Starting your own business is no small feat. From developing your brand to bringing in customers and, in the last few years, surviving a pandemic, and it’s always an adventure.  We spoke with Erin Keys about founding The Bench, a workshop and community in Sydney, and what the future looks like.

The business 

If you’ve ever thought about creating your own jewellery, The Bench Jewellery School and Workshop is a place to explore that creativity. It’s a modern, industry-standard workshop focusing on education and training. Students can learn about traditional and contemporary jewellery-making techniques in a friendly environment.

Whether you’re a total novice, a professional jeweller, or anywhere in between, The Bench offers classes for your level, including private jewellery lessons and corporate team bonding.  Best of all, it’s not a typical classroom. Instead, The Bench provides a community experience where people can learn, design, and share with others by creating experiences and fostering the next generation of makers.

And as a small business, by becoming a student at The Bench, you’re directly supporting the purchases of new and additional equipment, contributing to the viability and sustainability of the workshop, and supporting the establishment of a creative community—not a bad deal!

The obstacles

For Erin, the limited funding and the pandemic have been the biggest hurdles in her journey, but there was no stopping her. When she first dreamed of starting The Bench, “I had $1,000 in the bank at the time of launching, but I couldn’t let the opportunity of pursuing my dream pass me by,” she said. “I spent the $1,000 on a domain name and website and advertised my first classes. With the money from the first bookings, I bought tools (with a little extra help from Mum and Dad).”

But like so many other small businesses, the pandemic had different plans for Erin. “A month after launching our website and school, I had to close down due to covid-19. Slowly, we have reopened when possible and, little by little, an amazing jewellery school is built.”

What keeps her going

The road hasn’t been easy, but Erin is delighted with what The Bench means to people and enables them to do. “Today I was sitting at The Bench helping a student and looked around to see every student or attendee hammering, sawing, soldering, polishing—all deeply engrossed in their creative pursuits,” she said. “It was amazing. I’m so proud at the space we have created.”

For those looking to start up their own businesses, Erin has some words of wisdom. “Don’t try to measure your success by comparing yourself to anyone else. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Stop stressing all the time and actually enjoy growing the business, because you won’t get this time back.”

Why did you choose .sydney for your website?

For Erin, choosing a .sydney domain name was a no-brainer. “I wanted a domain name that both localised me and added to my identity,” she said. “.sydney advertises and highlights where we are located and sets us apart from similar businesses. It’s cool and sleek and contemporary.” She’s not stopping at .sydney, either. “The long-term dream is a thebench.melbourne or  thebench.brisbane! That would be amazing, goal-kicking stuff!”