Chupi Sweetman: I faced the harsh reality of being a young woman in business

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Chupi Sweetman's career has gone from strength to strength, and she is now recognised as one of Ireland's best jewellery designers. Since the age of five she has been designing and creating, inspired by her native Wicklow and all things wild and natural. We caught up with her to hear about her varied career path,

When did you know what you wanted to do?

I’m 34 and I already feel like I have had so many careers! I've been a cookbook writer, a fashion designer and now a jeweller. But really all I have ever wanted to do is make things that bring joy to people

What kind of difficulties did you have early in your career?

With the cookbook, I was very much in my own little world but when I was scouted by Topshop at 21, it was such a crazy baptism of fire. I had no business training and faced a very harsh reality of being a young woman in business. I was refused a credit card, I couldn’t get any finance. But nearly 13 years later it made me who I am.

What's the best piece of life advice you've ever received?

Find your dream. I think we can all struggle with feeling lost, of not being sure of where you are going. Joanne Hession, who has become such an important mentor to, always asks - what is your dream? What do you really really want and why aren’t you chasing it as hard as you can? It helps me keep my focus and know that I am working for my happiness.

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Chupi Sweetman at her studio in Dublin

What has felt like the biggest risk in terms of your career?

When I quit Topshop and started as a jeweller, I started with nothing and put all of my savings into making sparkly things. It’s been terrifying, exhilarating and amazing. I remember everyone telling me I was crazy, that you couldn’t make jewellery in Ireland that everything was being made in China. But today we have 22 people on our team making magic.

What has been your biggest failure and what did you get out of it?

I have made so many mistakes over the years, worked with the wrong people, made the wrong choice, took the wrong path but it’s never been about the failure. If you fail just get up and go again.

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What do you feel has been your biggest success?

Every morning when I go into work and see my incredible team, hear the stories of where in the world our jewellery has gone and read the message about why something I dreamed of has become part of someone’s story I feel so very lucky.

Do you believe in setting goals and, if so, what is your approach? 

Yes! I love goals. I do a 5-year vision, not a list but a dream of where I want to be both personally and professionally. Then I do six-month goals which I review every month. I don’t always meet them, sometimes I fail but I love to keep track of where I am.

What is the element of your work that gives you the biggest buzz?

The stories! I just adore reading the messages from the loveliest people telling me their stories, why they are purchasing a piece of my jewellery and what it means to them. I do have such a soft spot for the guys who are about to propose. They are so filled with hope, fear and joy. I helped the sweetest guy choose a ring and he sent me a picture of the box from their hotel room with just the words “about to go for a walk!!!”. That is truly special.

Do you find the work-life balance thing a struggle?

I’m not sure I have it to be honest! I love what I do so it’s hard to switch off, but I try to take Sundays off and then a few times a year we get out of the city and unwind.

What personality trait (positive or negative) do you think has helped you achieve your successes?

I’m an optimist. I truly believe in the idea that you shape your own future and anything is possible if you work hard enough.

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