Hi Tim, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I never wanted to start my own business but in the last 5 years of my 14 years working as a jeweller, I realised that I wasn’t going anywhere in life despite working very hard. This pushed me into thinking of opening my own store and so I did – Unique Opal in Rundle Mall 5 years ago.
We started from nothing and now we have something, which is a big scale success in the opal market. We are heavily involved in opal trading, investing in mines, cutting and reselling opals. We also trade heavily in China.
How did your venture achieve this great momentum?
Anyone can buy the rough product, mark the price up and sell it, but to understand the process of preparing an opal is rare. Since Steve and I are both jewel cutters, we possess this knowledge which allows our company to be not only the youngest but also most progressive player in the market.
A lot of people are lazy or rely on others, get in there and do it yourself! If you are good at it then no need to show off. People will recognise your hard work and give you a shoot at things.
We set up our shop with a 12-year goal which we achieved within 3 years. For some success comes very quickly for others it takes its time. We are lucky but at the same time we know that we have put in tons of hard work behind it. It is not as simple as opening up a shop, get the stock and sell it. We wouldn’t be doing less than 75-80 hours per week for the first one and a half years. It was just the two of us running these huge operations getting tons of things done behind the scene. You will only get what you put in, if you want to go places then be prepared to work hard. People who wish and expect things to be handed to them will be in for a shock.
What do you want for your life?
If I could have earned just enough money in my old job for the little things I want in life then that would have been enough. I don’t want an extravagant life, I wasn’t brought up this way. Where I come from we remember and maintain our values. I just wanted to be able to buy food for my family, pay off the mortgage in a reasonable time, put my kids through good education, have a nice house and live a happy and simple life. Not everyone wants to become a millionaire but no one wants to live on low wages forever.
Your schedule must be pretty busy, right?
I love being busy. You have to do this to keep yourself productive but at the same time it is a lot of pressure trying to keep everyone around you happy. Sometimes I just wanted to cancel everything and go chill at the beach but this is how the lifestyle rolls.
The world is full of the ones that stop when they get hit but the ones who keep moving will make it. You just have to back yourself and chase your dreams.
It doesn’t matter how busy I am I will always make time for my two young boys and my wife. Every Sunday I hang out with my son at his soccer match. Sometimes I turn up to the shop 15 minutes late, having customers waiting outside and complaining but I tell them that I have to be there for my son. I look after my customers but my family always come first. At times I have to work late nights to get a few hours to spend with my family at breakfast. Make sure you don’t miss the things that you can never get back like their birthdays, Christmas, Easter, sport games. When your family falls apart, so will your business.
What is your plan for the future?
Right now there are so many things happening in the world that really worry me because 60-70% of our business depends on international markets. I would like to move into the international wholesale market but I will need to get more staff and invest more time. Many people have been asking us for an online shop and so I am working on that at the moment.
Recently we got investors approaching us from China. At the moment we are comfortable with what we have but I would love to expand more throughout Asia. There are good opportunities to expand to Sydney or Cairns where the big money is but to do that I have to add more capable staff to our team and have them willing to move there and run the shop.
What challenges did you face during the expansion process?
It was difficult travelling to a new country, having people trying to buy your product but being unable to communicate with you. I had to find someone over there that I could trust and who knew the market well to help with the expansion. Other people expanding without this step into consideration ended up running into problems.
Everyone who works here is needed and not many business owners can say that. I consider this team my second family and I want to help them go far. You have to build a family in your business to do well.
What is the jewellery market in Australia like?
Most of the time it is steady but the strength of the Australian dollar and lots of global factors can affect the market. Australian market is the hardest one to sell opals on because Australians don’t buy jewels as much as holidays and home improvement. We don’t filter or enhance any jewellery photo before posting it online unlike other businesses practice. Such things will usually causes arguments when the customer realises that the item and the photo do not match.
This industry is very competitive since everyone tries to buy and sell the same thing. You need to be good at what you are doing otherwise you will just be another average player who struggles. Everyone pretty much gets the same opals from dealers and miners. I believe these individuals deserve more respect for the great work they do. By paying them straight away it enables us to build great trust and good relationship. Now we get to be the first one who takes a look at new opals before other buyers. Regardless of what business you do, you need to build trust, you break it once and people will spread this news everywhere.
Currently the demand for jewellery is huge in the Chinese market and more online shops are opening, serving this need. Jewellery has been around for ages and regardless of whether people have a small or a big budget, they will always seek it. These are irreplaceable luxury items.
16 years ago when I started working on jewellery, an ounce of gold was 300 dollars and now it is $1780. If this pattern keeps its growing direction, the gold price can be over $14,000 in 16 years time which sounds pretty crazy. Don’t trust me on this, I don’t have a crystal ball but I know that gold value will increase so I am investing in it right now.
What is unique about the Australian opal?
The opal is Australia's national gemstone, when tourists come here they buy small pieces of opal to take back home for memories to keep. Australia supplies the rarest and most wanted opals in the world. There are defects in every other opals sourced elsewhere except for the Australian ones. Our opal color does not change, and does not need to go through many treatment processes.
You will only get what you put in, if you want to go places then be prepared to work hard. People who wish and expect things to be handed to them will be in for a shock.
These days you find lower quality opals with smaller amounts being found. There are plenty of opals in nature but not enough people to mine them. Back in the 80's there were many mining gangs but now there are only very few due to higher mining costs.
Our business can’t control the supply amount but we are still investing heavily into buying opals and we could stop stocking and still be able to sell opal for years. If opal supply dies down or price goes up, we can still sell opal at a reasonable price.
Do you have any advice for those who want to start their own business?
Pursue your passion
Regardless of what you do, be passionate about it, don’t just go in for the money. Find something you enjoy doing, then work as hard as you can and you will go far. Personally, I love jewellery, but not everyone can become a cutter or jeweller, they are born with the skill to be able to work tedious hours patiently. No work is easy but I enjoy what I do that is why I rock up to work every day and put 100% in it.
If you enjoy what you do, it won't even feel like work
Put in the hard yard
Be prepared to put in 70-80 hours per week in your first few years. A lot of people are lazy or rely on others, get in there and do it yourself. If you are good at it then no need to show off. People will recognise your hard work and give you a shoot at things.
Never give up.
Always keep fighting. No matter what happens in your life. Many bad and tragic events will be thrown at you to try to slow you down, and pull you from underneath. Do what needs to be done and move forward. The world is full of the ones that stop when they get hit but the ones who keep moving will make it. You just have to back yourself and chase your dreams.
Don’t worry about being qualified
Studying is important but it is more important to find something you are passionate about. I know other entrepreneurs who only finished year 10. I am not saying that school is not important because I am pushing my kid to make sure they study hard and finish year 12 and then go to university. But if you find something you enjoy doing and see money in that market, grab it, and don’t worry about being qualified or not, because as long as you are good at it you will make it.
Your team is your family
I take care of my team. As an owner you will have a lot of risks to take but you need to determine whether all this is possible without your team or not. If you need them then make sure you treat them right. There has been time where some of them called me at midnight and I told them to come to talk and sort it out together. Everyone who works here is needed and not many business owners can say that. I consider this team my second family and I want to help them go far. You have to build a family in your business to do well.
For more details about unique opals and to make a purchase, please contact Tim Sheridan at email@example.com , visit the website - http://www.uniqueopals.com.au/ or drop in to the store at No.5 Rundle Mall, Adelaide, SA 5000. Also , visit the official facebook page of unique opals at "Unique Opal & Diamond Manufacturers Pty Ltd".
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