How to Start a Profitable Online Jewelry Business Without Any Previous Experience – Angela (Li) Right of Azura Jewelry (Video)
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Today on TrepTalks we learn how to start a profitable online jewelry business from scratch. I am thrilled to share this interview with the amazing entrepreneur Angela Right who is the mind behind the successful ecommerce business Azura Jewelry. Angela shares how she started a profitable online jewelry business without any previous experience.
Resources Mentioned in the Episode
What You’ll Learn
Segment 1: The Story
In this segment, we will briefly discover the story behind the entrepreneur, businessperson, or brand.
- Could you please share the Startup story for Azure Jewelry? How did you come up with the idea? What were the first steps taken, initial investment etc?
- What was the idea validation process? How quickly did you make your first sale?
Segment 2: The Business
In this segment, we will dive into the business and explore topics related to business strategy and tactics.
Start a Profitable Online Jewelry Business
- Your jewelry design and quality looks amazing. How is your jewelry different from what else is available in the market? (i.e. what is the value proposition)? Who is your main customer?
- Is the design and manufacturing in-house? How was the product selection grown from the beginning?
- Which marketing efforts gave you the best results early on?
- What does your team look like right now?
- Would you consider having a storefront for your jewelry in the future? Or selling through other retailers?
- With all the experience you have now, if you were starting the same business from scratch today, what would you do differently?
Segment 3: The Digital
In this segment, we will explore questions related to eCommerce and digital strategy and tactics.
- What are the main digital channels you currently sell through?
- What are the most effective digital marketing channels for you? How effective is the brand ambassador program?
- Do you do in-house fulfillment? What is the strategy behind offering free shipping and international shipping?
- Product photography and copy, is it in-house or outsourced?
- Email marketing strategy?
Segment 4: Rapid Fire
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
- One book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs/business professionals in 2020 and why (Response: 4-hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss)
- An innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Selling On-line Courses)
- A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend (Response: Asana, Slack and Loom)
- A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things (Response: Mejurie)
- A peer entrepreneur or business-person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Gary Vee)
- Best business advice you ever received or would give (Response: There’s no failure, failure is just feedback)
Start a Profitable Online Jewelry Business
Sushant: Hey there entrepreneurs my name is Sushant and welcome to Trep Talks. This is the show where I interview successful
entrepreneurs business executives thought leaders and asked them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the
strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses and today I am so excited to welcome Angela right. Angela is
the founder of Asura jewelry Asura is a jewelry brand that offers beautifully handcrafted jewelry made from ethically sourced sterling silver
and semi-precious natural stones and today I want to ask Angela a few questions about her startup story and some of the strategies and
tactics that she has used to grow her ecommerce business. So thank you so much for joining us today Angela.
Angela: Thank you so much for having me.
Sushant: So we’re going to start the interview with the first segment which is called the story and in this segment I want to discover the story
behind the entrepreneur business or the brand. So why don’t you tell us what motivated you to start a jewelry how did you get the idea and
what were some of the first steps that you took to to start the business?
Angela: Sure it’s actually a long story back to where I I was born and grown up in China and my family was actually have a ballet persecuted
by a Chinese communist government back then. So yeah so we have experienced the first hand of terror of Cultural Revolution. And for
those who don’t know what Cultural Revolution is it’s basically a notorious Chinese movement where the stated goal is to preserve the rebbe
preserve communism and by purging the remnants of you know intellectuals and capitalists. So my grandpa was the financial minister of
China he is capitalist and not communist and my grandma was the Chang the the daughter of Chinese ambassador to Japan and we also
the the relatives of the first president of Taiwan Shanghai shark who is the who is they you know the chairman of capitalist rather than
communist so inevitably my family become one of the biggest target. And back then my my grandpa was in prison for pretty long time my
grandma she was this gorgeous gorgeous lady and they should wave to her long hair in the public demonstration to like a basically boat. And
she was terribly humiliated and soon like passed away. After the demonstration my parents who are like tortured and interrogated for pretty
long time so back then growing up in that kind of environment I was always taught by my parents that put your head down and don’t voice
your opinion don’t stand out to do that is just to save my life. Right and to our family case was reversed in 1992 and I was able to go to
school and but you know growing up in that environment I wasn’t always confident. So back in college I always trying to you know find a good
job in a prestigious firm so that I can provide to my family financially.
