The Duchess of Cornwall, television and radio presenter Fearne Cotton and actress and singer Pixie Lott all have something in common – they have been pictured wearing jewellery from Black Country designer Lora Leedham.
And Lora’s career continues to sparkle with business advice from the Midlands office of national audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill.
Indeed, she recently returned to her home town of Oldbury to exhibit at the opening of the firm’s new offices there.
Johnathan Dudley, Midlands Managing Partner, said: “It was very much appreciated. We are all thrilled that she is doing so well.
“She is a fantastic example to all young people and proof that they can turn their dreams into reality if they work hard and get good advice.”
Her success is set to continue with new ranges going into John Lewis stores across the Midlands from next month (February).
“It is a big opportunity for me,” she said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Lora has been a client of Crowe Clark Whitehill from soon after coming under the wing of The Prince’s Trust, with both playing their part in helping to establish her.
She is now based in a workshop in the centre of Birmingham’s Historic Jewellery Quarter – Studio 6, Merlin Centre for Contemporary Design, Warstone Lane.
Her ethically handcrafted rings are in big demand and have featured in national and international magazines, including Vogue and Grazia. She uses top materials such as sterling silver, gold, diamonds and handmade Venetian glass. And her products bear the Birmingham hallmark.
Her signature work is a caged heart; pieces of Venetian glass encased in twisted silver wire.
Much of her inspiration comes from organic forms and textures found in nature.
“I can’t quite believe it all myself sometimes,” she laughs. “It all seems to have happened so quickly it is difficult to take in. You hear all these statistics about only one in three businesses succeeding – that’s scary.”
Still only 26, her ambition was to be an interior designer. But she was soon captivated by jewellery design.
Following college, it all started for Lora with a phone call to Dudley Council for help with her business idea. “I was overwhelmed when no one laughed,” she recalls. “I was only 19 but they didn’t tell me I was being silly. Instead they put me on to The Prince’s Trust.”
A Trust adviser guided Lora through creating a business plan and she was awarded a £2,500 loan.
“For the first few months I operated from my bedroom but I realised that I could benefit from having my own workshop – Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter was the obvious place. Being alongside other designers is really inspiring.”
And, from small beginnings, selling to friends and family, Lora now has international stockists and galleries that display her contemporary items. Indeed a lot of her work ends up in the United States and Europe.
She said: “Every woman loves jewellery. I so enjoy creating tiny delicate pieces of art. And I’m really proud of my roots in Birmingham and the Black Country.”