How A Civil Engineer Started A $144K/Year Online Jewelry Store

Published: July 27th, 2022
Gil Marcondes
Founder, GoldFi
from Miami Shores, FL, USA
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Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Gil Marcondes, the founder of GoldFi. I have been in the jewelry industry since 1996, doing business in a brick-and-mortar model until a year ago when I decided to open a purely online business jewelry. I aim to bring premium quality gold-filled jewelry to consumers and retailers at wholesale prices.

With so many sizes, lengths, thicknesses, different materials, and finishes, hoop earrings are the flagship product of our company. And the majority of our customers initiate the first sample purchase with one of them.

We are intrigued by some of our performances because we are in the early stage of our online business. For example, we have received an average of 463 sessions a day in the last three months, and our average revenue for the same period was $22K.


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

My background is in civil engineering, which has much to do with manufacturing. For many years I was in denial that this was my passion because building houses would be more suitable for a career.

Think like you are the customer, and solve problems with simple ideas.

I had a friend who lived in the USA and invited me to work in Miami in his jewelry company, and that's when I started my journey in this business. My interest was in the new opportunity to live in a different country and get to know a new culture, but the truth is that I deepened my knowledge of the art of making jewelry and its market as a whole.

I have worked directly at the factory and learned the jewelry manufacturing process, especially the product quality since they were so strict about details and customer-oriented. I’ve been involved in every step of concept, prototyping, and manufacturing, giving me a good understanding of what we need to do to achieve a great product.

In 2013 I opened my jewelry store in Los Angeles, California, and started to manufacture and sell exclusively for my company. But I was struggling with my company's performance, especially with the high overhead a physical store brings to the table. During the Covid pandemic, we had to close the store, and I had no idea how to generate income. It was when I met a friend in the same field, and she was the one who encouraged and inspired me to invest in the pure online business. So, I decided to open a wholly dedicated gold-filled company in Miami Shores, Florida, and named it GoldFi, which means the love for the gold via the online world.

I envisioned a company where you can buy and resell trendy jewelry products available for immediate delivery and have the opportunity of add-ons. With our design and manufacturing expertise, anyone can create a piece of jewelry or even a simple logo tag.

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

When we create a product for our company, we look into the fashion tendencies, and at this point, it is crucial to curating what will be, in customers' eyes, most relevant. The world is constantly recycling ideas and improving classic styles. That’s why what is outdated products, from time to time, we revisit to give a fresh look or inspire a new design.

We have a team of designers, each of them with expertise in the process. Imagine designing the right size belly chain for example; we need to know the average size and the suitable extender for this purpose. Or, when creating a ring with stones, what would be the right stone’s size or better way to hold it to the ring. Therefore, the team is prepared to design with specific requirements and accommodate every one of them to the final piece of jewelry. With the render, we can approve the work to go to the prototype process, and we run it through the 3D printing machine to look at how the concept jewelry piece will end up.

For the sample and mass production, we determine the process steps for the final product and the most viable way to achieve the best cost and quality. We charge a fee of 250 dollars per jewelry piece to design, prototype, and sample the complete process.

Whenever a customer needs to transform one of our product lines and only involves simple changes, we are up to the service, and there is no extra charge. However, the minimum order is 50 for each style.




Describe the process of launching the business.

Since we had the inventory on hand but not the cash or the customer, our only hope was to sell online using one of the platforms available on the web. We decided to use the Etsy marketplace. We did everything in-house, and in only two weeks, we sold $1,500 plus of our jewelry. We thought we finally had found an excellent way to sell online, but Etsy closed our store without any more detailed reason.

Nonetheless, we decided to open our e-commerce using the Shopify platform. I designed the online store and learned a lot during this process, and it took less than 15 days to launch the store. Our strategy was to send a personal message to every customer from Etsy, informing them that we had opened an online store, and on the first day, we sold more than 600 dollars.

My biggest lesson during this process was that it is tough to succeed in anything if you don’t put your sweat and tears to work for you. Product listing is one of the most significant ways to attract customers to your online store. Detail information and pictures make all the difference. Connecting your product listing to the proper collection is paramount, thus sending the right message to your visitors.

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

Having a purely online business doesn’t mean you cross your arms and wait for sales to happen. Digital marketing is critical to help you succeed and the “movement” in your store. Every day you need to do something new in your store. It is like opening a physical store daily; you clean the showcase, prepare new products to display, make promotions, and much more. A lot of daily work, especially for the customer to see and get informed about your business, product, and policies.