Sushant: And this is the New York?
Angela: That no that’s back in Shanghai because okay I only moved to New York eight years like I moved to DC that’s where I got my MBA
degree okay two years and then I moved to New York so that was back in yeah in China. And so the first I what I remember is that when I
was doing my first interview trying to find a job like after my college my mom gave gives me this pair of earrings and it’s it looks like a tiny
blooming flowers I put them all and I instantly felt different hmm if that was so special I was like wow such I can see taller I can walk out the
door with a new confidence. I just realized such a tiny things that I have a such a big meaning in my life but that was really the moment that
really ignite my love for jewelry. That was also the beginning of Azura even though at that time I haven’t realized. So after that I I moved to I
worked in China for five years and I came today I moved to the u.s. To pursue my MBA degree and this is only eight years like maybe
2Angela: 2 that was 2Angela: 1 yeah okay was 2Angela: 1. I moved to the US and got my MBA in 2Angela: 3. So I started having a wall
street job doing private equity and hedge fund investing so for five years I realized actually two years into the industry I realized that wasn’t
my calling. And I start like I keep coming back off the idea of having my own business. So eventually in 2Angela: 7 as Laura was actually
established in New York in 2Angela: 7 end of May and after a year after that I quit my job hmm and start pulling me to my business it’s
basically the backstory of.
Sushant: And the reason you quit your job was that and within that one year period you were already you had already started having enough
revenue that you felt confident that yes now I can quit my job?
Angela: Yes there wasn’t a revenue that comparable to my salary back then but it was sufficient enough to to make for me to make sure that
okay that’s a viable business.
Sushant: So it’s very interesting because starting a jewelry business is probably not I mean you know having no background in jewelry or
anything like that what were some of the first steps that you took you know when you said okay I want to go into a jewelry business what
were some of those first step that you that you took to to get the business started?
Angela: so when I started it was just really a pure passion and also some some logical thinking because jewelry is small it’s lightweight so I
think oh the shipping cost and inventory cost would be low you know and perceive the value is high so there is a lot of money to work in
between that was my logical thinking. but also after I got into the business I realized I’m wrong because jewelry is so hard to stand out it’s like
a clothing business it’s very cutthroat competitive. so that is the reason I actually got into the business in the past several years we actually
pivot the business two to three times until we find a really sweet spot of our pricing of our value proposition so yeah so – back then when we
started we actually working on building a community on social media platforms that’s actually pay paid off.
Sushant: so so basically you said you pivoted a few times so initially when you launched you hadn’t found that product market fit you hadn’t
found the right tribe that that would buy your jewelry?
Angela: from the design from the pricing from the material that we are using we actually haven’t found that sweet spot we changed a couple
Sushant: yeah okay and after you launch like how quickly did you make your first sale was it like within days within months?
Angela: we made our first sale I think within the first month I get two to three weeks but then it was a really quite period for like a month or
two yeah in – yeah I think for businesses it’s a process of figuring how the world works what does it and making adjustment fast.
Sushant: and your business is completely e-commerce like it’s completely online there’s no okay we wear our brands are carried several
stores and boutiques but our main source of revenue is Ecommerce.
Sushant: yeah okay so now we’re going to move on to our next segment which I call the business and in this segment I will focus a little bit
more on your business and ask a few more questions about some of the business strategies and tactics that you use to start and grow you
business. so as I was referring a little bit before you know starting a jewelry business from scratch you know when you get an idea it’s like I
probably wouldn’t know where to where to begin so can you tell a little bit and when I look at your Instagram page and your e-commerce
shop the photographs that you have there like your jewelry looks really amazing it’s like really beautiful so how what is what is your value
proposition as in terms of you know what you’re offering and how is it different from what else is available in the market like how do you
differentiate your jewelry from what else is available?
Angela: yes so Azura jewelry is mainly targeting the to bridge of the gap the quality and the price gap between fine jewelry that you Spode
and diamonds cost like 5Sushant: plus and those fashion jewelry you know that use brass stainless steel and glasses fabric relatively
cheaper you know materials that’s not gonna last long so we are somewhere in between we basically pricing ourselves from 80 to 170 and
we use ethically sourced sterling silver as our base model and plated with 14 karat gold and we only work with natural authentic gemstones
so it’s a piece that can last forever but it doesn’t cost you an arm or a leg to purchase that’s basically where we find our sweet spot in this
Sushant: and and as you were mentioning before that you had to pivot a few times right now what have you found your main customer to be
like have you narrowed it down to a certain segment of the population in you know even in I know most of your jewelry is probably targeted to
the female market.
