‘It’s like a mini global economy here’
2008-02-28 15:37:33 -
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 In the latest instalment of Metro Eireann’s Meet The Boss, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Francesco Dominoni, a marketer of handcrafted Italian glassware jewellery 

Cosmopolitan pedigree is stamped all over Francesco Dominoni. Born in Ghana to an Italian father and an African mother, he spent his childhood travelling because of his father’s job.

“My father worked for the Italian foreign affairs as a doctor in Africa and I have lived in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Chad, Kenya and Cameroon,” says Dominoni. “He was managing the Italian and Eritrean programme to combat Aids, so our lives were split between Africa and Italy.”

Dominoni studied political science in Milan and then worked for a bank in Venice and in marketing. But eager to improve his English, he moved on to Ireland, and decided to stay awhile.

“I like the people here, they are open,” he says. “There is also much creativity and opportunity.”

With his English improved, Dominoni landed jobs with IBM, Lexmark and eBay in Ireland. But Dominoni had a bigger idea in mind, which had been germinating since his time in Venice.

“I had seen the beautiful glass industry in Venice and knew how it worked,” he explains. “I had a lot of contacts there and I could design and commission these glass experts to make very fine jewellery.” Dominoni was working for eBay at the time but decided to leave and, in his own words, “make a go of my new adventure”. That adventure soon acquired a name – Venice Jewellery.

Venice has a strong tradition of glassmaking and Dominoni was particularly taken with the Murano glassmakers, where gold and silver is blended with glass to create shimmering and crystalline effects that lend themselves perfectly to contemporary jewellery.

A trip to Italy followed so Dominoni could meet various glassmakers, discuss designs and negotiate supplies and delivery. “Packaging, too, was an important part of the start-up,” he says. “Everything is in gold, with the Venice Jewellery logo. I designed and produced a catalogue with photographs of the range of glass jewellery, from rings to pendants and unusual bottle stoppers. This starting up and development was in August and I had Christmas time as my deadline for the launch. That was the time to test the items on the market.”

The National Craft Fair at the RDS in Dublin proved lucrative, as did the Docklands market. And in January Domin-oni also attended Showcase Irel-and, the annual craft and gift trade fair at the RDS. “That [one] is business to business and I was able to get contracts to supply retailers around the country,” he notes. “The orders were satisfying, initially 20 shops.”

Buyers may not have been aware, but Dominoni was “choosing them, not the other way around.” The follow on move is “to build up a long term relationship with these retailers”. This will mean visiting each premises to measure up for a custom-built display unit on site.

“I will look at the interior design of each shop so that the unit, while it is unique to Venice Jewellery, will be personalised to suit each shop and retailer. I will discuss and plan the display units but then will hire a carpenter to make them. It is important in business to understand that you cannot actually do everything yourself.”

Dominoni has found that even when you use the skills and services of friends in your business, “it is important to pay them, and not to use their service just because they are your friend, but primarily because they are good at what the do, be it photography, design or marketing.”

When it comes to marketing a company, Dominoni suggests that you should test the market: “This can take time, but it is worth it. Study the reaction of people to your product. In Ireland it is easier to do this... there is a quick reaction to new things.

“Ireland is small and this is a factor too. Decisions can be made a little quicker and things move a little faster than bigger countries. It’s a bit like ships; a larger one takes a longer time to turn than a smaller boat.”

Dominoni also points out that things are “more concentrated here”. With four or five bigger cities all within a relatively small area, a business can expand without huge distances to cover be it for clients’ meetings or delivery of product.

“Ireland can be seen as a laboratory of experience,” he says. “Testing a market is good here as there is a good diversity of population; it’s like a mini global economy here.”
 
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