Tagged: jewelry blog

The Journey of Female Entrepreneurs

Around October of 2014 I decided to embark on a journey that would forever change my life. Up until that point I spent six years working as a corporate lawyer on venture capital, private equity, and mergers and acquisitions transactions in NYC and Shanghai; fell in love with startups and started investing in them in 2008; then left my career in law to help Jewelry Tyrant Daddy grow his high-end jewelry manufacturing business; started my own jewelry atelier; and was pretty much in a good place because I was learning, growing, and enjoying my work. However, I knew that I was just getting started. I loved working with clients to design bespoke jewelry that reflected each of their individual aesthetics and continued to try to grow my atelier but I kept seeing the same points of friction frustrating my clients in the jewelry buying process and the same inefficiencies were holding back my company from growing. So I committed to doing something about it. I decided to take everything I learned about technology, venture capital, investing in startups, and the vertical fine jewelry pipeline and build a startup that would solve both the problems that clients face when they are trying to buy jewelry and the inefficiencies that designers and brands are burdened with when trying to build and scale their jewelry businesses–I would build my own jewelry technology startup.

This blog has always been about baubles, bling, and banter and I grappled with whether or not I should expand its scope to include my life as a startup founder and female entrepreneur. Starting up a tech company for the first time is scary enough as it is and I have so very much to learn along the way. Not only do I have to come up with a solid concept for a business, I also have to build a team that has the necessary skill set to help me develop the product and build the business, figure out how to fund my startup, create a company culture that will allow my team to feel supported in order to actualize on their potential, manage my investors, put out fires (and boy will there will be fires…), live a well-rounded balanced life, and stay sane in the process. Most startups fail. Most never see the light of day. So this begs the question: Why the hell would I blog about my process of building a startup and risk failing publicly for all the world to see?

Everyone has been buzzing about female entrepreneurs these past few years. There have been countless articles on the rise of the female entrepreneur, debate over what Silicon Valley thinks of women (scroll down in the comments section of the Newsweek article to read my response–I was miffed), a growing movement around teaching women how to become entrepreneurs and how to invest, creation of resources for women founders to find funding, etc. But here is the thing, of all the resources out there and the success stories that are newly trickling in, I think there is value in a female founder putting herself out there and going through the process publicly so that other girls, women and even dudes can follow along; because as Chelsea Clinton said at the Lincoln Center Women in Philanthropy and Female Leadership Breakfast, “It is hard for us to envision what we cannot see.” So if my posts make it less scary for even one woman or girl somewhere out there to make the leap and start her own company, then whatever consequences I face as a result of undergoing this process publicly will have been worth it.

I intend to write as accurately as I can and as often as I can about the things I have to learn in order to build a tech startup and take it to launch and beyond, post links to resources that I have found helpful, hash out my decision-making processes, and be as honest as possible about the emotions and the ups and downs that I encounter along the way. This is not an arrogant attempt to show the world how it’s done. Let’s be honest, I have no idea how it’s done because I’ve never done it before and every day I encounter something new that I know nothing about and have to get up to speed ASAP. This is me, your ever-quirky and often ridiculous Bling Fairy going about my business and blogging about it so that others can witness the process. There will be times when I am wrong and there will be times that I’m killing it, but it is my hope that by writing about my experiences as I encounter them and doing it publicly not only will I learn from the process as I look back on it but someone else out there will find value in it too. So here we go…

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

About

It was a long and convoluted road that brought me here. Well, yes and no. I was born into a jewelry family. My great-grandfather began working for British jewelry company, Alexander Clark, and acquired their China operations in the late 1800’s and transformed the company from a diamond merchant and metal-smithing business into the finest jewelry store in China. Alexander Clark Company (Shanghai), Ltd. (安康洋行) took up the entire first floor of the infamous Sassoon House, which later became the Peace Hotel on the Bund in Shanghai and we were the sole purveyors of famous international jewelry brands such as Cartier, Lalique, Rolex, Mikimoto, Vacheron Constantin, etc. Shanghai was a chic and prosperous international port at the time and we were responsible for making its inhabitants glisten.