Angela: actually we target both market in the female market so male market is relatively it’s also a really big gifting markets and the
conversion value is actually really high for our male customers okay yeah so female markets that they actually buy gifts for themselves for
their families as well but male market is definitely also a big part we basically target anybody from 18 to 55 and who have who have a really
sense of great sense of self and sense of style they know who they are they actually multiple Kisan the value rather than some big brand
names so that’s our like yeah customer seconds.
Sushant: and what was that pivoting process like how did you know was it that initially the design or the quality that you were using for your
jewelry was different and then you realize you know this is not working really well so maybe you changed something can you describe a little
bit of that process of how you came to where you are today?
Angela: sure so at the very beginning it’s solely arbitrage model where we buy low and sell high and that is that is that didn’t work out for us
because we had many different styles and the until we narrowed down we realized hey actually denty and stack posted styles work much
better in the u.s. in the european market which is two of our main markets at this moment not America and Europe in Austria so we started to
narrow down on the design and later on we realized hey the materials that we use in jewelry is actually play a very big role when in you know
consumers buying decisions so we continue to narrow down on the materials we decided to use sterling silver not too expensive but it’s also
like not like any like cheap materials like brass or stainless steels and we decided to use gemstones natural authentic gemstones to really
make it stand out because we also position ourselves as a women empowerment brand we indeed believe there’s a lot of like energy and
healing properties with natural gemstones so that is also along with our brand position and then we changed again and so that’s where we
are today with us for jewelry.
Sushant: and and right now when you were doing the arbitrage like where you wind the jewelry from a different country and now are you still
like what is the manufacturing process?
Angela: no now we no longer model we actually design our own jewelry and we work with our production partners to produce our jewelry and
and usually it’s made in the US or yes in Europe we actually work with so our pleading partners are in New Jersey and we work with jewelers
in Europe they actually from India India.
Sushant: India had a big jewelry tradition and culture.
Angela: yeah if you ever come to New York you all know that diamond district the diamond district is a really really big gemstone and jewelry
market for manufacturing trading so basically you there is some process where you come up with the design and then that design is
transferred to these jewelers they create the jewelry and then you basically buy at this moment so initially when you had launched in
2Angela: 7 and I know that at that time it didn’t work and then you tried something different and it worked.
Sushant: what were some of the marketing initial marketing that you did that that that gave results to you?
Angela: so even to today I think in the past two three years the our efforts really solely focus on Instagram that’s where we that’s where our
top 1Sushant: we’re bringing about 60 or 70% of co traffic through Instagram there’s also our me know of the funnel where we use it to
nurture our leads and build a trust with we we treated as like customer support channel I’m throwing kept answering questions like engaging
with our customers and until we bring them to the website you know we left it the rest of it to you know the website conversion and email
marketing but yeah it’s really just based on Instagram from the beginning to the end.
Sushant: and and what does your team look like right now do you have like employees or are you like a one-person operation?
Angela: so I myself we have two customer service we have one social media marketing manager one social media social media manager
who is also our graphic designer because we need a lot of like a graphic design for our instant stories for our like posts we also have a
marketing manager was just problem or at the beginning of this month.
Sushant: and are these like remote positions or their in-house yeah all remote positions especially now we really don’t feel like we need any
like positions based in New York?
Angela: yeah so there are remote positions we also have a part-time web developer just to help us to manage the conversions and any
specifics of our website and these remote are they like based out of us or they are like outside of us they’re both so yeah so our social media
manager is actually based in the US and the rest positions are based outside of us.
Sushant: by the way your social media your Instagram and Pinterest like really really great it looks really beautiful it’s like really well
managed yeah I mean with all the experience that you have now starting and growing your business you know I think almost three years of
experience now with all the knowledge that you have now if you were starting the same business from scratch today like what what would
you do differently?
