How I Started A $14K/Month Custom-Made Jewelry Business

$14,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
3
Employees
product
Vivalatina Jewelry
from Puerto Vallarta
started July 2012
$14,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
3
Employees
958K
alexa rank
109
followers
0
followers
market size
$258B
starting costs
$14.9K
gross margin
40%
time to build
4 months
average product price
$109
growth channels
SEO
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
Instagram, Ahrefs, YouTube
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
tips
2 Tips
Discover what tools Nicolas reccommends to grow your business!
social media
seo
Discover what books Nicolas reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Professional Jewelry Scale Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, my name is Nicolas Tranchant, I am French and I am the founder of Vivalatina Jewelry. We are pure player jewelry, settled in Mexico, and offering high-end jewelry for our clients worldwide. We do not have any flagship product as we sell few high-priced items and offer custom-made jewelry online.

We focus on making high-quality gold jewelry and personalized items. To do so, we manage 100% of the making process in our jewelry workshop, from CAD designs, 3D printing, metal casting, stone setting, and finishing.

We offer our services online only, through two websites, one focus to sell in France for obvious reasons and the second one focused on the US, since 2018.

While we work online to find our clients, we have a personalized approach with each client, which is very time-consuming. So we have also developed our own jewelry collection to be able to easily sell some generic designs of our creation.

Each one of our jewelry is made on-demand, which avoids having a very expensive stock and allows us to offer better prices. So we are in a slow market where fast shipping is not the priority of our clients, but rather quality and personalized attention.

While offering handcrafted jewelry, we use CAD modeling, 3D printing, rendering, and casting to make our jewelry. We are like a small plant producing unique pieces of jewelry.

Here is a video presentation of our services (in French for now):

how-i-started-a-14k-month-custom-made-jewelry-business

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

I did not start this business project because I had a great idea, but it was for love and necessity.

I graduated in 2004, and after my studies, I went traveling as a backpacker in Latin America and working in Mexico. I went back to live in France in 2008 with my Mexican girlfriend. She was a doctor in Mexico, but she could not work as a general practitioner in France because of restrictive French laws.

Having an efficient marketing plan is the key to business success. A good product will not sell without proper marketing, but an average product that sells can be improved on the go later on, as no product is perfect before customers’ feedback.

So, in 2009, we decided to set up a small business to generate more cash flow, and the easiest way to do so was to create an online jewelry shop as we had contact with silver jewelry wholesalers in Mexico and the web was growing very fast back then in France. Moreover, I had just read the 4-hour workweek from Tim Ferris, it described a new world unknown to me, and I wanted to try to do something similar on the web.

As a reminder, I graduated before eCommerce exploded in France, and back then, there was no great success story like Tim’s story in France. So it was totally new to me.

We did not know about marketing or sales, I am a mechanical engineer and my wife a doctor so we lacked knowledge on how to set up a business and make it work. Moreover, business culture is not widespread in French culture.

But anyway, quickly we bought the first batch of silver jewelry from one of our friends in Taxco, Mexico, and I started to work with osCommerce CMS to set up an online boutique. I chose osCommerce CMS because it was free, but not being a coder I lost so much time to launch the site that in the end, I wasted my time.

A few months after starting the website, I was hacked while my website did not even have products online.

I gave up osCommerce CMS and found Shopify CMS through a Google search, and quickly launched a new website using this CMS.

I was then working full-time in the aerospace industry in Toulouse, so I had little free time and while my wife was selling through private sales and eBay, she was not interested in sales online, so our online jewelry project never took off.

After 4 years in France, in 2012, my wife got fed up not being able to work as a doctor and decided to go back to Mexico to work as a doctor.

I was in love, so I quit my job and went with her, we settled down in Puerto Vallarta and then I decided to start again this jewelry business idea, focusing 100% of my time on it.

Even working hard, it has been a failure for almost 3 years before being able to make a living from this business.

To make it work, I have shifted the business model from reselling cheap silver jewelry to making custom-made jewelry and selling my own designs of gold jewelry with gemstones.