Educating customers in our field is critical to our success, and thanks to my 25+ years of experience in the jewelry industry, it was essential to growing our online business. Since the store launch day, we have gradually improved all aspects of our e-commerce. Even better grammar and keywords in the jewelry field related to the features of our products are essential at this stage.

Attracting visitors to your webpage needs a strategy, and we use it for special dates like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, advertising through Google Ads, Instagram, and Facebook. Parallel to this strategy, we make e-mail campaigns bi-weekly to always alert customers and subscribers of new products and offers.

We don’t sell on Amazon and don’t give a product list to all the companies asking for it. The reason is simple: it is our business to our customers, and we want to nurture them so that they feel respected and appreciated. And most important, customers can grow and develop their brand and business by using our products for their strategy.


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The period month of May/2022 - Shopify Analytics

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

As a jewelry manufacturer, we can keep costs low without sacrificing quality and be profitable. Even so, controlling expenses and marketing investments is vital to be as optimized as possible.

This month of June, sales went up 88% from last month, and the impressive part is most of our sales come from return customers. This result is significant because it demonstrates that customers are satisfied with the quality, price, and customer service.

Since the last semester, we have quadrupled our sales growth. 43% of our total sales in 2022 are from our online store, 32% Faire marketplace, 16% from customized product orders, and 9% from social media. Our monthly traffic is an average of 12k sessions per month and a conversion rate of 0.52%.

The inventory operation is totally from our warehouse in San Dimas, California. We have a large inventory to fulfill orders immediately, generally in one to two days. Mainly our customers are from the US, but we have sold internationally to countries like Japan, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Denmark, Australia, and Canada.

We are continuously investing in new product styles, attracting customers following the fashion trends. Visioning to funnel our B2B customers, the tendency of our business model is to be restricted solely to jewelry resellers. Therefore, we want to divide B2B and B2C gradually since retail customers are getting to know more about the GoldFi brand. This strategy will require packaging and an entire department dedicated to this new business model.

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

The journey of working purely online has been incredible. So many things to learn and hours of dedication. Some triors and errors along the way, since we have very little knowledge of the e-commerce world and had to do everything in-house.

A sound decision for our company was to include essential products that would help us with our SEO. People think they need better keywords to grow their organic position, but this is only half of the strategy. Essentially, it is necessary to understand what customers are searching for online and the essential words to find such products. Only with this knowledge can you add new products and work around with dedicated words that will make you jump organically to a better search engine position.

One of the most crucial decisions before starting the online business was the domain's name. I was intrigued with the GolFi name because the letters have everything to do with the product. When buying the domain name, it was already taken, and the owner wanted a premium amount for it. I didn’t hesitate and closed the deal immediately. It was a profound feeling that would be an attractive way to allure more customers to the webpage and fix it in customers' minds.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We have tried some different platforms, but Shopify was the one that helped us the most. One of the most important features is the ability to guide you with important tasks to learn and to do. It is essential to follow these steps that sometimes seem unimportant, but in reality, they help you take the right direction at the right time.

At GoldFi, we use everything that Shopify offers, which works very well. From shipping to marketing solutions, we believe that helps connect every aspect of the business. The connection with different sales channels works amazingly well and gives us peace of mind to operate and manage the long list of products available. The Instagram and Facebook integration facilitates exposure to our collection and prices.

Apps are essential solutions to solve the specific needs of our online commerce quickly, and we rely heavily on some of them. For example: On our homepage, we feature Instagram's newest posts using Instafeed App. We use the Frequently Bought Together App to help customers select a better set of products. G Translate helps translate our complete webpage, and we chose a specific language such as Spanish since a significant portion of our customers is Hispanic.

Nowadays, we must have a credible review App that can help businesses to be classified by their customer base, and we have chosen as our online solution. We try to answer every review by giving our customers feedback on their evaluations.

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

Honestly speaking, I learn a lot from other similar or competitors' webpage. As soon you detect which part of their e-commerce is attractive to your business model, you adapt that specific feature to your own need.

I listen to podcasts whenever I am driving, and everything related to business helps me be more creative and solve problems. I frequently listen to TED talks and WSJ.

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

My advice for other entrepreneurs is to be detailed. Don’t add a bunch o products because you need to have them all at once and start selling as soon as possible. Be meticulous when adding a product listing. Think like you are the customer, and solve problems with simple ideas.

Shopify offers many free courses, and one of the most important is how to take a picture of your product. You don’t need to be a professional photographer, but it is paramount to understand how to be concise and have some tricks to make your life easier.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

There is always room for improvement, and we are always open to receiving proposals that bring solutions to our business. Anyone who wants to add by bringing news and improving our performance is welcome. You can email [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?

Gil Marcondes, Founder of GoldFi
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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