My Week: Krista Waddell, Ounces2Pounds

The gold buying entrepreneur on seedy pawn shops, smelting in Birmingham and why the novelty of Big Ben souvenirs wears out quickly.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
I live in Las Vegas, but I’ve been over in the UK this week to increase awareness of the business and do some interviews. I launched ounces2pounds (CHK) in the UK in March last year, and since then, I’ve been over about once a month to keep an eye on how the business is going.

This trip has been fun, because my husband came with me. We arrived on Sunday, and we’re staying in Marble Arch, which is a short walk from our office just off Regent Street. It’s been a hectic week, but we’ve managed to make a vacation of it because we don’t have the kids. The other day, I called the office and said, ‘we’re really tired so we’re going to sleep in, because we don’t get to, ever’. We even went to see We Will Rock You, which was great.

My business is all about gold parties – people invite their friends to a party to sell their gold to our gold experts, and the host gets a commission on it. Doing parties was important for me because there are so many preconceptions to overcome about buying gold. You’ve got the pawn shops in the past and then, when I was just starting up, all of a sudden these cash for gold mail-in type people came out – and they’re so seedy. All this bad publicity gives the whole industry a stigma, which is kind of what I was trying to get away from with the parties. At a party, you’ve having fun with your friends – it’s completely different to going down to a pawn shop.

Part of what I wanted to do this week was go along with some of our gold experts to the parties, just to make sure everything’s going as planned. My vision of the business is to have more upscale parties, so I like to do a spot check and make sure it’s being kept to. But everything’s going great – a lot of the women who work for us are stay-at-home mums, so they just do this in the evenings. In a lot of cases, they’re not even doing it for the extra money, it’s more to have something to do and have a way to keep their minds going. I think that when you don’t need a job, it ends up being a lot more fun.

One of the things we did this week was to go to the Birmingham Assay Office, where we smelted a bunch of the gold. Birmingham is great – I didn’t realise that it has more canals than Venice. The smelting process is really interesting. They take all the jewellery and divide it into bins that are about 10,000 grams each. Then they put it into a platinum pot, which is very hot, and the gold catches on fire. They pour the melted gold into a mould, which creates a bar which is very dull, and all the impurities float to the top, and they knock them all off. It’s complex stuff.

Going up to Birmingham was also interesting because I’ve never really been far out of London before. I drove up there with my manager, with these big bins full of gold jewellery, so we were trying to be incognito about it. That said, if you saw someone with a bin, would you think it was gold? That’s my thinking – you’re just as likely to get hit over the head when you have a backpack full of gold on as you are when you have a backpack full of soccer shoes.  

I feel a bit guilty because I haven’t bought presents for my kids yet. I usually find something at the airport – last time, I had a girlfriend with me and we both ended up getting the same headbands for our daughters at Accessorize. It’s perfect for little girls, though. Because I’m here every month, it’s like, how many Big Bens can you have?

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