About

About AboutMy grandfather, Jack Poh, took over Alexander Clark from his father, and the advertisement for Rolex watches below was from the 1940’s during grandpa’s time at the helm. My father, Johnson Poh, used to visit the store as a child and his job was to wind all the grandfather clocks after school; he still recalls the elation he felt from hearing over forty grandfather clocks chime together simultaneously. It was assumed that my father would succeed my grandfather when the time came but that would never come to pass as the store was closed as a result of the Cultural Revolution.

 

AboutMy parents moved to NYC (oh yes, I am a New Yorker through and through.  I almost called this blog “Bagels and Diamonds” but then I thought, “Choking hazard!”) after I was born and my dad took up an apprenticeship at a jewelry manufacturing company in 1982. I remember going up to his bench as a toddler and standing on tiptoes to marvel at all the sparkly gems and the gold dust that accumulated. I was told never to touch anything on his bench and I always obeyed. By 1987, he started his own manufacturing company on 47th street in the Diamond District. Whenever I went to the workshop to visit him I was given the very important job of sweeping up the gold dust from the jewelers benches and scouring the floor for diamonds that may have popped out of the jewelers’ tweezers during the manufacturing process. Even now when you visit my father’s company and go into the workshop at the end of the day you will see the most junior apprentice sweeping up the gold dust from the other master jewelers’ benches–although no one can beat me when it comes to looking for floor diamonds (I once found a 3.88 carat blue sapphire on the pavement on 47th street and I wasn’t even trying).

Needless to say, with such a pedigree I developed a special understanding of and relationship with jewelry early on. At the age of five I used to design futuristic jewelry–I think it was a combination of the fashion of the 80’s and my obsession with The Jetsons–a cartoon set in the future–that influenced my design aesthetic at the time.  It was probably around that same age that my father gifted me with my first diamond ring.  An adorable little gold flower with a diamond in its center.  I swooned over it and wore it to dinner in.  There was much frolicking and gleeful hand swinging, and by the end of the night the ring was nowhere to be found.  My clammy little five-year old fingers were once again unadorned.  Oh how I cried!  Heartbreak at such an early age.

Naturally, one would think I went into the jewelry business straight away.  Nope, not this product of an Asian tiger mom!  I was bound for law school.  So yes, Cornell Law, big firm in NYC and an even bigger firm in Shanghai (my other city–I might have about 4 cities).  Alas, hours upon hours, years upon years of venture capital financings, private equity deals and mergers meant that I was practically living in my office with a drawer full of stilettos, another containing a cute outfit for nights out, a spare suit and a black-tie gown constantly hanging on the back of my office door. But alas after about 6 years I decided to give it all up to pursue my true calling.

I went off and got my G.D. (Graduate Diamonds) from the Gemological Institute of America, became creative director of my father’s company and launched Jean & Alex, a jewelry atelier that works directly with clients to design and create custom pieces of jewelry that reflect their individual aesthetics, preferences, and lifestyle. Client after client seemed to be telling me the same thing: that it is incredibly difficult and intimidating to shop for jewelry and everything out there looks the same. I soon recognized that there were inefficiencies in the jewelry industry that not only affected my clients, but also jewelry designers and brands themselves. As a result, after a few years of running and designing for the atelier I felt compelled to try to solve the larger problem–that jewelry has lost its meaning. Thus began  Swoonery.com, a luxury online marketplace for fine jewelry that helps customers discover and purchase exquisitely crafted, unique jewelry that they connect with.

I decided to expand Deliver Me Diamonds beyond the topic of jewelry to include anything that is occupying space in my mind because I noticed that women’s identities are often distilled into neat little easy-to-digest generalizations and limiting myself to writing about jewelry was not helping the matter. We are the sum of the things we think about and who I am is a woman who thinks about tech, innovation, entrepreneurship, personal growth, mindfulness, leadership, international policy, art, education, design AND jewelry.

