Tayma Page Allies takes it personally in growing her business and designing jewellery Tayma Page Allies has not slept much this week. As if making it to the ranks of Hong Kong retail royalty by being granted a prized lease in Prince's Building and then opening her new shop yesterday isn't stressful enough, now comes the hard part. With double the overheads of her old Lan Kwai Fong shop, she has to more than double her business rapidly to cover the difference. But, after 15 years building Tayma Fine Jewellery, she is sure the move on to the Central stage is the right one. Not just anyone can rent space in Hongkong Land's flagship Prince's Building. 'They are very good landlords, but very particular - they either want you or they don't. They're eager to get the mix right. Luckily, I fit the bill.' In Ms Page Allies' case, this means being, like many in Prince's Building, a bit different from the typical luxury brand in a high-end mall like Pacific Place. Like her husband, restaurateur Martin Allies, owner of Cafe Deco, she is a dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur. She personally designs, makes and sells her own distinctive jewellery using her trademark, coloured gemstones. A true international - 'I'm an expatriate child of expatriate parents,' she says. She has lived in four former British colonies, having been born in Malta and raised in Trinidad, before her father's job took the family to Nigeria. Since 1985, Hong Kong has been home. Employed initially by the Hong Kong Trade Fair Group, she organised the first Money Show in 1987 at the old exhibition hall in China Resources Building in Wan Chai. After five years of working in Hong Kong and China and studying her passion, gemology, she started Tayma Page and Associates, launching French fashion label Montague in China with groundbreaking shows, first in Beijing, then Tianjin and Shanghai. After three years dabbling in jewellery design for friends, she realised she was spending 70 per cent of her time organising exhibitions that generated 30 per cent of her income, while the 30 per cent of her time she devoted to jewellery-making produced 70 per cent of her income. But unless you inherit a fully stocked jewellery business, starting from scratch needs capital. And she had only $10,000 - her HSBC overdraft. 'With that money I made three rings, had lunch with two girlfriends, got two orders and it started from there.' Initially, her trademark was freshwater pearl necklaces of unusual lengths. Standard length was 16 inches, so she did thick ropes and longer swathes. She sourced unusual pearl colours long before they became trendy. Fifteen years ago, the freshwater pearl industry was in its infancy. 'It was all rice krispie shapes and horrible dyed colours. I used to get beautiful ones through an old gentleman from Shanghai and sell them at parties.' But her real launch pad was the long-gone Hilton Hotel Christmas fair. She had only a small table but business took off. 'I schlepped around to friends' houses and had jewellery parties - they're called trunk shows now.' She has repeat customers from those early days. Over the years, the collection has grown. It is capital-intensive because every time she sells a piece, it means reinvesting in a replacement. Seven years ago, she opened a compact 400 square foot outlet upstairs in D'Aguilar Street. This week, she made the big move to Prince's Building. Why move to expensive new premises now? 'The jewellery needs to be seen by more people. There were no walk-bys in Lan Kwai Fong. There I was a destination, but to grow the business I need people passing by.' With three full-time staff and two part-timers, Ms Page Allies is self-funded, having reinvested all along the way. Realistically, can she double the business? It is a good location on the second floor near that expatriate magnet Oliver's. 'I hope so. For me, the only suitable location is this one, it's the only one that's still eclectic, still has boutiques and owner-occupied shops, you just don't get that in the big malls.' The acid test is whether she can widen the client base beyond the expatriates and American and English-educated Chinese. 'Your classic Hong Kong ladies still go to their old family jewellers, so I tend to have more stockbrokers, bankers, lawyers and working women who are buying for themselves.' Self-treating women are big spenders. 'If you are in your thirties and you work hard and you get your bonus, you treat yourself.' People in this bracket think nothing of spending $6,000 to $10,000 on a handbag that lasts six months. The appeal of jewellery is that you can spend the same amount but it lasts a lifetime. Women still wait for their fiances to buy them the big diamond, she says, but they enjoy buying less formal items such as cocktail rings for themselves. 'The idea that it must be a man who buys you jewellery is a bit out of date.' Her gemstones come from Brazil, Afghanistan, South Africa, Burma and Sri Lanka and her bright, bold designs look very different from the window displays of local shops. 'They are mostly using traditional materials like jade, which are often factory produced.' Service is key. Customers go for fittings when the piece is half-made, avoiding expensive mistakes. Prices start at about $3,000, but she hand-makes in 18 carat gold or platinum with the best stones. Even though her turnover is now 'multimillion dollar', expanding overseas holds no appeal. 'Overseas is import-export - I just want one shop and to do it well.'