I’ve never been paid a salary; I became an entrepreneur straight after college,’’ says Jenny Miller, CEO and Creative Director of MIGLIO jewelry in Cape Town.
The self-taught designer entered the tough, challenging world of business at the age of 21, when most girls her age were still contemplating a career, whether to have one or not.
Born and bred in Somerset West in the Western Cape province of South Africa, Miller attended high school in Stellenbosch and completed her degree in English and Latin from the University of Cape Town.
In the early 80s, Miller partnered with her husband, an IT specialist at the time, to start a jewelry company. They both had creative genes in them, so they began handcrafting bracelets and selling them to people directly.
“Jewelry doesn’t sell itself if lying inside the store’s glass cupboard. It needs a woman’s personality to bring it to life,” says Miller.
Whilst setting up the company, Miller lived with her parents in Somerset West, as she did not have a paying job on the side.
“I was lucky because I had my parents and I could still get a plate of food,’’ says Miller.
Besides selling jewelry door-to-door, Miller used trunk shows or sale events for showcasing her products to targeted customers. The shows did well, and in a few months, the brand drew the attention of local retailers. Its first lease of life was when Miller landed an order to supply 350 pieces of jewelry to The Foschini Group.
Miller acknowledges this as one of her bravest business decisions; and believes you are never too young to start.
“If you’ve got a business idea, you’ve got to do it while you’re still young, before you’ve got the comfort and security of a salary.’’
A couple of years later, Miller managed to partner with more major retailers, such as Woolworths, Stuttafords, Truworths and Edgars, supplying them with her accessories while operating under their labels.
Clearly, Miller has had a lot to learn during the 30 years of her entrepreneurial journey. When MIGLIO expanded overseas, the environment, cultural differences and time zones were challenges in establishing the brand.
MIGLIO operates over 80 multi-jewelry stores overseas, including 11 in South Africa, 18 in Australia, 10 in New Zealand, 40 in Germany and a few in London and the United Kingdom.
At her factory in Somerset West, Miller employs over 150 skilled craftsmen.
When we meet her, in Sandton in Johannesburg, on the sidelines of the SA Fashion Week in October, she excitedly shares news about her daughter winning an award.
Clearly, creativity runs in the family for the Millers.