At the end of a busy Friday (most of Kayleigh’s days are busy) we sit down in her office to talk about how she established Sour Cherry.

She has her own office, separated from the main office space, this room emphasises Kayleigh’s maximalist style, there are lots of jewellery samples, dog beds in the corner and of course … It’s painted pink.

Talking to Kayleigh reminded me of my interview for a Saturday job in 2021, except this time I was the one with a list of questions, and things were a lot more relaxed.

Kayleigh is the heart and soul of Sour Cherry. The main takeaway I had talking to Kayleigh is that the business wouldn’t be where it is without failures and taking risks. I know that can sound cliché and the start of many TED talks, but I was genuinely astonished learning about how much the company had grown before I started working at Sour Cherry in October 2021.

Sour Cherry Afflecks shop

How 'Sour Cherry' was named

Kayleigh started making Resin Jewellery in her parent’s garage, she explains that it was an easy entry point because the equipment wasn’t too expensive. Her first designs were made from sweets, such as the sprinkles bangle, she was testing what would work in resin.

When Kayleigh first started, she wanted to call the business ‘Bells & Whistles,’ however, when researching what would make a successful name it should be something that isn’t too complicated to spell because the online algorithm doesn’t work how it does now. She only used this name for a few weeks before realising it wasn’t going to work. She instead decided to go with a sweet related name, after extensively researching what was in the domain, she decided on Sour Cherry and never looked back.

Resin heart pendant filled with sprinkles

So, how did it begin?

Kayleigh always had an interest in jewellery. In college, she studied IT & Business and soon realised it wasn’t for her, after finishing her A levels, alongside working, Kayleigh began taking evening courses in dressmaking and silversmithing, and she soon discovered a creative role was right for her.

Whilst working in retail, Kayleigh decided to study beauty therapy, which she loved. However, this was in 2008 and when the recession hit, Kayleigh couldn’t get any beauty-related jobs. Whilst relentlessly applying for jobs, she started making jewellery at home, hoping to make some money while figuring things out.

Kayleigh then went on to explain how different the online market was in 2009. She was using a website that even by older standards she described as dated, and typically you had to be a bit more established for people to buy off you. There also wasn’t social media marketing like there is now, but Kayleigh began posting on Facebook as soon as she started making jewellery. 

Amazon then started stocking Kayleigh's jewellery and although things were a lot busier than before, Kayleigh was still working in a nightclub to fund Sour Cherry. She explained that as she was living at home, her car was her main expense, and most of her money went straight into the business.

Burnt out by the recession, Kayleigh decided to go back into education, styudying accounts and financial management in Sheffield. She explained how she wanted a job that she saw as "recession-proof." As her loans covered her rent and basic bills, she could quit her job to focus more on Sour Cherry whilst studying. At this point, Kayleigh still saw the business as a side hustle.

So when did she start thinking Sour Cherry could be a legitimate business? 

During her placement year at the university, she wanted to grow the business as part of her placement, however, she wasn't allowed. She was instead given the option to take a year out of her studies; at the end of her first year of university, she got the keys to their first shop in the Forum in 2013.

Sour Cherry old Sheffield Shop

When Kayleigh was working full-time at Sour Cherry in the forum, she decided she didn’t want to finish her last year in university and instead finished with a diploma in higher education. Kayleigh carried on working with her cousin full-time at Sour Cherry. During this time, they moved into a bigger space in the Forum, which they separated into a shop and studio space.

However, they eventually decided it was difficult to make a steady profit, so it made more sense for the business to move online, so they moved into a cheaper office space out of the city centre in 2016.

The big move to Manchester

In 2017, the company began relocating to Manchester, Kayleigh’s cousin was running their first shop in Affleck’s and Kayleigh was shipping orders from home in Sheffield. 

However, customers weren't sure where they could buy what products so the shop was refitted to stock all the products Sour Cherry had at the time.

Sour Cherry old Afflecks store

Affleck’s then offered Sour Cherry a bigger space (that we’re still in now!), which was double the rent, which Kayleigh describes as terrifying, however, as big spaces didn’t come up very often, they took the risk. There was no money for new stock or fixtures that were needed, so everything was repurposed from the old shop, trying to fill the space.

Once the new shop was opened, sales immediately doubled, and the bigger shop was doing extremely well. In the summertime, Anna was employed (she is now our production manager ❤️).

Opening the second Afflecks shop

... 2020

Cut to early 2020 … Ana and Kayleigh made the, erm, very well-timed decisions to quit their jobs and work at Sour Cherry full-time. Good thing nothing bad was about to happen.

COVID hit the company hard. Kayleigh and Ana weren't eligible for furlough. There was no way to access the shop to send online orders, and everything was at a standstill for WEEKS. 

When people could eventually go back into Affleck’s to collect stock, everyone worked hard to ensure all the products were added online and take the majority of stock to Kayleigh's house, where she began shipping orders from home ... again.

During the lockdown, sales were extremely slow, and the company savings were quickly dwindling paying wages. Ana and Kayleigh were making designs for jewellery and put their efforts into preparing for the shop to reopen. 

One week in May, the company only made approximately £200, insufficient to pay anyone’s wages. In a moment of desperation, Kayleigh put a very gutsy honest post out explaining how the company hadn’t made much money, so if people wanted anything, they should get it soon because they weren’t sure how much longer it was viable to stay open.

Kayleigh describes how this really opened people’s eyes, and in the next 24 hours, sales tripled. This was a tipping point for the business and ensured Sour Cherry could hold out through the pandemic.

In June 2020, shops reopened, Kayleigh describes it as "a relief because you don’t know if you’re going to reopen and if anyone is going to be there. But because Affleck’s opened a couple of weeks later and people had already been out shopping, there’s less fear of it.”

What ensued, as everyone can remember in their own lives, was months of chaos, confusion and restrictions, but Sour Cherry was through the worst of it. In April 2021 Kayleigh explained that for everyone to do their jobs more efficiently they had to hire more staff, which, like many larger decisions in the last few years was risky, again, extremely honestly Kayleigh explained to new hires that they were starting on a 3-month contract because they weren’t sure if they could afford them.

Outside the Afflecks shop during covid

I was talking to Kayleigh about how I assumed the company was extremely well formed when I started in October 2021 and she explained her mindset very well:

“I always think of it like this, it goes up and down, but if you can keep going up a bit, you get somewhere”

In the summer of 2022, the company had reached another standstill, Kayleigh explained that nothing they were doing was working, so they had to make some cutbacks before it led to having to make some tougher decisions.

Since then the company has been extremely fortunate to keep growing the company without any major stepbacks and we managed to open another successful shop in the Leeds Corn Exchange, Sour Cherry now has over 20 staff employed, all being paid a living wage. This is something Kayleigh has always believed in and is very proud of. 

The Sour Cherry Leeds store