Why Pongo? Like every best brand, the name chosen is not random. Isabella happily tells us how the term ‘Pongo’ is part of the scientific name for an orangutan (which is the company’s logo by the way!). This word was an affectionate nickname given to Isabella by her late father in relation to her once bright red hair. Familiar, original and memorable, the name Pongo England perfectly encapsulates the nature of the brand. Isabella also donates a portion of each month’s profits to charities helping to protect the orangutans and conserve rainforests.
But let’s go back to the start of Pongo as its story is a wonderful testament to just how far a hobby can take you. Back in May 2020, Isabella and her sister Jemima wanted to join the trend of wearing beaded necklaces, chokers, and earrings. However, “We found that a lot of people were selling them for excessive prices or weren’t selling styles that we liked,” Isabella explains. Faced with the boredom of quarantine, they bought the materials and started making jewels themselves, marking the start of a wonderful adventure, “It was the best £60 I have ever spent,” she continues.
When Isabella started selling her creations, their authenticity and charming style quickly accumulated fans. “There were no expectations; we just followed our guts and paid less attention to what big successful brands were doing and instead, just focused on ourselves.” Along with that, she worked on expanding her reach, mainly using Instagram as the selling platform. “During the pandemic I saw a shift in the way people shopped; people were choosing to shop on Instagram, supporting small and local artists.”
Now, she is about the enter her 3rd year of Medical School and is also busy promoting Pongo across the country at markets, pop-up shops and in universities.
“I love my degree and it’s something I am really passionate about, but it definitely makes running the brand much harder,” Isabella admits. As expected, combining Pongo with university was not easy and it took a while for Isabella to adapt.
“I was up working until 3am most nights throughout November,” she says - a sentence that all students can relate to. “I would say the thing that has helped me most is time-blocking.” She explains how separating her day into sections (such as a block for gym, one for homework and one for Pongo work) helped her make her way through the busy days. She demonstrates the importance of organization and persistence.
Pongo England was not just created by young, inspired girls, but it continues to be represented by them. Isabella talks fondly of her team of ‘brand ambassadors’ who are university students across Europe who take images of the jewelry for her to use on social media. “It takes a huge amount of time to shoot pictures for each product and having such a lovely team of girls who love the brand as much as I do, to help me, is amazing!”. However, Isabella herself remains the sole jewelry maker and manager of the brand.
What’s next? “I think it is such a huge part of my life now and I have so much pride for what I have built that I can’t see myself stopping it for a while,” Isabella tells TalksForTeens. The help of friends and family along with the positive buyer experiences, enable her to hope for bigger collaborations and even to see her creations stocked in a shop one day.
To all students dreaming of starting a business of your own, remember to believe in what YOU like to do. Never do something because it worked for someone else but instead do something you enjoy. “If you let yourself be influenced by others’ work too heavily, you lose the originality which is vital for making a small business grow,” Isabella advises. Her final tip is to “Do it because you genuinely love it and not for any other reason.”
Isabella’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kwifski/