiration.
I wake up early, before my daughter and husband, to meditate, usually for around 10-15 mins. This simple ritual alone grounds me even if I didn’t have time for any of my other practices, this is the one I would try to not miss. Once my daughter has left for school, I will then journal, set my intentions for the day and write my gratitude diary. I try to get outside for a walk first thing, I find most of my inspiration and ideas will often come to me during a walk plus I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by nature which massively helps to ground me and mitigate any stress I am feeling. I do a little pilates/ yoga at home, followed by breakfast and make a fresh lunch to take to the office with me.
What are you reading or have read?
MD: At the moment I am reading The Ancient Guide to Modern Life by Natalie Haynes, it’s all about how Ancient Greece and Rome have shaped our world today from philosophy, to law and religion. I just finished Biology of Belief by Dr Bruce Lipton, Francesca brought me this book and it was so interesting, I tend to read books about history and Francesca reads books about science, but I asked her for some recommendations so I could change it up a bit!
Where do you go for inspiration?
MD: I look to vintage and ancient objects for inspiration, and it doesn’t have to be jewelry, but architecture and art too. The sea and sky are also course of inspiration, nature throws out some of the most beautiful shapes and trinkets on offer. I like to keep up with the current trends too and love to buy an actual physical magazine (am I the only one?) and have a flick through with a coffee curled up on the sofa, with my phone in hand ready to google anything I find interesting.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or words of wisdom to get through the tough days?
FK: “Everything is as it should be” I like to be reminded that the universe has my back, to let go and to trust.
What is a problem that keeps you up at night?
MD: Honestly nothing. Mostly I am so tired at night I go straight to sleep. Sometimes around Black Friday/Christmas time my huge To Do list is whirling around in my mind and keeping me up as it’s so extensive.
How do you think about helping others through your work?
FK: We are so proud to have been able to support homeless and women’s charities throughout the years. Both charities are very close to our hearts. The manufacturers that we work with are small family run business who rely on good working relationships with us to thrive themselves.
What advice do you have for fellow (and aspiring) entrepreneurs building and leading teams?
MD: Don’t think you need to know everything right now. It’s all a learning process, before you start the business and during. It’s fine to make mistakes, its normal and helpful because you learn from them. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there- if something scares you do it anyway, you will feel amazing afterwards.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as – as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
FK: One who is generous with my time and lessons learnt and who helped other women in our community and within entrepreneurship.
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