Santander Interns boost award-winning jewellery company Hailstones Designs

Sue Hailstones, founder and designer of luxury jewellery company Hailstones Designs, recently worked with five Keele University students through the Santander internship scheme - and is reaping the rewards.

Each student was allocated 70 hours work, with a bursary being provided by Santander Universities, who have a long and successful history of supporting universities and small and medium-sized businesses in their local areas.

Hailstones Designs is a magnificent collection of unique glass jewellery for the discerning market, with many of Sue’s designs being inspired by places she has lived or visited. Her Saxon Flame collection is currently on display in Stoke-on-Trent’s Potteries Museum and was inspired by the Staffordshire Hoard. Sue's wonderful pieces are designed and manufactured by her in her workshop in Staffordshire and have attracted substantial media attention – both in the UK and worldwide - including a 2017 LUX global excellence award for best glass jewellery designer in the United Kingdom.

Sue is also an inspirational speaker for women and has considerable experience of staff management and training – she was therefore able to provide an excellent environment for the students to gain valuable work-related skills during their internship. Each intern had their own project plan, playing to their skills, knowledge and interests, with Sue organising regular one-to-ones and team meetings.

“My company is small with a limited budget, so access to university interns has enabled me to look at the rebranding of the business as well as being able to offer them professional support and mentoring,” Sue explains. “I sat down with them individually and as a team and we quickly identified how to make the most of this valuable time. Being able to assign chunks of work to the interns freed up some of my time to look at other business opportunities.”

Between them, the Hailstones interns have undertaken research and development to support the website rebranding, together with the writing of case studies and media stories for publication, website updates and functionality, new marketing materials and looking at rebranding opportunities.

Sue added: “The interns have made an amazing positive impact on my company within a short timescale – all of the interns were happy to do some additional training outside of their 70 hour placement, and I found them to be highly capable employees who were studious, methodical, reliable, flexible, fun and highly motivated. Having the opportunity to work with young people with fresh ideas has helped me move the business forward - and has been invaluable.”

The interns came from a range of backgrounds. Graduate Laura Johnston, who studied Criminology and Media, Communications and Culture, said: “I liked that my internship was flexible which was important to me, and I have gained a good insight into what owning a business involves. I was able to put my knowledge of communications, marketing and PR into real life practice as my role at Hailstones was to create promotional material, together with social media posts. I would describe Hailstones as personal, luxurious and passionate, and the best thing about working with Sue was that it was very personal and I would not have received the same amount of attention had it been a big company.”

Computer Science student Alex took on the role of WordPress Intern: “The highlight of my internship was being part of a well-coordinated team, and one particular moment that stands out is when Sue took the team to a web commerce course in Yarnfield. I would advise every student to try and do at least one internship during their time at Keele, as they can massively enrich your university experience and provide you with a good taste of work that will help you in a graduate job.”

Katie Charlton, who is studying for her Masters of Research degree in History, added: “The Santander internships scheme is a really rewarding and beneficial experience for students that helps prepare you for a job in the real world. Also, the application process helped me in constructing a CV and cover letter and showed me how to prepare for a job interview.”

Psychology and Sociology student Laura Brennan commented: “Sue was incredibly welcoming into her company. She treated our ideas with respect and was open with us about her business from the start. During my internship I got to interview several people in order to create blogs, including one of the co-designers of a future collection. This was invaluable experience for me and something I will remember through my career.”

For information on the opportunities available through the Keele-Santander programme please visit www.keele.ac.uk/internships. Details of other business support programmes available through Keele University’s Business Gateway can be found at www.keele.ac.uk/business.

For information on the Santander Universities commitment to Higher Education, please visit www.santander.co.uk/uk/santander-universities.