Jewellery is not a new field to venture into by any means. Countless have tried their hand with it, and The Straits Finery is another startup striving to leave their mark in an oversaturated industry. They are a jewellery label conceived by Amira Yahaya, the business lead who also has a freelance day job as a market researcher, and Foo Chia Chern, the creative lead who happens to be a full-time mother juggling her business alongside motherhood.
Despite their odds, they ran with the concept they believed in and took extra time out to perfect their craft. Since March 2016, the duo has managed to engage customers all the way from the US and UK. They even have their own e-commerce store and are also stocked at Snackfood, a lifestyle and design store located in Bangsar, KL.
Considering how their jewellery pieces are sold for anything between RM145 and RM1,035 depending on their type, the Malaysian duo have a fair start in their own right for their engagement thus far. Here are 6 things that local startups can learn from The Straits Finery when starting out.
1. They hopped on board the right trend train.
Trends are known to come and go and not many outlast the test of time. What does The Straits Finery do with that knowledge? They take a trend which would almost never ever go out of style and worked with that to create their pieces.
Chia Chern shared with Vulcan Post, “We believe in taking a simple approach to style, and minimalism is a trend amongst certain segments. Although it may not be mainstream in Malaysia currently, there are pockets of society who value the simplicity and authenticity of well crafted basic pieces.”
2. They did what nobody else was doing.
The ladies saw a gap in the market for the use of 14k solid gold for jewelleries in Malaysia. Chia Chern noted that it’s so uncommon that they weren’t able to find a goldsmith that was able to acquire and work with the material.
They solved this hiccup by searching far and wide for goldsmiths who were willing to work with 14k gold and also work with the duo despite the unknown success rate of the startup. From Penang to KL and Kelantan, Chia Chern and Amira finally found the right contacts in Indonesia, and were able to explore an idea which wasn’t widely dabbled with locally as yet.
3. They are their own product’s ambassadors.
Long before The Straits Finery was conceptualised, Amira used her skills as a market researcher by day to help the company come to fruition. They not only surveyed their competition, they became their own jewellery’s product ambassadors by donning the samples to meetings. After a few interested looks and enquiries, the ladies knew that their idea was worth a try.
4. They maintain close contact with customers and suppliers.
“We believe in keeping the conversation going with not just our consumers, but also our suppliers and partners in the business such as stockists and others in the industry,” Chia Chern said.
As with any brand, it is important to always get to the heart of people. This is why the ladies are avid fans of running pop-up events so that they really get to meet the consumers face-to-face rather than just relying on e-interactions alone.
5. They interest even those outside their target audience.
It is clear that women would be the target audience for their 14-karat solid gold and sterling silver pieces but coincidentally, men were equally as intrigued by the products.
Chia Chern said, “Men really like the idea that the rings can be stacked and are made of solid gold. Who would have thought that a bunch of dudes can say ‘Wow, stacking is really cool!’. It still surprises us in the most spectacular way.”
This works in the team’s favour because they not only manage to penetrate the market and reach out to their target audience, but with their unique offerings, they also manage to strike a wider circle of customers.
6. They didn’t give up on a dream though lacking in experience.
Chia Chern and Amira may not have any experience in the process of making jewellery but they never once saw that as a hindrance. Silversmithing classes were signed up for and they learnt to become comfortable with handling the necessary tools and materials. This ultimately lead them to designing and crafting the sample jewellery pieces with silver.
Till now, they see that as an added advantage for them. “We really started off with knowing what materials we wanted to work with, as well as how we wanted wearable jewellery. This is the cornerstone of our design process and with each element of design we ask ourselves, ‘How practical is this design? Will it catch? Will it match well with other jewellery that our wearers already own? Will it get in the way of getting things done?’”
It is this constant researching and expanding of knowledge that the team is practicing for the past 4 months since its inception. Sure, there is still plenty to learn with the constant curves and evolving trends within the retail industry, but if there’s anything they can say they got right at the start, it is these 6 key points.