Angela: so that the attraction the time that it takes for you to get the traction is reduced I think I would first validate my product that’s a very
necessary step that I actually didn’t take that was the reason that we had to community times after that and to really bring an attraction what
how would you do that no like what would be your process. I think I think what jewelry specifically as you would be a good market to really
test and see how the market reacts to your your brand and just do a lot of like marketing and initially maybe beauty you know your Instagram
or Facebook page and run on some small ads to see how customer reacted to your products that’s what I would do but I actually purchased
a lot of the inventory up front and trying to sell them um that didn’t work out well so yeah that’s what I would do it on this small quantity and I
guess I guess even now like if you’re coming up with a new design or if you want to test out something different.
Sushant: I think now it would be really easy for you to simply you know take the design put it on Instagram and see how people are reacting
Angela: that’s actually what we’re doing with our Instagram story we putting up several designs and ask a customer their opinion because
Instagram story has a really good poll like you can take surveys you can take pose and you can really listen to what their customer wants
and needs before you’re really investing in certain design we also start doing pre-orders so we give a certain discount to people who make
pre-orders up front and then we decided if this is a design that we will continue to make our way well just it would be like a just one-time deal.
Sushant: pre-ordering is just on your site people can go and do the pre-order
Sushant: okay so now we are going to move on to our third segment which I call the digital and in this segment I’m going to ask you a few
questions specifically about your digital business and also digital marketing strategy so I know that you have your main website and I also
saw that you had an Etsy store we have where you had a lot of could you share a little bit about like all the different store fronts that you’re
selling are you selling in on Amazon eBay other places also
Angela: no way manages sell all our Shopify website this is actually our main website we don’t use Etsy as much it’s just a place that where
we maintain a presence let me put this way yeah so all like if you check out our Pinterest if you check out our Instagram everything actually
lead customer to our website our website and Etsy is so it’s not really a big source of driving your revenues it’s like 5% 10% it’s not a big
source of revenue and we didn’t really put much effort so I’d see as well yeah okay it was just at the very beginning when we build a brand
we try to be as many places as possible so that yeah so our customer can find us so that was just there for that bonus.
Sushant: okay now I know as you mentioned before also most of your marketing is Instagram focused but you also have a Pinterest page
that drives people to your website can you share a little bit you know focusing on Instagram and you have a huge audience on Instagram
what did it take for you to build that audience from scratch how long did it take you and I know I know jewelry makes a really good Instagram
product because it’s very visual and it looks really beautiful on photography could you share a little bit few tips that you have learned along
the way in terms of building an audience and engagement on Instagram?
Angela: yeah so the the main first like Instagram serve as the main source of traffic for us right and the way that we’re building Instagram
following is really mainly through our hashtag strategy and being on an export page and also creating shareable content it is extremely
important for us to the reason that you see it we have a logo on all of our images is because our product pictures are highly shareable and
people share it to their stories to their Instagram pages and a lot of people coming back actually expand over brand and we also use very
specific hashtag strategies where we find where we find you know the the size of the hashtags and engagement of the hashtags and we
analyze our like compare competency in all those hashtags in waste or utilize them strategically in our Facebook in our Instagram posts in
order for our product to be in front of like the the people otherwise we wouldn’t be able to reach that in a way also really focus on our
engagement rate that’s what helped us to be an explorer page most many many you know like yeah customers potential who jewelry lovers
that’s basically the three main strategies that we use to grow our traffic and the followers Instagram.
Sushant: and do you use like any Instagram analytics tools – that helps you to monitor like engagement and things like that or is it more like
Angela: we don’t so we know like later would be a good app to use but we actually don’t use any anything it’s everything I think the the
system is simple and organic enough to for you to just do like menu you know analyze rather than using any apps yeah.
Sushant: and one thing that is definitely noticeable both on your website and also your Instagram and Pinterest channel is the the product
photography and also the the copy that is on the products on your e-commerce website which is very well written I’m very interested in
knowing like what how do you take those photos and and what is the process of writing that copy.
