Gold is an expensive commodity and with the fluctuating value of sterling at the moment it could end up being even more expensive for British shoppers. I spoke to Steph Rogers of Universal Gold, a company that intends to make the purchase of gold both an ethical and affordable possibility.
Thanks for giving us your time today, Steph. Can you start by telling me a little about your business?
“Universal Gold is an ethical jeweller that is online only and based in South Wales. We (myself and my husband Steve) started it with the intention of creating a business that is ethical in both affordability and environmental impact.”
How long has it been running?
“Originally started by John Willow in 1918 after his return from WW1, the company remained small and isolated, a simple shop based in Gilfach Goch (South Wales) from a converted front room, the shop stopped trading in around 1982 after the death of John. We came to hear about the work of John and his wonderful approach to jewellery, re-starting his business in 2016 based on his ideals and ethics, although we have added a 21st century twist! He used to call his micro enterprise “ym mhob man aur” which roughly translates from Welsh to ‘Gold Everywhere’ in English. We don’t know if this was the official name of his shop, but Universal Gold seemed a more apt and modern translation. Unfortunately, his shop and ideals remain only in oral history-we heard about rather than read about John-although I would love to be able to show him what technology has been able to do to his ideas on gold and jewellery; he would be shocked I’m sure.”
How did you get into starting your own business?
“We wanted to own a business at least once in our lives! We agreed on that very early on in our marriage. Then, in 2010 my husband was searching an auction site for scrap gold. It turned out that for a surprise he had planned on having two new wedding rings made. He did buy some gold and we had two wonderful rings made. However, we were left with perfectly good items of jewellery and so I put them on that same auction site-and they sold! From there our passion started and we began looking for that local connection. That’s how we found out about John Willow.”
What is the history behind it?
“From that auction site we began collecting together stock, slowly but surely we started to build a fair amount of rings, pendants and knowledge. I learned how to recondition rings ethically and we settled on our current business model. Steve learned to build a site and we went for it.”
How do you find the current climate for businesses?
“Post-Brexit Britain is a funny one to gage really. Gold has always been a special purchase and we knew it was not going to “fly of the shelves” so to speak. The start was slow but it is getting there now. I really hope to be a success in any economic climate as we are selling an item that has an intrinsic and monetary value that seems to keep climbing!”
Do you find it more challenging as a woman or is there equality in business now?
“No equality. Not yet. I recently called a driving instructor Steve used once, he would only speak to Steve to confirm that it was ‘all ok’ for him to teach me (Steve passed his test years before). So some people will never see equality in any aspect of life. I understand that both men and women are different and total equality would require the creation of some neutral gender, but women need and deserve a fair chance in all aspects of social, legal and business life.
“Steve has also faced some issues oddly. Besides having a fist class honours degree in law and an MSc in International Relations he is dyslexic.”
Do you have a family?
“Yes, Steve and I have three wonderful children; Grace, Tristan and Holly. Holly is the youngest at 4 and Grace is nearly 11. They have really got behind it and I hope it inspires both my daughters and my son that one must work hard for the things you want-and if you fail, get up and start again!”
What do you do outside of work to relax?
“I love sea fishing with Steve (another whole world of gender stereotyping right there). I am really into reality TV (the trashier the better) I also write for a stitching blog and love walking at beaches, country parks and the likes.”
Do you have any other interests or hobbies?
“Cross stitch is my main hobby! I also read (fiction) enjoy herpetology. We have a snake and tortoise at home too.”
What would you have done if you weren’t running your own business?
“I have to say I would be doing what I am doing-a full time Accounting and Finance degree at the University of South Wales (I am in my second year). Steve is taking a gap year after his law degree and MSc in International Relations-so he is a stay at home dad.”
If you would like to know more about Universal Gold then visit their site here.
George R Vaughan