Entrepreneur

Inspired By Their Parents' Love, 3 Brothers Started Up A Diamond Shop In Their Father's Memory

In Snow White, the poison apple symbolises evil and gullibility.

In Cinderella, the glass slippers sort of represent the truth, and how truth always prevails.

And in Beauty And The Beast, the enchanted rose signifies love, but more like the ability to love and cherish others before they’re gone.

Another common symbols of love we all know are diamond ring and wedding ring, representing unwavering love and fidelity.

Unlike fairy tales, this is a real-life story about three sons who were inspired by their mother’s wedding ring, a symbol of their late father’s everlasting love for her, to carry on their father’s legacy.

Michael’s Angels

Image Credit: Michael Trio

Brothers Zen Zeng (36), Stanley Zeng (35), and Jadon Zeng (32) started up Michael Trio in February 2013.

The company specialises in engagement rings and wedding bands, and sells other kinds of contemporary jewellery.

Youngest brother, Jadon, shared with me their inspiration: a story of a boy’s love for his father, who followed in the family trade crafting precious metal regalia for sultans and royalty.

The story continues with the boy’s love for his wife when he grew up, and then their sons, who saw how devoted their parents were to each other, carried on that love to their own unions.

Image Credit: Michael Trio

The company is a tribute from the three brothers to their father, Mr Michael, to honour his three values that are, family, trust, and love.

“Three sons, three generations, three values,” he said warmly.

“Every engagement ring and fine jewellery piece that bears our name is inspired by the desire to create something lasting together, the lessons our father taught us, and these stories that have endured from over 40 years ago.”

Jadon told me that even after Mr Michael had passed on in 2011, their mother still wears her classic wedding ring, a 0.90 carat yellow gold ring their father proposed to her with.

Their parents’ love story is a testament to the age-old vow, “‘Til death do us part.”

This was the inspiration for Michael Trio, but how it came to be as a business was a different story.

You know the period of time when you make it past the quarter-life crisis and you’re ready to settle down?

Image Credit: Michael Trio

“[As we are] in the trade of jewellery manufacturing…our friend came to us for advice in choosing a proposal ring. We then realised there is a lack of information online and some barriers consumers face, like a fear of entering a jewellery shop, etc.,” Jadon said.

It was sparked by Jadon’s desire to take their father’s jewellery manufacturing business to another level to reach out to the mass consumer market by branching out from wholesale and trading business-to-business, to business-to-consumers and diamond and engagement rings.

Image Credit: Michael Trio

With their expertise in the trade, they came up with the idea together to build an e-commerce jewellery platform so customers can get educated by themselves and purchase their jewellery online.

On top of running Michael Trio, the brothers have also taken over their father’s business, which was passed down by their grandfather.

Zen focuses on factory production, Stanley is in charge of accounts, and Jadon handles operations for Michael Trio.

Service At The Heart Of The Business

Image Credit: Michael Trio

To date, Michael Trio has sold over 3,000 engagement rings.

But they faced some challenges in the beginning when they decided to start online before going offline.

“Selling diamonds, engagement ring, and jewellery online was [quite a] fresh and new concept for people in Singapore. When we first started out, our target audience preferred buying from classic luxury brands,” Jadon explained.

He said customers’ major concern was seeing the diamond in person first, so they could decide if they want to buy.

So they added a 360° viewing feature on their website so customers can look at the diamond up close. You can see it in action here.

“We also set up a showroom at Tanjong Pagar for our customers to have a look and feel of the products.”

Jadon added that they adopt a vertical integration strategy as part of their business model as this gives them “strong guardianship” and control “from sourcing raw materials and custody in manufacturing, to improving the online-to-offline retail experience”.

He thinks that as consumers are becoming “more tech-savvy”, they can easily find information online, so they believe that there is a need to be transparent in their pricing while also “educating and guiding [their] customers through the process”.

They will also publish a series of 30-seconds video interviews with the brothers on their social media platforms on topics such as “Price vs Quality & Assurance” and “Blood Diamonds”.

I asked Jadon if Michael Trio was the first online jewellery store in Singapore to sell engagement rings and introduce the design-your-own-ring concept.

To which he responded, “I wouldn’t say we are the first but I can say our site is the most comprehensive. The design-your-own-ring concept exists in America too.”

Image Credit: Michael Trio

They also place great importance on procuring ethically-sourced diamonds.

Jadon said their diamonds are GIA-certified and from “only the most reliable and trustworthy diamond suppliers” who meet the requirements of the Kimberely-Process Scheme.

“Most, if not all diamonds that are imported into Singapore are actually already verified to be conflict-free diamonds,” he added.”

Image Credit: Michael Trio

He shared with me a story about a time he went above and beyond for a customer who wanted to have his ring polished last year.

The customer wanted his ring back before he had to fly off on a Tuesday but was “tied up with meetings and personal matters”.

“We wanted to ensure that he gets his ring on time, [so I] went to collect the ring personally from the customer on Friday night, in order to have the ring ready by Monday morning,” he recalled.

He could not forget seeing the “joy and delight” radiating from his customer, and that event served as a reminder that in business, it’s not always about “making the sale”.

Image Credit: Michael Trio

It is that satisfaction of meeting customers’ needs and how “cherished” you make them feel, “even if it means going the extra mile”, he added.

The brothers’ passion for the business stems from the three values that I mentioned earlier; family, trust, and love.

They believe that at the core of the business, it’s family, their people, and the relationships they’ve built that matters the most.

To keep up the business’ longstanding history, trust is important and that means honouring their word and commitment with integrity.

Jadon shared that their business revolves around the idea of love, in the kind that brings two people together, the kind that encourages and nurtures, and the kind that will transcend generations.

Solid Tips And Tricks

Image Credit: Michael Trio

So what are some ways of telling if a diamond is fake?

Jadon explained that for diamonds that are set on a ring, try breathing out hot breath on the diamond and looking at its fog effect.

“[As] diamond is an effective conductor of heat, it should dissipate right away, if it takes a few seconds for it to dissipate, it is likely the diamond is fake.”

For an unmounted diamond, a diamond stone on its own, Jadon recommends testing its degree of refractivity via the read-through effect method.

Set the loose diamond on a newspaper or a paper with a lot of text and look down at it from the top. If you can easily make out the text through the diamond, then it’s most likely to be fake, he described.

Image Credit: Michael Trio

While most material things can be faked, familial ties can’t.

Jadon shared that the brothers enjoy working with each other as they grew up with the business, recalling the times Mr Michael bring them along to the factory.

“We always communicate and support each other when we need it.”

As a Chinese proverb goes, 家和万事兴 – which means, “A family in harmony will prosper in everything.”

So to keep that harmony in the family, especially when you work with family members, he advised, “Be open to each other and always discuss any issues that may pose as a problem be it business or personal issues.”

Communication is key, but when it comes to business, they make sure to personalise it for their customers.

Their approach is understanding their customers first, because every piece of jewellery is diferent, Jadon shared.

This article is written in collaboration with Michael Trio.

Featured Image Credit: Michael Trio

 

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