Business Irish

Sunday 23 September 2018

Try this on for size...Irish jewellery firm Chupi to offer VR tech for customers

Chupi Sweetman
Chupi Sweetman
Chupi Sweetman, co-Founder of Chupi
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Irish jewellery firm Chupi is embracing virtual reality technology as a way of showcasing their unique items for potential customers.

In addition to plans to deliver a ring-sizing app by Christmas this year, the VR offering is expected to be in place at the start of 2019.

Understanding the power of digital has always been forefront of mind for the designer behind the brand, Chupi Sweetman.

"I think everyone understands the power of digital but can be afraid of what it costs. We started the company with a €1000 from my grandmother a little over five years ago and now have 23 on our team and export into 64 countries," she told Independent.ie.

Credit: Chupi
Credit: Chupi

Sweetman's husband Brian, the "super nerd" who has been working on Chupi's upcoming tech offerings, acts as the firm's technical director.

From its official launch in 2013, the couple have worked 70-hour weeks to design bespoke jewellery, build their network and continue to refine one of their most treasured creations - their website.

"We're changing the way we shop, our demands for immediate delivery are stronger, who has time to wander around shops anymore?," said Sweetman.

"One of the challenges we face is finding out what the customer wants, what the product/service/experience means to them, and why should they care."

Credit: Chupi
Credit: Chupi

Connecting with her audience is something that Sweetman does with finesse, despite protestations that she 'would rather die' than ask for 'likes' on her first Facebook page.

Irish-manufactured diamond sparklers are consistently flying to London, the US and Canada to people who have never seen them in real life - but have fallen in love. 

"Thanks to the power of storytelling and social media the customers know us, what we do and why we do it. They trust us to make a ring that will be one of the most precious things they ever own," she said.

In a particularly trying time for businesses on social media, especially those in which trust plays such a vital role, Sweetman has a refreshingly optimistic view.

"If you forget about the inherently narcissistic side of social media, it can be such a powerful tool and such a force for good. On Instagram and Facebook, I can find people who love what we do, who love what I love. It's how we've become such a successful export business.

"The intimacy of social media really works for us too. I've always been honest. We make everything in Ireland, it's not complicated. But how do customers know that when they don't see the cuts, the scars, the bruises to show the work that's involved.

"So it's so sweet to get private messages from people asking for advice on proposals, etc, as they really trust us. We're very privileged to get to make magic, to be there at the happiest - and perhaps saddest - moments of people's lives."

After working with Topshop for six years, Sweetman embarked on creating a jewellery empire from her own bedroom, the difficulties of being a "young female entrepreneur" notwithstanding.

Now the 2016 winner of IMAGE Young Businesswoman of the Year has built an impressive line-up which includes Opsh co-founder Jennie McGinn as Head of Digital, and Digital Designer and Illustrator Lisa McHugo.

"Myself and my team are always looking to the next challenge, always wanting to do something new, always looking to deliver more value - from packaging to development".

This activity will continue to include the popular Chupi pop-ups that have appeared across the UK, Ireland and New York; in addition to further development on their website.

One thing that will remain constant, however, is Sweetman's roots in Ireland.

"It was a big decision to stay in Ireland and not London or elsewhere. What actually matters most to me was to stay where the people I love - my friends and family - are.

"We can be an Irish firm and also rule the world!"

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