I encourage you all to embrace your swagger and create the world you want to live in.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

Jewelry Designer Hates Valentines Day?

 

I stood silent on Valentine’s day because I hate to be anyone’s buzz kill. But now that the day is over, here comes the catharsis:

I’d like to think I’m not the bah humbug type–I love Christmas, Chanukah, Chinese New Year, Passover, Thanksgiving and birthdays; but that’s where I draw the line. Halloween, New Years Eve, Valentine’s Day–in my opinion, are all for amateurs. Sure, I will don a costume on Halloween for friend’s party but if you think I’m going anywhere near a parade or club you’ve clearly mistaken me for someone with a death wish. Avoiding Times Square on NYE for fear of a bombing might sound very Woody Allen but I think it’s just good common sense. God forbid something should happen, but if it does, Woody and I will be shaking our heads over a pastrami sandwich murmuring the dreaded “we told you so.”

Which brings me to Valentine’s Day–a jewelry designer’s dream right? Not so much. I have no idea what turned me off of Valentine’s Day. Jewelry Tyrant Father used to give me jewelry every year on the day and I loved it! Now that I’m in the jewelry industry myself I think people are terrified to gift me jewelry–but that’s a whole other issue and has nothing to do with why I dislike the holiday. I think my distaste comes from it being a day of forced affection and gifting. As a result, every store has pink and red paper hearts in the window and we are bombarded with clichéd advertisement after lame advertisement. All the amateurs go out in full force hawking cheap jewelry, generic roses, boxers with hearts on them and every other kitschy thing you can possibly associate with love. Restaurants all have set menus that fall short of their normal fare and one can hardly ever get a decent meal on the day. Not to mention the fact that if you’ve been one 2 dates with someone, one of you is expecting to spend Valentine’s Day together and the other thinks it’s too soon and then it’s just awkward tidings from that point forward. Valentine’s Day is Kmart’s dream and my nightmare.

This is the part where I contradict myself: I love the fact that Jewelry Tyrant Father still gives Tiger Bobby jewelry for Valentine’s day. He spent months sourcing the perfect stones, designing the ring and having our artisans perfect it. That is how to give a Valentine’s Day gift–it’s never an after thought with him. Unfortunately, Tiger Bobby left dinner reservations until last-minute and so they ended up ordering take out at home but that is so typical of my dysfunctional parents and super charming in its own way.

Jewelry Designer Hates Valentines Day?Jean & Alex, yellow and white diamond bespoke ring.

As for me, last year I came home on January 14th and found a gorgeous bouquet of flowers waiting for me with a note saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day” from my Immigrant Husband. He had gotten the dates confused–I guess they don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in Italy. As a result, I had a perfectly lovely surprise in the middle of January. This year, IH gave me my V-day pressie 4 days early because he couldn’t wait until the day and told me that I was getting flowers on the 15th because he came to pick me up at the airport straight from work. Again, super cute and I could care less if I get a necklace on the actual day or a few days earlier. Last week, I got a package in the mail from Bestie with 3 rings spelling out “JZP” and a note, “Happy Whatever Day.” Awesome, I felt super loved. Then it dawned on me–I don’t like enforced celebrations of love and affection because people do things out of obligation. A random expression of love is a joy and means so much to the giver and the receiver; whereas nothing feels more contrived and generic to me than the masses going through the synchronized expressions of love on Valentines Day. However, the one thing I absolutely adore seeing is women buying things (specifically jewelry) for themselves on Valentine’s Day. That is hardly ever contrived or generic. It says to me that she doesn’t care whether she is single or not–she loves herself. Let other people slather you with random acts of love the other days of the year, on Valentine’s Day love yourself.

Jewelry Designer Hates Valentines Day?

