Interview with Scéona Founder & Director, Matthieu Chauveau
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Read on to find out the story behind Scéona, the sustainable fine jewellery company based in Singapore, with each piece carefully thought through and crafted in order to do no harm to the planet and its people.
Which came first for you - passion for business or passion for the environment?
We always wanted to create a business that was aligned to our values and that would have a positive impact on the world. Being environmental friendly was one of the top priorities since day 1 but it was our passion for business (in our case, for fine jewellery) and the will to use it as a force for good that drove us and made us start Scéona.
What was the key motivating factor at the time you started your business?
Freedom. I think we did not want to work for big corporations anymore, or businesses we did not relate to in terms of mission and values. Starting a business is risky, stressful, uncertain… but it offers a huge freedom to be creative, to align your work with your values, to give meaning to what you do and a purpose. I don’t think that you can find this freedom if you work for someone else.
How did you finance your business?
We started the company by investing our own money. Then, when we needed more cash at the beginning of the year, we asked family and friends if they could lend us some.
We will launch a Kickstarter campaign in September 2020 to announce a fantastic creation we've worked on for months. We hope to be able to raise enough money with this crowdfunding campaign to produce our new collection and promote it. Finally, we will certainly raise some funds with business angels at the start of 2021, depending on the success of the crowdfunding campaign and Christmas period.
Did you have any initial challenges and how did you overcome them?
To be honest, we face challenges every day. Mainly:
Getting awareness: it was, and still is, one of our main priorities. If people don’t know about you, they cannot buy from you. So how do you get people to notice your brand when you don’t have millions to spend on marketing? We spent a lot of time on social media, especially Instagram, to promote our brand, our mission and our values. We also spent some money on online ads to drive traffic to our website. Our objective is to create great content for people interested in jewellery and sustainability so that, hopefully, they will promote and support us in return.
Build trust: when you are new and you sell jewellery online, people might be very cautious and wonder if you can be trusted. We had to show that we were “legit”. The solution was to offer free shipping and free returns, to be easily contactable, to share our knowledge and expertise and to show the team, the real people behind the brand.
Focus: there are only two of us running Scéona full time and there are so many things to think about regarding the business. The main challenge is to be able to focus, chose a direction and stick to it, whilst being flexible. At the beginning, we tried to do everything, being present everywhere, and it quickly put a lot of pressure on both of us! So now we are using the 12 weeks method (from the book “The 12 Week Year"): we define our 3 main goals for the next 12 weeks and how to achieve them. Anything not related to these 3 goals will be put aside for later. It really helped us to adhere to the same strategy and work better together to achieve our goals. I recommend this method to everyone.
What are your main revenue streams?
We mainly sell online through our website (sceona.com) and a few partner's websites. We also offer bespoke jewellery, accompanying our clients from the initial inspiration to the final creation and delivery. Before the COVID situation, we also participated in a few fairs in Singapore.
If you were to start from scratch, are there any changes you would make?
I think I would organize our strategy better and work more efficiently to really focus on what matters the most and not lose my time and energy on less important stuff.
Is it difficult to make a green business profitable?
Making any kind of business profitable is difficult. Research shows that 20% of all new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, and 50% during the first five years.
In my opinion, there are pros and cons of launching a green business:
Pros: green is trendy, it is everywhere and it will be even more so in the future. People, especially the new generation, will ask companies to be more transparent, ethical and to adopt sustainable practices. Otherwise they will buy from others that are more “green”. Being “green” can thus help in boosting the company’s revenue and attracting more potential consumers, helping your business becoming profitable faster.
Cons: you must walk the talk and not just “surf” on the green wave. Although things are changing, it can be challenging for green businesses to manage their costs and profitability as “green” supplies are more expensive than “normal” ones. For instance, recycled cardboard or paper, plastic alternatives, green transportation options… all these fantastic innovations have an impact on the final cost of a green product compared to a “normal one”. Are consumers willing to pay this extra cost? Not always! So if you want to increase or maintain your revenue, you need to absorb these costs and thus deteriorate your margins. It's a difficult equation to solve.
Do you have any 'top tips' for those launching a green business?
My 3 top tips:
Know your numbers: cash is the most important thing to take care of if you wish your business to survive. Make sure you know everything about your costs, your profitability, your expected revenue, your inventory… I know it is not fun, but it is vital.
Know your market: launching a green business does not mean you will sell your products or services. You need to solve a problem for your potential consumers. Why would they buy your product (apart the fact that it is “green”)? What is the added value vs the competition? Are they willing to pay the price offered? Answering all these questions (and many more) will help you to fine-tune your business model and brand proposal and positioning.
Don’t be alone: running a business can be very lonely. There are many groups and communities of like-minded “green” entrepreneurs from which you can learn and get support from. Do not hesitate to ask for help, you will find many people who will be happy to help and give you valuable feedback and advice.
What gives you the most hope for the environment?
The new generation asking for more transparency and sustainability and the mindset shift of consumers in general. Change will not come from big corporations or government, it will come from us, citizens and consumers by modifying the way we live, the stuff we buy, and how we interact with each other.
I really hope more and more people will act, consume and live in a way that respects and protects the only home we have: Earth.
You can find more interviews with eco-friendly business owners here.
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