It’s not often that you find a rugby player juggling his playing commitments with running a jewellery business but former Bristol Rugby, Worcester Warriors and Doncaster Knights scrum-half Chris Hallam has been doing both for the last four years. The 30-year-old owns CH Jewellery and will now turn his focus to expanding his range, after retiring from rugby last season.
Chris, firstly can you explain how CH Jewellery came about?
Well it started about four years ago when I finished at Bristol and I came back up north to play for Doncaster Knights. I was looking to enhance my future career prospects, and with my uncle owning a jewellery business close by in Sheffield, I decided to give him a hand. Each day, I would get up early and head to his workshop before my rugby training, helping and learning how to do it. While it took some time to get the hang of it, I soon found myself with quite a good client base and several projects to do each day. It was then that my Uncle suggested that I should start my own jewellery business, which seemed a silly idea at first, but after thinking it through CH Jewellery was eventually born.
What services does the business offer?
It’s a bespoke jewellery business so it’s all handmade, making anything from engagement rings to wedding rings, necklaces and bracelets. I offer three main services, restoration, commission and rejuvenation, which means I usually get a lot of customers wanting their old pieces of jewellery cleaned and refreshed. Because I specialise mainly in engagement and wedding rings, I have served loads and loads of teammates who are looking to find the perfect ring for their fiancés. As we all know when it comes to rugby players choosing jewellery, the majority have absolutely no idea, so that’s where my expertise becomes vital.
How does the business operate?
I do all of my jewellery in my Uncle’s Sheffield workshop, but the business itself is run online, meaning I normally go out to clients to talk through what they are looking for. I have an admin person who helps out with certain areas but in terms of actually designing and making stuff, I do all the work by myself.
How has the business performed since it started?
Well I officially finished playing rugby this year and ever since it has been growing and growing. I got injured just before Christmas last year and that’s obviously the busiest time of the year. So luckily because of the injury I was able to work and keep the business ticking over during the winter months. It was a lifesaver because if I didn’t work over Christmas, I think it would have affected the business in a very negative way.
Have you always been interested in this kind of work after rugby?
To be honest not really, but when I was in school I did come up to Sheffield to do work experience at my Uncles jewellery workshop. I really enjoyed the time I spent working there and it was just by fluke that I started to work their more often later down the track. He always spoke of wanting to hire a university student to help him out and it just happened that that person ended up being me. Coming in at 6am before training and spending my day off sat at a workshop instead of playing golf is not always nice, but looking back now it has definitely been worth it.
How did you find the transition from rugby to business?
Well because I spent the last few years working while still playing rugby for Doncaster, the transition has been a long gradual journey. I found it difficult at first because I still had to train and stay fit while also trying to head into the workshop each day and keep the business going. But as soon as I found a good rhythm, both careers seemed to complement each other really nicely. I could go to the workshop and switch off from rugby while also knowing that my future was secured and I didn’t have to worry about my next contract. To be honest it actually helped with my performance on the pitch, because I knew what ever happened I always had the business to go back to.
What tips would you have for other players wanting to start their own business?
Just be pro-active and get your name out there. Networking is so easy when you’re a player, so if you put some time into going out and meeting people, it will pay dividends in years to come. Also don’t be scared to ask questions and make mistakes, because it’s all about learning and find the right path for you. I was lucky because I had my Uncle, but I still had to do a lot of hard work to learn the full detail of being a goldsmith. I would never have dreamed that one day I would own my own jewellery business but because I worked hard, my future is now secure.
If you want more information on CH Jewellery please visit http://www.chjewellerydesign.com/. Chris is pleased to offer a 15% discount to all RPA members, so just quote your membership number when enquiring.