Tataborello earrings; similar ones here, necklace here.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

 

Doyenne Earrings

 

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from creating something from one’s imagination that makes up the essence of bespoke jewelry.  Knowing that one can create something starting with just an idea and see it out to fruition is one of the most satisfying experiences a person can have.  You are limited only by science–the laws of physics, chemistry, geometry, metallurgy and gemology–but that’s all.  Science is predictable yet the imagination is vast.  The combination of the two is nothing short of magic.  It’s like giving birth I suppose, but much more predictable and less messy.

Doyenne Earrings

 

Sketch of the ‘Doyenne’ earrings.Doyenne Earrings

‘Doyenne’ earrings in rose gold and hand selected white diamonds before setting.Doyenne EarringsThe finished product:  ‘Doyenne’ earrings in rose gold and diamonds with mille graining.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP

DIY tribal necklace

DIY Tribal Necklace

 

Last week we dealt with the issue of whether or not tribal jewelry is politically incorrect.  The short answer is no, but if you care to delve into the reasoning, you can read it here.  Riding on the rush from that post, I decided to embark on an adventure to see whether I could create a DIY tribal necklace project.  So, with 1 hour to spare before a charity event I was throwing, I headed out to man heaven (a.k.a. Home Depot) decked in floor-length black taffeta skirt, a crisp white collared shirt and tons of jewelry.  In an effort to blend with my surroundings, I threw on a denim shirt for good measure but I doubt I was fooling anyone.  I would have stopped to take pictures for posterity but didn’t want to cause a “Silvia dancing in Trevi Fountain” scene and get carted off to the loony bin an hour before my event.  Anyway, mission accomplished.  Here is what you will need:

DIY Tribal Necklace

5/8-Inch Compression Brass Nuts, 2-PieceDIY Tribal Necklace

3/8-Inch Compression Brass SleevesDIY Tribal Necklace, 2 for every different color section; or

1/2-Inch Compression Brass SleevesDIY Tribal Necklace, these are larger so 2 pieces of rope will be threaded into one sleeve, you will need less of these depending on how many sections you wish to have.

50′ x 1/2″ Braided Poly Utility RopeDIY Tribal Necklace

1/2 inch magnetsDIY Tribal Necklace

Embroidery floss, multicoloredDIY Tribal Necklace

Rubber CementDIY Tribal Necklace

Lighter

Scissors

DIY Tribal Necklace

Cut 3 pieces of rope, mine were 14, 16, and 18 inches.  Burn each of the cut ends quickly with a lighter and carefully press the frayed edges together tightly so that the rope doesn’t fray as you’re working.

DIY Tribal Necklace

 Double knot your first color of embroidery floss onto the rope, put one drop of rubber cement on the knot, tuck and hold the short end down against the rope.

DIY Tribal Necklace

Begin wrapping floss tightly and evenly around the rope to create color block sections.  Interchange colors of floss if you want different colored sections or use two different colors of floss in one section to create a striped effect like I did below.  Make sure to double knot the end of every color section and secure it with a drop of rubber cement.  In my necklace I used 5 different colors of floss and left 2 sections of bare rope showing because I liked the pattern.

DIY Tribal Necklace

If you are using the 1/2 inch brass sleeves, you will want to slide one onto the rope after you finish each color section of floss, make sure you double knot the floss and put a drop of rubber cement onto the knot to secure it and the brass sleeve in place.  I am using 1/2 inch brass sleeves so they fit over 2 pieces of rope; this creates less gap in between the 3 different lengths.

DIY Tribal Necklace

Line the inside of the compression nut with rubber cement and slide a magnet inside each nut making sure (before you glue them in) that your magnets are facing the right way so they attract each other rather than repel when the nuts are held facing each other.

DIY Tribal Necklace

Line the inside of the compression nut with more rubber cement and secure 3 ends ropes into each nut.DIY Tribal NecklaceThe nuts are magnetic and will serve as clasps.  Trim away any loose ends and knots.  Your finished necklace should look something like this.  

DIY Tribal Necklace

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like making your own DIY tribal necklace, you can buy them pret-a-porter from Holst + Lee here.

Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,

JZP