Rebekah Oakes: 'The Google Digital Garage event was genuinely one of the best programmes I've attended.'

Rebekah Oakes: 'The Google Digital Garage event was genuinely one of the best programmes I've attended.'
Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial

Posted: Tue 24th Oct 2023

Enterprise Nation partnered with Google to deliver 20 Digital Garage events across the UK, providing free digital skills training and mentoring to small business owners who are looking to grow their ventures.

This series of in-person events offered free training to people who already own a small business, are interested in starting one, or are looking to develop their job prospects.

We're speaking to some of the business owners who have attended the events to learn how taking part has benefited them so far. Here, we talk to Rebekah Oakes of Rebekah Ann Jewellery, a Brighton-based jewellery brand whose ethos is centred around being eco-conscious and sustainable.

Rebekah, please tell us about your business. How long have you been selling for?

I started my jewellery journey 20 years ago at an evening class. When one evening my tutor brought in application forms for two universities, I decided to quit my job and make a living out of making jewellery, despite never imagining that I could!

This year marks 20 years in the trade and nearly five years being fully self-employed within my own business and brand. Before I went self-employed, I was working for another jeweller, and my boss there thought I should be selling my own work for myself.

What struggles have you faced with your business?

There have been three major challenges: money, a lack of support, and the need to grow the business in a way that fits my ethos.

I didn't know where to turn for financial support to start a business, so I self-funded everything. I was working full-time and saving up money. And I would avoid spending money in my home life so I could use it to build a workshop.

I now have a workshop that's also home to six other jewellers. It was never about making a profit, but building a place where people can come together to work and grow their own businesses. I did all of that without financial backing.

It's been hard. I didn't have a partner to support me, so I was solely responsible for the workshop rent, my home rent, everything. So that was one of the main difficulties – trying to get off the ground with very limited funds.

I've had to grow organically, leaning on social media and using things like Google and Etsy. And I've needed to work in a way that's aligned with my business ethos.

I could mass-produce my jewellery and get it to customers within a three-day turnaround, but my pieces are bespoke and handmade. I make everything to order. So I know I'm not going to grow at the rate that I could, because I'm staying true to my ethos.

Why did you decide to attend a Google Digital Garage event?

I've done a few other things with Enterprise Nation, such as the online meet-ups, the Lunch and Learn webinars and so on. So I knew this would be a good event, and that going along and learning about Google was a no-brainer.

I've been to other business events in the past that haven't focused on Google as closely. This Digital Garage event was genuinely one of the best programmes I've attended, and I came away with a proper idea of what I can do to help my business.

What have you learnt from attending? And how have you started to implement it into your business strategy?

Well, I'm still working on the strategy. But I've been diving into Google Search Console and I'm now looking in Google Trends. I've been using those every day or every other day, trying to make it part of my process in a way that makes sense, rather than just focusing on my website's SEO.

Have you noticed a difference or a change?

It's probably too soon to say, although I did have an appointment this morning with someone who'd found me recently because of Google. I've definitely had a little bit more traffic, according to the monthly report Google sends me.

I had this set up before but I didn't ever really pay any attention to it. Whereas now I'm making myself look at it, and I can see an increase in the people visiting my site. But it's still early days.

How has attending the event made an impact on you and your business?

The takeaway is that it actually works. When I've gone along to other events – some of which have taken place over a few days, some have been over lunch – there's been a lot of information to take in.

And sometimes it's really hard to understand how to put it into action, in a way that might actually help my business. With the Google Digital Garage event, it was very clear that if I go and use all the Google tools and systems that are available for free, I'll see the benefit.

Finally, what's been your business's biggest achievement or proudest moment?

My biggest achievement is probably getting my first overseas orders. Suddenly realising that there are people on the other side of the world wearing my jewellery. So that's been lovely. And it's made me realise that this isn't just some little thing that I'm doing here, it has legs and the potential to become something pretty big.

Read more Digital Garage success stories

Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial
I'm Enterprise Nation's senior content manager, and I spend most of my time working on all types of content for the small business programmes and campaigns we run with our corporate, government and local-authority partners.

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