Angela: so the pictures with the web background pictures you see are actually coming from professional for the workers that we ourselves to
taking the product to pictures and all the lifestyles I actually take them myself on my iPhone just we I really enjoy showcase our myself so
that’s part of like a math hobby oh yeah so I just take them using the flat lace style we actually at a very beginning we analyzed what is the
viral content on Instagram hmm giving hashtags we find what kind of style of the pictures customer are most acceptable they really like and
we followed basically the same design and the flat layer of the pictures and that’s how we in way area our you you can see all the pictures
have our branded color it’s like in lighter so we wanted to keep them in a consistent theme that’s how we position our productive pictures
yeah and your copy is also written like by an agency or how do you do poppy a written by our social media managers okay on Instagram yes
no no on your on your website on a website we also yes we also have a bloggers who work with us on a part-time basis that’s or her
Sushant: okay great I one thing that I notice is that you’re offering free shipping all over the US and you also ship internationally now I think
jewelry probably makes an easier product to ship because it’s probably light and you know compact and things like that how do you do you
do the fulfillment in-house or do you work with a partner that helps you to to ship internationally how do you what is the cost structure to ship
let’s say in or to product to Australia or do some of these like countries overseas?
Angela: yeah you’re absolutely right that’s one of the consideration because jewelry shipping cost is relatively low its small products we offer
free shipping in order to optimize our conversion rate and we use 3pl human Center in New Jersey to ship off all of our products at this
moment and for international orders we offer free shipping for others orders over $2Sushant: if it’s below to Han dollars we have a heavily
subsidized the rate of basically 10 bucks 995 to help them ship to anywhere in the world so yeah we did we indeed see a big increase on
cost of shipping just you’re in the covet this year a lot of canceled and delayed flights we had some troubles with the International shipping
but now we’re seeing yeah you something partner is like FedEx or UPS or so we basically we only use USPS and DHL okay that’s two for
international shipping for expressway use DHL and other than that we use USPS.
Sushant: okay one more question in the digital your email marketing one thing that I noticed on your website you don’t really have a really
great like email capture thing I know in the footer you have like an email thing given that most of your audience are coming from Instagram
how do you do you capture email addresses because I mean as a business owner I would be worried that you know Instagram changes
something in their algorithm and all of a sudden you know I’m not getting as much engagement or I’m not getting as many people coming to
the to my platform or you know they do so many different things so you know I would want to you know capsule that email address how are
you doing that right now.
Angela: yeah we do we actually do have an email a subscription pop-up but it show up like once you close it off like it won’t show up until
another week oh that’s your change yeah yeah unless you change your you know Explorer like from Chrome or to like you know Safari so we
indeed have that to capture and we use a lot of like automatic flows like we have a welcome serious telling customers about our brand
stories we have abandoned card series we have cross and absent cross-selling and upselling we have a loyalty programs to encourage
customer making repeated purchase we also on a weekly basis Monday and Tuesday we have our campaigns going out so yeah that’s
basically our email marketing.
Sushant: okay and now I’m going to move on to our final segment which is called the rapid-fire round and the idea here is that I’m going to
ask you a few questions and you have to answer them in you know a few words or one or two sentences so the first question is would you
recommend a book for entrepreneurs or business persons in 2020 and why
Angela: well Four Hour Work Week it’s an old book but it’s still applicable today yeah
Sushant: an innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce retail or tech landscape that you’re excited about
Angela: well I think selling digital courses has been really big in 2020 and having a membership you know subscription models still early too
Sushant: and do you think that you would do that sometime in the future like building
Angela: maybe yes
Sushant: a productivity tool or software that you find useful
Angela: we use asana slack and also loom three big things that were using to manage our team
Sushant: okay a startup or business an ecommerce retailer tag that you think is doing great things right now
Angela: I really like this Canadian jewelry brand Mejuri I think they are definitely one of the best startup out there what is it call it called my
jewelry my jewelry okay yeah Canadian
Sushant: ok a pear entrepreneur or business person who inspires you
Angela: a business person who inspired me I would say garyvee ok yeah given that you know most of your marketing and social media
Sushant: and finally the best business advice either you received or you would give to an an online entrepreneur who’s just starting out
Angela: I will say there is no failure failure it’s just a feedback perfect yeah until you give up
Sushant: thank you thank you so much those those were all the questions that I had today Angela thank you I’m I really want to thank you
for all your insights and sharing your story and I really really appreciate your time please anyone who wants to get in touch with you for any
reason what is the best way to get in touch with you and if you want to share your any other products or services please go ahead sure so
our website is 3wl jewellery calm easy you are a gwe AR white calm and everybody can find me at my email Angela at Rotorua perfect thank
you so much Angela really appreciate your time today and thanks again for joining us that trip Cox thank you so much English (auto-
Start a Profitable Online Jewelry Business
Also watch my interview with Nuun CEO Kevin Rutherford.
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