Alumna Sukhi Jutla (BSc Economics 2005) is co-founder of MarketOrders, an online B2B platform for the gold and diamond jewellery industry. An award-winning entrepreneur and author of three books, she is a leading international speaker, influencer and thought leader in tech. Here, Sukhi shares her journey to success.
It was only after studying Business Studies at college that Sukhi first came across the notion of running businesses and entrepreneurship. “Something in me really connected to this concept as I knew that at some point in the future I would love to run my own business,” Sukhi says. “This is why I opted to study Economics at Royal Holloway in the hope it would give me a good understanding of how markets worked. I enjoyed the breadth of topics we studied which taught me about how international markets operate as well as domestic trade. With hindsight, it set the groundwork for the work I do today!”
After graduating, Sukhi was not entirely sure what her career path would look like, but she knew she wanted to gain corporate experience working in the city for a prominent investment bank. She soon secured a highly sought out graduate position with a top US investment bank, but after only a few weeks she realised it wasn’t the place for her. “I found I didn’t actually enjoy working for banks,” Sukhi recalls. “This then led me into management consulting which I enjoyed much more and after five years I set up my own financial consultancy company.”
After a few years, Sukhi decided to leave banking altogether. “I thought all I ever wanted was a high powered role in the city working in finance but they do say be careful what you wish for. I became quite disillusioned with the corporate way of life and I wanted to work on something that allowed me to use more creativity and have a greater sense of freedom over my lifestyle.
“After discovering I was in the wrong line of work I started tinkering around with a number of different business ideas after work and over the weekends whilst I worked the day job. I experimented with re-training as a life coach, to running my own book publishing company, to having my own financial consultancy. I also met my co-founder during this time and agreed to help him on some of his own side projects which were in the jewellery industry.
“I started to learn about the gold and diamonds jewellery trade business, and we ran two businesses in this field working as international wholesalers. However, we struggled to scale the business and were self-funding everything and couldn’t get it profitable in a sustainable way. That is when we discovered by introducing technology in our business, we could get greater economies of scale and run the business operations with greater levels of efficiency and that is how MarketOrders was born.”
MarketOrders is developing a platform-based marketplace and provenance chain, specifically focused on helping retailers source the gold products they need more efficiently and at better prices, turning the traditional gold jewellery supply chain model upside down by digitising every element of the customer journey.
Along with her co-founder, Sukhi used her savings to fund the first iteration of the website to test demand. “We got our first customers using good old-fashioned techniques - by visiting our prospective customers in person and talking to them, building relationships with suppliers and gaining their trust.
“We also offered to photograph the products the suppliers had and put them onto our website as none of the suppliers had any online methods of ordering their stock. This led to orders being placed by retailers and we sold 2,000 grams of gold jewellery using our rudimentary website. Once we knew we had a valid business model we decided to raise our first round of funding which we did via equity crowdfunding in 2019.”
Has all the hard work been worth it? “I can honestly say it’s the most rewarding thing I have done to date,” Sukhi says, “but at the same time it’s also been very challenging because every business is different, and you find yourself constantly problem solving...which is not a bad thing because I am a solution finder!
“I love the intellectual challenges the business brings and the feeling of pushing through obstacles to make a real-life difference to an outdated industry.”
As MarketOrders success continues to grow, Sukhi has been recognised by a number of industry awards including the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, Management Todays ’35 Women Under 35′ and named a Top 100 European Digital Pioneer by The Financial Times and Google. She also made global headlines in 2018 when she became the World’s First #1 Bestselling ‘Blockchain’ Author.
Sukhi’s advice for anyone considering starting their own business is simple. “Go for it!!!” she says. “Don’t overthink it. My only regret is not doing it sooner. Today there are so many programmes and support available for students so start early. Join the entrepreneur’s society, test out your ideas on a small scale and you will learn all you need with each step you take.”