'There are days I'm in tears, thinking I'm not coping' - The first year of new business venture 'Grace Diamonds' hasn't been easy for Grainne Seoige
Grainne Seoige has a nugget of advice for those embarking on a new entrepreneurial venture - buckle yourself in for a rough ride.
The Galway native, who graced our TV screens for almost two decades, made a considerable change in career trajectory when she entered the custom diamond jewellery business.
Inspired by the bespoke Art Deco inspired octagonal diamond halo ring that her fiancé, former rugby coach, Leon Jordaan, proposed to Grainne in 2013 with, 'Grace Diamonds' was born.
However, the first twelve months can be make-or-break for any new firm, and Grainne reveals that the journey of their joint venture the last year was no different.
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"I have learned so much in the last year. Every day is a school day, you're learning to problem solve all the time," she said, speaking to Independent.ie from her home in South Africa.
"Some days there are tears, and there are moments that I think that I'm not coping. But then there are other days that you say 'bring it on'! To do something so far out of your comfort zone takes a very brave - and very silly - person.
"It's not for the faint hearted, it is incredibly hard work making something out of nothing. That takes a lot of work behind the scenes, but at the end of the day, it is also incredibly rewarding."
When 'Grace Diamonds' was first launched at New York International Bridal Week, the duo's target market consisted of people who were getting engaged, customers who were interested in getting a ring that had a unique meaning unique for them.
"Just like my own ring that Leon proposed to me with, it's a symbol of love," said Grainne.
However, Grainne believes that they have gotten a better feel for the market over the last twelve months and the business is now in a position to grow.
"What we have found is that our customer base has expanded to include customers who wish to celebrate a significant event in their lives, as varied as it might be," she said.
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"It could be eternity rings, a piece of jewellery to celebrate the birth of a first child, or women who are that little bit older and want to treat themselves.
"No matter what the reason, we are now creating different pieces of jewellery for all kinds of reasons, all with a very special meaning to the owner."
Gráinne relocated to South Africa from Ireland in 2014 but she still flies home to Ireland occasionally for media jobs.
While her well known name here may attract Irish clientele to order online from anywhere in the world, Grainne said she would love to reach out to Irish people travelling to South Africa on their holidays also.
"South Africa is a fabulous destination. And if someone is thinking of travelling, we're wholesalers so they can avoid paying over the odds for their jewellery in the more touristy retail outlets.
"Absolutely everything we do is bespoke. We can tailor for requests of one carat to 10 carats, obviously a huge budget difference, so anyone can come in and not be put off by price."
The Grace Diamonds website has recently undergone renovation to reflect that 'Affordable Luxury without Compromise' mission statement - and to reassure that all diamond are locally sourced and ethically produced.
"We have a close relationship to the people that are getting the diamonds from the mines...there are no diamond mines in Antwerp," she quipped.
That the customer is very much part of the whole process from mine extraction to the finished jewellery piece is hugely important for Grainne.
And while she hasn't received many weird design requests to date, "if the design is wearable and durable we will make it for you."
Grainne said she has been overwhelmed with how Irish men are really driving the design side of the unique pieces.
"They are often very thoughtful and well educated on what they feel will suit their partner and what they want the pieces to be," she said.
"But women are now beginning to commission pieces for themselves which I'm delighted to see."
Grainne's tips for Irish men seeking that perfect engagement ring
1) If you want to get something she likes, look at what she normally wears, look at her style
2) Open your ears, she's probably already told you in some way (texts, open magazines, Instagram posts)
3) Friends and family are great advisors if you're looking for tips - as long as they're able to keep a secret!
4) Think about designing the wedding ring at the same time - trying to custom fit later on can be difficult