How I Started A $75K/Month Handmade Fine Jewelry Brand

Published: November 14th, 2020
Connie Hung
Founder, costanté
from Los Angeles
started October 2018
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! My name is Connie Hung — I’m the Founder & Creative Director for the fine jewelry brand, Costanté. I’m a 28-year-old Taiwanese American immigrant. My family moved to the United States in 1996 and I grew up in the quaint suburb of Diamond Bar, California.

Costanté focuses on fine jewelry made with 14k solid gold, diamonds, and other precious gemstones. Costanté and our manufacturing team are based in Los Angeles.

We are available online and offer in-person consultations for custom projects and private shopping appointments at our office in the Los Angeles Jewelry District. Over this past year, our ability to create custom products through a contemporary lens has allowed us to breathe during the pandemic. We have been able to provide a space for people to express creativity in times of uncertainty and this further enhanced our focus on human connection.

For our main collection, I like to describe the design aesthetic as “minimal elegance” — pieces you can wear every day for almost any occasion, without having to take it off. I like to say our jewelry is adornment in the best sense. Our jewelry is not made to make you beautiful, but to remind you of your innate beauty and to serve as a constant for that.

Costanté custom projects work at a large range of pricing as we try to work towards the client’s budget instead of ours. Some custom projects finish at $500, others can go over $40,000.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Funny enough, I actually come from the world of Finance and Operations. I jumped into the jewelry industry after 4 years at my corporate bank job. While I was working at the bank, I had the opportunity to build and enhance company culture within our team of over 300. Through events and initiatives with Senior and Executive Management - I felt my passion for creating community spring to life. I wanted to expand this feeling outside of the office and into the community the Bank serves. Unfortunately, I was constantly hindered by “corporate politics” or programs that felt more like marketing than philanthropy.

Everyone thinks owning a business is cool because you can set your own hours and don’t have to report to anyone. What no one tells you is that now you have no guidance and no one to hold accountable but yourself.

So, I took this drive outside of work. I always knew I wanted my work to be tied in with humanitarianism but I was never sure which community I wanted to serve. Through fate, I began to volunteer with Sexy Beast — a collective of three women who utilize their network and creativity to fundraise for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

In 2018, we prepared all year our Benefit Gala at the Marciano Art Foundation, which was then featured in Vogue. As a pop-up shop manager, I had the opportunity to soft launch Costanté at the Gala. We sold 80% of the inventory we brought that day and proudly donated it all to be a part of the $700,000 raised for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles that evening.

The moment when we shouted “it’s a wrap!” is when I confirmed what I’m going to do next. I recalled my mentor teaching me to use my own skills to create my own lane; and this is exactly what I intended to do.

Fine jewelry is not typically seen as a charitable industry, most luxury is not. But we know there are fine jewelry shoppers who want to feel good about their purchase — consumers would prefer to buy from a women-owned business, a business that gives back to their community, a business that operates with love + integrity.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

I think something unique about us is that neither my partner and I have any jewelry design experience before entering the industry. In terms of background, both of us come from business families and both have an education in Business Administration.

While I was working at the Bank, my partner had started his own custom jewelry business. He asked me if I wanted to design a women’s jewelry line — a thought I easily dismissed as I never considered myself to be creative, let alone a designer. Luckily, my partner never gave up on this thought and convinced me to design a pair of earrings. I pulled inspiration and structure from a pair of earrings my mother had gifted me from her annual trip to Japan.

Over the span of a month, my partner would casually ask me design questions over the phone, text, or dinner. “Where would you like the diamonds placed? Do you want double-sided opals or singular?” The simplicity in the way the messages were conveyed to me made the initial design process much less intimidating. A month later, he brought home the Opal Drip Earrings and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that was something I made. I looked at them and then looked back at him and said, “We’re launching these at the Sexy Beast Gala.”


Describe the process of launching the business.