To do so, I had to educate myself about online marketing and SEO and set up my own jewelry workshop.

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

I started to work full-time on this project in July 2012, back then I was just reselling silver jewelry I bought from my providers.

It was in December 2013 that I started to make custom-made jewelry. To do so, I set up a net of jewelers in town that we’re able to make on-demand the silver jewelry designs I needed for my clients.

One of my first projects was this silver cross pendant with turquoise stone. I detailed the making process on our blog here.

how-i-started-a-14k-month-custom-made-jewelry-business

This kind of project is made following our client’s requirement and drawing when they have one. Back then we had to carve a piece of wax, then cast it in silver, and finish the jewelry. This making process can be a source of misunderstanding sometimes and lead to minor problems.

So, in 2015, I bought my first 3D printer and started to publish my own jewelry designs online, designs made of gold and diamonds.

I was still working with jewelry workshops in town, but It was easier for me to ensure the quality of the design would meet our clients’ expectations thanks to the 3D printer. The design seen on our website was the same as the one 3D printed. This way, I got rid of design flaws for misunderstanding in my team.

The making process was still the same for the rest of the making.

Here is an example of a jewelry piece done at this time, an architectural ring representing the Dome of the rock on a silver ring with an 18k gold cupola. I made the design of the ring myself, it is made of 3 parts, silver 925 and 18k gold.

how-i-started-a-14k-month-custom-made-jewelry-business

Then, in 2016, I opened my own jewelry workshop. The making process was still the same, but I had then better control over deadlines and quality. I was working more efficiently as I had everything under control in my own workshop and we started to make more expensive jewelry.

Here is an example of a diamond engagement ring with a 1,7 CT diamond.

how-i-started-a-14k-month-custom-made-jewelry-business

Nowadays, I am quite experienced in jewelry design, so I can handle the vast majority of our projects, but I also work with a professional jewelry designer for the more complex designs. I focus on what is the quickest to do, otherwise, my designer does it, as I have other things to manage.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I have never made a launch as you can say and I had no strategy in mind. It has been a slow and quirky process made of fails and small improvements as I was learning eCommerce and marketing at the same time I was setting up the website.

I learned a lot about my flaws to try to do everything by myself while often, it is much more effective to pay for it.

In the beginning, I must say that everything was wrong with the website, the design, colors, jewelry pictures, and content of the blog. I really was a newbie trying to find its way.

how-i-started-a-14k-month-custom-made-jewelry-business

In 2015 I changed the theme for a paid one, I paid $180 for a professional theme and it was the best investment I could make for saving me so much time coding and the result was so much better. I also improved the pictures the same year, I still have work to do on that but it’s ok for now to sell products worth thousands of dollars. I prefer to focus on traffic generation for now.

Having failed so much in driving traffic to our website, I had been reading about SEO and following webinars and taking online courses, and as a result, my work was starting to pay off as I could generate more than 15K unique visitors per month and $25K in revenue in 2016. I knew I could do it much better as I was just starting to feel at ease with online marketing.

I had a really low cost to maintain the website as I was using Shopify and living in Mexico and working from home, I had no money but I have not required a loan to launch the business.

Since then, I have improved the marketing and the traffic of the website, to reach 60K monthly visitors (both websites combined) and about 160K dollars in revenue in 2020.

how-i-started-a-14k-month-custom-made-jewelry-business

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

The only marketing strategy that I use is SEO because I saw good results with it.

I have tried direct marketing in different manners, but that always failed. Having a tight budget since the beginning and not being educated in marketing, I had to do it myself and got specialized in SEO through webinars, reading, and trial and error. SEO was the cheapest way to market my products and service, it takes time but I had the time and no money.

From my initial failures, I have succeeded in growing our web traffic to 55K unique visitors a month in 2020 (on the French website alone) using only the long-term view that offers SEO.

When I began, my only goal was to generate traffic, any kind of traffic just to prove myself I was able to do it. So I was working on publishing blog content and improving the domain authority of my website.

