“Worst Case Scenario, You Still Learn Really Amazing Things and I’d Prefer to Do and Try, than Look Back and Wish I Had” An Interview with the Founder of Escorpi

“Worst Case Scenario, You Still Learn Really Amazing Things and I’d Prefer to Do and Try, than Look Back and Wish I Had” An Interview with the Founder of Escorpi

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A chance conversation led Tenishia McSweeney to discover lab grown diamonds. Now with a GIA graduate diamond diploma, and a bespoke design brand, Tenishia shares her journey and why she’s so excited for the future of this ethical alternative.
Tenishia McSweeney Interview

I only heard about lab grown diamonds a few months ago, and thought the whole concept sounded so interesting. What was the initial foundational vision for you getting involved in this space?

My partner’s dad has been involved in the jewellery industry for a long time, and so when a friend asked to create a ring the guy that his dad put them in touch with said “use lab grown diamonds”. I’d never heard of them before, so I did some research.

I found out that they have the exact same chemical, physical, and optical composition as mined diamonds and that just made me think, ‘why wouldn’t you use them?’ It’s such a great alternative. They’re about half the price, it means you can get a bigger diamond for your money plus you don’t have that guilt attached. I’d previously felt unsure about how comfortable I could feel to ever buy a diamond knowing that perhaps a child has been used in the process of mining that diamond. The lack of general transparency in how they ended up in our stores made me feel uneasy.

I then fell in love with learning about diamonds and have just completed my GIA graduate diamond diploma which teaches you about diamonds in general, whether it’s mined or lab. I find it really fascinating. You learn the history, the science, the geography. The opportunities of learning are endless I think, and a diamond can really be a piece of art as well as jewellery.

 

How old is the science behind lab grown diamonds? How long have they been around?

People have been trying to create them for very many years and then in the 1950s, they started to succeed, however the quality wasn’t quite there initially. It’s also only in more recent times that it’s actually been viable – before it cost so much money to make one but technology continues to improve every day, and people are doing really amazing things in the industry, so now’s the time!

I visited a lab grown factory in Israel just before Covid hit and there are people in England and all over the world, who are constantly working to improve technology and make it more and more environmentally friendly. There are actually some guys who just made a lab grown diamond using carbon from the sky and recycled rainwater! That’s what excites me as well, the opportunities for long term improvement. 

 

Having developed a fascination for it, when did you decide that you wanted to get into it as a business?

When I left my last job I suddenly thought, you know what, I’m just going to go for it. My partner’s always set up his own businesses, and I’ve got a few friends that do their own things so I think being around people who have that entrepreneurial spirit gave me the confidence to go for it. It’s just taking that risk and I think there isn’t really a failure because worst case scenario, you still learn amazing things and I’d prefer to do and try, than look back and wish I had tried. I’ve been doing this for probably about a year and a half now and that includes doing my diploma, visiting factories – really figuring it all out from start to finish.

“there isn’t really a failure because worst case scenario, you still learn amazing things and I’d prefer to do and try, than look back and wish I had tried.”

 

The thing I pull clearly from your journey is that you did the research first. Essentially you became a massive geek in what you wanted to go into and really took that time to get to know your topic. I think when you have an idea, learning is the best starting point. So for Escorpi do you have specific labs you work closely with?

Yes, I do and, hopefully, I will continue on this journey to meet more and more people working in this space. At the moment I’ve got a few that I use and have relationships with. I’m excited for the world to open up again, so I can travel and increase that face to face contact. Although, how lucky is it that during this pandemic, where the world is kind of frozen in some ways, you can still communicate to someone on the other side of the world quite easily.

 

Yes, it’s very enabling! In terms of the design process, are you designing collections or are you designing bespoke based on briefs?

Bespoke based on briefs, but there are pieces we’ve created without bespoke briefs which are pieces I would love to wear to inspire and show people the sort of thing that we can create. I think people are so specific about what they like and what they would love to wear as a piece of jewellery, especially with things like engagement rings. You might think something is what you’d like but then see it on your finger and realise actually something a bit different feels right.

 

Yes, everyone’s hands are quite different as well aren’t they. Some people can wear something much bigger than other people. How did the name come about?

Well I’m a scorpio and because I’m a bit fiery I was thinking about that and looking at words. Escorpi is actually scorpio in Catalan and I really loved the word and thought it was slightly different. 

 

Ah, I wouldn’t have guessed the Scorpio link! I also really love the personality that you’re creating with the brand. It’s so charming and feels fresh, and fun, while also being very elegant.