Truthfully, I don’t have a groundbreaking founding story. I was fortunate enough to join my partner’s business so I didn’t incur any of the starting costs. After I joined, I took on a role as his assistant so I can learn about the jewelry industry and the production process. This helped us grow his business into ours - so we now operate as 2 separate entities under 1 corporate umbrella.

For the first 6 months, Costanté operated without a website. We made sales purely off Instagram or through referrals. At that time, Costanté averaged about 5 sales a month, as my partner’s clientele was beginning to increase. I utilized this gap and focused on building the website. I partnered with my friend, Katherine, who launched a web development company with her boyfriend.

We spent the next 3 months on weekly calls going over details on how I envisioned the website to look in my head. I spent countless nights pulling references, comparing Pantone colors, and copywriting. I met with videographers, photographers, models, and creative friends to create content. Katherine put it all together and made everything come to life.

We launched the website in the parking lot of a hospital. It was one of those moments that are so small but felt so grand.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I believe what’s been most effective for us is staying true to our mission — Costanté wasn’t created purely for jewelry design and profit gain, Costanté intends to utilize our platform and give back to the community that inspires us.

When the pandemic first began, I knew this was not the time to focus on profits. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and focus on community. So we listened.

Email marketing is extremely effective and because we didn’t take down any emails, we lost the chance to reconnect with the hundreds of people we met that weekend.

There was a drought of PPE at hospitals combatting COVID-19. We heard our nursing friends’ concerns of exposure at work, then potential exposure to their loved ones when they return home. Although scared, these courageous nurses continued to go in to save others every single day.

We decided we needed to take action too. We re-allocated the marketing funds that were originally planned to go to marketing agencies to help us increase our online visibility. We instead used these funds and partnered with a small 3D printing company called, Cokreeate, to make medical masks for the nurses on the frontline.

For the next month, I connected with nurses via social media and through referrals from friends to personally deliver them face shields to their homes. The personal delivery allowed us to connect with many new people and helped us more clearly illustrate to the world who we are as a brand.

Now, we’re ready to begin online marketing again! But as we are still in our infant stages, we still have lots to learn on this part of the business.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As of today, I feel confident about our future. We are starting to see a more consistent volume coming in every week through custom orders and an increase in online sales. On average, my clients are spending $230 for each online purchase, $480 for each custom order, and about $5,000 per custom order with my partner. Over the past 6 months, we’ve seen an increase in repeating customers and an expansion in new clients who have been referred.

We have a strong foundation that we’re continuing to build on, a strong production team, and trusted relationships with an expanding network of clients. The tough part of having a fine jewelry brand is the price of our overhead. It’s difficult to stock options and variance when we have to pay rent, our vendors, taxes… and the price of a diamond alone can cost more than $10,000. However, with our consistent volume, we’re able to utilize some of our monetary growth and invest it back into our office. We plan to remodel our office space to make it more aligned with our branding. I’m really excited about that.

Next year, I anticipate Costanté will be with more online stockists and a few boutique shops in Los Angeles.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Everyone thinks owning a business is cool because you can set your own hours and don’t have to report to anyone. What no one tells you is that now you have no guidance and no one to hold accountable but yourself.

Feeling of fear, uncertainty, and failure is integral to the journey; the journey is what will get you to where you want to go. It sounds simple, but most people are always looking for the result instead of focusing on the process.

It was hard for me, in the beginning, to ask for help. I felt that as a “founder” - I needed to learn and do everything on my own. I tried to build the website on my own, shoot my own product photos… everything. But I quickly learned, there are some things I need to let go of so I can focus on what I can do.

I let go of website development and focused only on its design. I let go of product photography and hired my friend. His work at big fashion houses allowed us to have product images that elevated us to another level. Even in the most trivial things — you can improve from simply double-checking. And that’s a mistake I constantly learn from.

I think it’s extremely important to always have a learning mindset if you plan on your business to continue to grow. Being open to learning is how I connected with our videographer, Monique. She taught me how to be creative with content and how to use that creativity to attract consumers authentically while remaining true to our values.

