Call her Bohdacious
Many Kiwis associate her with the multi-award winning band stellar*. But today the ‘main gig’ is her jewellery design business. Welcome to the life and times of Boh Runga. It was one of those defining moments Boh Runga will cherish forever. In October 2018 at a reception in Wellington our PM Jacinda Ardern presented a […]
Many Kiwis associate her with the multi-award winning band stellar*. But today the ‘main gig’ is her jewellery design business. Welcome to the life and times of Boh Runga.
It was one of those defining moments Boh Runga will cherish forever. In October 2018 at a reception in Wellington our PM Jacinda Ardern presented a pair of Boh’s ‘Feather Kisses’ Logo gold stud earrings to the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. It seemed like the whole world was watching and the Boh Runga Jewellery website suddenly went bananas.
“The jewellery was mentioned in Harper’s Bazaar USA, Vogue Japan and was all over social media,” recalls Boh. “In fact the earrings still pop up in socials every time Meghan wears them.”
Boh is no stranger to the limelight. Before becoming a celebrated jewellery designer, her main claim to fame came through her vocal and guitar skills in the band stellar* – formed in the late 90s, and still going strong.
Always encouraged by her family to be a musician while growing up, Boh’s design career was sparked by a fortuitous introduction to a bullion company. The New Zealand Mint was looking to breathe some life into the ﬂagging jewellery arm of its business.
“I asked if I could have a go at designing a range,” recalls Boh. “I visited as many jewellery stores as I could to see what was out there and decided to do Birdland, based on our native birds.
“I wanted each bird to have a little story behind it, and that formula is still used today with my designing. Birdland sold so well, it was a bit of a surprise. It all just snowballed from there.”
2022 will be Boh’s 15th year in her jewellery design business.
“I still play with the band on occasion but the jewellery business has become my ‘main gig’.”
Initially Boh was only licensed to design, and had limited say in what was happening with her jewellery or how it was presented.
Despite the brand doing well under new management, she remained unhappy. Then when the opportunity came up for her to take up the reins three years ago, Boh jumped at the chance, asking friend Toyah Attwell, who has digital and managerial experience, to become her business partner.
What followed was a couple of tough years. Much of the business had to be restarted from scratch. There were stockist relationships to re-establish and maintain, supply chains to procure and the need to secure a better place in the market.
“Yes, some people knew about my jewellery but there was a huge amount of room to grow in terms of brand recognition,” says Boh. “We certainly couldn’t have done all this without the support of our partners, friends and family.”
When design mimics songwriting
Boh’s designs have always had a strong New Zealand flavour. “I come at designing very much like songwriting, it’s about telling a story and Aotearoa has those stories,” she says.
“It’s not about fashion. As much as I enjoy fashion, the jewellery isn’t seasonal or trend based.” She says many of her original designs are still being produced. “That’s a wonderful indication of how they’ve found a place with New Zealanders.
“I like the romance of an idea or story. I think people come to my jewellery not just because they like the design but because the meaning behind the design speaks to them on a personal level.”
Boh says Toyah takes on the lion’s share of managerial duties. “We also bounce around ideas constantly and must be very frank with each other.”
The Covid-19 lockdowns have definitely impacted the business’s bottom line, and to a large extent negated their efforts at becoming a wholesaler into the Australasian market.
Fortunately Boh and Toyah had begun work with a company to assess their online store and online presence at the end of 2019.
“Although we already knew we weren’t making the most of social media or online sales channels, it was still staggering to see just how much better we could be doing,” recalls Boh. “[The lockdowns] made us realise that we didn’t actually need a physical store to operate. But, of course, it’s a great customer experience to be able to come in, chat to us and try things on.”
Covid-19 meant they had to re-assess their expansion and diversiﬁcation plans.
“It’s still happening but at a much slower pace.”
Going forward, Boh has more plans to marry her two worlds: music and design. A successful collaboration (‘Bohlab’) with her muso friend Anika Moa on jewellery named after Anika’s daughter Marigold is to be explored further. There are plans to expand into accessories, bags and other products. And the next ‘Bohlab’ is with friend and fellow designer Kathryn Wilson – a dainty gold tipped sterling silver high heel pendant named ‘Lola’ (after Kathryn’s eldest daughter).
“As for music, I’ve been gigging over summer with stellar* and will be performing a wonderful Aretha Franklin tribute with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra mid-year.
“I’ve also got a very cool music project brewing that will cross over into the design part of my life. But at the moment it’s all extremely secret squirrel!”
Boh’s 8 business lessons
1. Understand what you want from your business. You don’t always clock off at 5.30 and it will consume a massive portion of your life. Ask yourself – are you in business for love or money? Hopefully you’ll make money from something you love doing.
2. Cashﬂow rules. You always need more than you think. Explore options around loans/overdrafts, etcetera. You may even have a beautiful friend with bigger pockets willing to take a punt. But get everything in writing.
3. Read and understand all contracts. Get a lawyer to make sure you understand any document that requires your signature. Know your rights.
4. Find and look after good people. We are blessed with an amazing crew and we value them greatly.
5. Accept invites to business conventions and conferences. Seek advice and take in information while there. You will absolutely learn something.
6. Listen to those close to you. Not listening to others can strain your relationships. And remember, they may be right.
7. Don’t be rude. Even when dealing with someone who’s out of line or talking rubbish. Keep your cool and react professionally.
8. Look after yourself mentally and physically. What’s the point of having a successful business if you’re a wreck? Always keep your sense of humour. We laugh a lot at the ‘Bohffice’. Our neighbours think we’re crazy.