Thank you, that means a lot. I think sometimes when we look at jewellery you don’t get that warmth that it feels like to have and wear. So I definitely wanted quite a warm, welcoming, but also luxury vibe. I love a little bit of playfulness and I love luxury, so trying to combine all those things is the ambition. I used to model and back in the day when I used to do that, I’d always be at the shoots thinking, ‘I don’t want to be in front of the camera, I want to be the person organising the shoot’. Organising one was quite funny because it’s been 10 years or so since I was really in front of the cameras so it was fun to dip back into that but from the other side. But it’s nerve wracking-the brand building process! Putting yourself out there is the part that I really struggle with.

All of the behind the scenes stuff, the research, I love that, but with putting myself out there I’m just kind of faking it till I make it with confidence. Are you just super confident with putting yourself out there, or do you find it freaks you out a little bit as well?

 

Totally freaks me out yeah. Or I suppose it did for a while and then I just decided, actually, it doesn’t make any sense for it to because I think people admire a hustler and understand that you’re building things. There’s still a discomfort with it and it feels maybe slightly unnatural at times which is why on Cleopatras I really wanted to share different stories, because we need more female founders.

What are some books which you’d call out as having inspired you?

In my late teens I remember reading Karen Brady’s biography and I found that really inspiring because she was just really bullish and went after what she wanted. I also found Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ really fascinating. It definitely woke me up to how I am often apologising for just being in the room. Sometimes we have to have that confidence to just say no, this is what I feel, what I believe, this is the research I’ve done and be a little bit more confident.

I do also think though, while being inspired by their approaches, it’s okay to be yourself as well. And you know if we are a little bit more soft in our delivery, maybe that’s also why people would want to work with us because we’re a more gentle person. I want to work with people who want to work with me and I want to work with really lovely people.

I’ve also enjoyed some of Malcolm Gladwell’s books: The Outliers and David and Goliath

 

Did anyone give you any good advice when it came to establishing yourself as a founder and your business itself?

A friend of mine said, “even just by doing research, even if it didn’t go anywhere you become an expert and you never know what that would take you on your next part of the journey”. I think it did help having in the back of my mind that I am just learning and that in itself is a really, really amazing skill.

 

Yes I agree it’s a really helpful mindset because then it takes away the scariness of things. My final question is who are some entrepreneurs and/or women in business, who inspire you?

There’s so many women that I know that are just doing amazing things are just amazingly talented. One of my friends from school, Akesha I remember when we were in year 10 or something, and she was doing work experiences every summer. She’s been doing internships every summer, blog writing on the side, always having some kind of a side hustle and she recently did her first article for Vogue, she’s writing for Cosmopolitan, she’s doing so amazingly as a journalist and every time she’s doing something new, I just can’t get over how proud I feel. And another friend of mine, Marine, she has an agency for artists. And she’s someone that has really championed me and been open to advising me. So those are two people that off the top of my head I really am inspired by.

 

One of the things I did wonder as well… I was interviewing a singer recently and she said that after she’d had her child, she gained this whole new level of confidence because she felt, ‘well i’ve created another human being so why couldn’t I create a song’. And then that was basically the catalyst realisation for her going after what she really wanted to do with music. Do you think having your son had any impact on you emotionally or on your confidence?

100%. It was the opposite at first, I had a real dip in confidence, I found it really difficult. But then once I got through that I have a level of confidence from seeing I did that. I gave birth to my child and he’s a really happy child. I congratulate myself on that. He was actually the reason I wanted to have my own business, because at the end of the day, I have a child and so if I’m going to be working really hard, I’d rather be working for myself! I also think it makes me much more productive and able to juggle things. As a mother, you’re working, you can study, you can look after your child, you can socialise, you can be everything to everyone and still do amazing things.

 

Yeah I think it’s a really good narrative and important to share. That motherhood can be a huge being a part of being an entrepreneur and having a successful career, rather than something which contradicts it.

Also… I have less time for putting up with stuff so for me to be working, it needs to be either financially beneficial or I’m learning so much that that’s where I’m gaining from. It really has to be fulfilling, rather than just going along with things. I’ve always been a really sensitive person, but I want to be in a kind environment. Does that make sense? I’m not going to deal with aggression or negativity. I want to keep it moving, keep positivity, keep building.

“I’m not going to deal with aggression or negativity. I want to keep it moving, keep positivity, keep building.”

 

To learn more about Escorpi and their designs, you can visit their website escorpi.com and follow them on Instagram @escorpi_london

 

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