When I saw I had some results, I started to work on specific keywords that could generate more traffic or that were more profitable. That might sound crazy to read that, but I started to use a paid keyword tool only in late 2015. This changed my life, it made it so much easier to find the right keyword and I was working so much more efficiently, I cannot work without this tool now.

The increase in sales and sales value has been following our traffic growth.

As we offer custom-made service, we make it easy for our customers or visitors to contact us. This allowed us to understand their needs and uncover some trends we would not have found in other ways. So we have adapted our blog’s publication and products to cover our customers’ needs and focus on high-priced products.

The best way to develop some loyalty from our customers is the personalized attention and quality of our products. They talk about us to their friends and family or sometimes comment on social media. But our clients are not always techies and do not brag about buying a $1000 ring on Facebook or Instagram.

From what I know, digital marketing is very different in the US and France. As you can see below, people are impressed by the manners but do not show their jewelry.

how-i-started-a-14k-month-custom-made-jewelry-business

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

Yes, the business is profitable with a gross margin of 25%. Customer acquisition is free as it is made online through SEO and all of our sales are made through our own websites.

On average in 2020, we had 60K unique visitors a month (both sites) and $14K sales, with a growth of 40% compared to 2019. Our conversion rate is 0,05% as we have a lot of informational content aimed at educating our clients about stones, gold, and our making process.

Our average unique visitor value is $0,24.

For now, we plan to duplicate in the US the business we already have in France and double our revenue by the end of 2022. From this point, I will get some help in SEO marketing to expand our reach in the US market and develop other sales channels.

As I have to manage the production process as well, capacity, and production deadlines, I will buy an automatic casting machine to help us improve our deadlines and be able to upscale our production for the coming years.

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

I learned a lot about my flaws to try to do everything by myself while often, it is much more effective to pay for it. I mean this about coding, design, and webstore improvements. When I was broke, I could not see I had to spend on this to save my time to focus on marketing and strategic planning.

I can see also that my choice to manage SEO has given good results as I know what I am doing and do not depend on a marketing agency that can be expensive with poor results. SEO is for the long term and since I manage SEO the business has been growing independently of Google’s updates or the pandemic, without any loan or financial pressure to pay for it.

I have also discovered that I am the bottleneck of my business, so I have recruited someone to help me and plan to grow my staff to help me with my marketing tasks to grow faster.

Being a mechanical engineer, definitely helped me to set up the jewelry workshop and process to deal with CAD design, 3D printing, and all other processes involved in jewelry making, as I had to learn everything by myself.

As I have already done more than I planned to do at the beginning, I am much more ambitious now than I was before. I can clearly see that the lack of knowledge and practical plan to grow the business has been slowing me. Today I plan to grow much faster thanks to the experience acquired.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use Shopify for both my online boutiques and the Shopify emails app.

The only other tools I use are SeCockpit for keywords research, Ahrefs for link building and link analysis, and MyRankingMetrics for website Audit.

Also, I use Ubersuggest for web Analysis about traffic and links, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console to follow my progress and make audits on my websites and JustReachOut for link building.

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

The 4-hour workweek has been the book that inspired me to launch my business on the web. The business online was unknown to me back then and it helped me to imagine something else than being an employee.

My first SEO webinar made with Garret French from Citationlabs helped me to get results in SEO to grow my business.

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

Defining your market would be the best advice I could give. Having a clear picture of if your idea fits your customers’ needs and how much they are willing to pay will define the future of your business.

Having an efficient marketing plan is the key to business success. A good product will not sell without proper marketing, but an average product that sells can be improved on the go later on, as no product is perfect before customers’ feedback.

It’s ok not knowing everything, you will figure it out on the go. Nobody is prepared enough to be an entrepreneur. The worst error you could make is not taking action to set up your project.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes, I made up my mind to get some help for my marketing. I already have someone helping me in-house and I use the services of just reach out to help me get press coverage. I will soon be looking for a part-time marketer with experience in the US working as a freelancer.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Nicolas Tranchant,   Founder of Vivalatina Jewelry

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