Sasha Gammampila is the founder of Deliqa Gems, which specialises in loose sapphires for creating bespoke and fine jewellery. After growing up in Sri Lanka where gemstones were part of her upbringing, Sasha has brought the culture of these precious stones into her own thriving Melbourne based business.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
I grew up in Sri Lanka, a country with a rich history of gemstones and with my father who is an award-winning diamond cutter. He used to take me to various gem cutting places since I could walk.
Back in Sri Lanka, colours played a huge part in our outfit, expressing joy, energy and personality; clothing is colourful and so are the accompanying jewellery made with magnificent gemstones. Although there are many of us who are really enthusiastic about colours, here in Australia and in other western countries black and white play a significant role in the fashion industry. I felt fine jewellery is a cheerful way for us to add colour to such outfits in a more personal and subtle approach, especially through the engagement ring which is worn every day.
Not only that, I wanted to be approachable and my core focus was to build a business based on trust where clients can make a well-informed decision together with my expertise. I now reside in Australia serving clients locally and internationally. Through what I do, I have created something that enables me to contribute to the country I grew up in. That is very special to me.
How did you get your business started?
I first started by investing all my savings on gems and selling on online platforms and to family and friends. I must admit that I only did little research before I started which of course lead to some costly mistakes. At the start, I heavily leveraged my dad’s knowledge. Then I went on to study Gemmology to learn the science side of gemstones. This was almost five years ago an the rest is history.
What lessons have you learned so far on your business journey?
1. To have mentors.
2. Refine the target market.
3. Have more than one supplier. If there is an issue where your supplier cannot supply you even for a short period of time, you cannot close your business. Find suppliers that understand you and what you represent in your business. Your suppliers should be treated like you treat your friends as they are the backbone of your business as much as you are the forefront.
4. Outsource the skills you are lacking.
5. Be passionate, consistent and persistent in succeeding in what you do.
How important for you has it been to have a mentor?
My favourite quote: "No one has ever learned anything by listening to themselves speak.” - Richard Branson, The Virgin Way.
It is absolutely paramount that you have a mentor. For me, I have learned that you need to have multiple mentors to improve different sets of skills. Your mentor does not have to be someone you have to pay for. It could be your parents, a friend or a relative. Having a mentor certainly helped me clarify many things in my business which enabled me to go from part time to full time running of the business. Your mentor needs to be someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself.
What are your top three tips for starting a business?
1. Be true. Find your passion and believe in what you do. Do not copy someone else just because you see them “doing well”. It will reflect in your offering and your customers will see it. It is also highly likely that you will not enjoy all the hard work you have to do to make the business a success. Try to find how you can fill a gap in the market with what you are passionate about while making use of opportunities and resources you have access to.
2. Research is good but too much research can lead to paralysis they say. If you have a strong vision for what you are wanting to do, take steps to get started and learn as you go.
3. Establish a good supply chain and define your target client. This can change as you grow but you need to find the gap in the market you are trying to fill.