If you have a chance to meet your clientele, do it. In 2019, we focused on reaching the consumers and understanding who they are/who they can be. We did our first pop up at an event hosted by Whitney Bell - an influencer who uses her platform to advocate for women’s rights. Following, we did several pop-ups at West Elm, plant stores, and our biggest one to date was the Unique Markets Holiday Market.

Unique Markets challenged our creativity by having us design a booth space. We wanted this to be an experience to draw in the thousands of shoppers Unique Markets attracts every holiday season. I partnered with my friend Zoe, an incredibly creative woman who’s been on the styling team of Rihanna and Beyonce. We set our jewelry on podiums, created visuals with a projector, and made our stop look like a museum exhibit.

The biggest mistake we made that weekend was not taking down emails. It’s a simple thing that could be easily done, but we completely overlooked it and I regret it to this day. Email marketing is extremely effective and because we didn’t take down any emails, we lost the chance to reconnect with the hundreds of people we met that weekend.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Shopify, Google Suite, and lots of Instagram.

Through Instagram Stories, I’ve been able to show followers an authentic perspective and understanding of the jewelry industry. I take them around the Los Angeles Jewelry District where we have our production done. Followers can see the hands that make the jewelry, the facility in which it’s done, and how. This allows the consumers to feel more engaged with their purchase - especially for those purchasing custom orders.

In 2021, we plan to use more analytical tools such as Google Analytics and target our online audience more precisely. We plan to create more ad specific content and when things are slightly more back to normal, back to more in-person events!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The Art of Vulnerability - Brené Brown (podcast)

I think to understand others and to recognize consumer/market needs, it’s important we understand ourselves first. We must have a strong sense of self-awareness, so we can discern between what our needs are and what we think the clients’ needs are.

Costanté is based on human connection — we want to make sure when our clients are buying high-value items for special moments, they feel good about their purchase. To ensure we don’t interrupt these intimate moments, we need to be candid and honest with our clients. And being transparent is something critical I learned from Brené Brown. It’s not always easy, to tell the truth, but it’s always the right move.

And by telling the truth I don’t mean not lying… telling the truth as in admitting this is something we’ve never done before, but we’re willing to learn how. Telling the truth is admitting we’ve made a mistake and here’s how we will be held accountable.

Particularly in the jewelry industry, I think the clients really appreciate this. If you’ve seen Adam Sandler’s Uncut Gems, the perception of jewelers shown there is honestly not too far off from the truth. And this is something we intend to change.

Designing Your Life - Bill Burnett & David Evans (book)

Admittedly, this book has yet to be finished but it was definitely a defining book while I was uncertain of what I wanted to do next while I was at the Bank. I saw all my friends with “cool” jobs and thought that’s what I wanted to. In Designing Your Life, you’re taught to highlight what excites you, puts you in a state of flow, and what just drains you of your energy.

I paid attention to my state of mind while at work and it was then I realized I had a passion for creating and enhancing the community. It helped me discern what I look for in a career and separately what excites me in life. And many entrepreneurs may not agree with me here but... career and life are absolutely separate entities!

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

If you’re feeling behind, keep chasing.

This is a piece of advice my friend gave me when I told him I was scared because I felt behind. He told me, “it’s a good feeling to have because it keeps you going.” And that’s something that stuck with me. Many times people give up but are stopped only by themselves. I think that feeling of fear, uncertainty, and failure is integral to the journey; the journey is what will get you to where you want to go. It sounds simple, but most people are always looking for the result instead of focusing on the process. But the process is where the beauty is at, the process is where you build towards the success you’d like to achieve.

Be open to learning, be forgiving with yourself, and be focused.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes! I am looking for a part-time intern to assist with Social Media and administrative tasks within the office. She will be responsible for engaging with clients online, managing the office, monitoring the production process for all Costanté pieces, and data entry. It will be unpaid.

Where can we go to learn more?