How Viral Press And One Prominent Client Grew Revenue

Published: April 15th, 2021
Rowena Cumner
Founder, Agent Engagement
Agent Engagement
from London, England, United Kingdom
started February 2015
alexa rank
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hello StarterStory Community, I’m Rowena, aka Agent E!

Agent Engagement is a FREE, trusted, and global secret advice service to help anyone save time, money, and hassle when trying to buy or make an engagement or wedding ring.

The diamond and jewelry retail industry can be very confusing (especially when the pressure is on to get it right) so I connect my secretive proposers or any client quickly to the very best jewelers, diamond dealers, and designer-makers according to their requirements, style, ethics, and budget - anywhere in the world. My help to them is completely free of charge because I just invoice the final jeweler involved with a very small % of the order value at the end of a happy proposal. It’s a win-win for all concerned.

Launched in 2014, I’ve helped over 250 gentlemen (and increasingly more women and couples now too) to make the perfect ring and the most fun part is that 99% of the time my male clients never tell their partners about me.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

Everything was going very well for Agent Engagement right up until March 2020 when the global pandemic hit!

I’ve always campaigned against relying on just one* job* as your entire monthly income and now I believe even more so that having multiple strings to your bow (or even multiple side-hustles ) creates further ways to earn money which has proven very valuable during unpredictable times.

A few key events had been spurring me on until that point:

  • A prominent UK professional footballer had discovered Agent E and asked for help on a very special and sizeable engagement ring. This led to an increase in requests for $15-70k / £10k-50k budgets which resulted in increased commission revenue for me.

  • US Newsweek and UK's Daily Mail Online both ran full-page editorial interview pieces about my story which led to an increase in global inquiries and trust from clients who may have been on the fence about whether they needed my help or not!

Just as airport security check-in desks went silent, the Daily Mail Online ran a full-page about one of my favorite clients and our engagement ring journey together which featured loads of photos to bring the concept to life.

Just as the Biden vs Trump campaign was kicking off, Agent E was on the front page of US Newsweek which led to significant inquiries from the US too

  • I started telling every single person I met about Agent E in the hope that they would remember whenever they came across a potential client. For instance, I received a cold call from a recruitment headhunter many years ago and told her the reason I wasn’t interested in moving jobs at the time was because I was building Agent E. Low and beyond, last month a new client got in touch to ask for help as she was a friend of the headhunter...and she had $42k / £30k to spend on her ring. Agent N received a very nice thank you gift!

  • While people were still in offices I was recruiting secret agents exponentially. Every client I helped started recruiting other multiple clients too, not just one...! Whenever a 'secret agent' referred their colleague or friend to me I always reward them after a happy ring order. E.g. Case of wine, Hotel GiftCards, Boxes of Gower Cottage Chocolate Brownies or simply cash. In effect I share my commission from the jeweler with the secret agent who sent me the lead.

Then when the first lockdown hit in March 2020 I was not only made redundant from my main full-time role as Global Partnerships Manager for the beloved Business Card printing giant MOO (a job I’d loved for nearly 6 years), but all of our jewelers and diamond trading floors here in London, Europe, Israel and the US closed practically overnight meaning that even if people did want to propose it was almost impossible for them to see and view diamonds before they bought them for many months.

Even those who were not personally affected by the pandemic and did still want to propose imminently weren’t always that keen to propose at home and preferred to wait until they could reliably travel on holiday. Many of my Asian clients live with their extended family until they’re married for cultural reasons and with many elderly grandparents also living in the household, this group of clients were having to delay and put on hold external meetings and went for months without seeing their intended fiances!

People were keen to move forward with their lives, but with unpredictable timelines on being able to escape to warmer climes, potential financial and job insecurity making budgets for luxury purchases a non-essential, and not being able to view and see diamonds in the flesh as easily (especially when everyone is WFH), the engagement and wedding industry has taken a huge knock during 2020-2021!

Many jewelers DO offer free delivery and returns in the mail, but most people in my experience do want to learn and be involved in the engagement ring-making experience personally - waiting for the postman doesn’t always cut it.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

I joined the brilliant FoundersCard (an exclusive Membership community of 50k+ CEOs and Entrepreneurs who have access to 500+ business, travel and lifestyle benefits) team in the US to lead Strategic Partnerships and have really loved focusing on that - every fan of Starter Story should be a member!

Everyone talks about their side-hustle being something to fall back on during hard times, but ongoing lockdowns and the huge global seismic shifts in consumer behavior we’re seeing as a direct result of the pandemic have severely impacted both mainstream jobs and sources of side income for many people worldwide.

I’ve always campaigned against relying on just one* job* as your entire monthly income and now I believe even more so that having multiple strings to your bow (or even multiple side-hustles ) creates further ways to earn money which has proven very valuable during unpredictable times.

Here in the UK, we’re still in our 3rd full lock down a whole year since Covid turned our lives upside down, so my biggest lesson has been to be patient, trust the process, and know that better times will come. We know there will be a HUGE surge in weddings, engagements, parties, and celebrations when restrictions lift so for many entrepreneurs it’s about hibernation and survival until then PLUS not feeling too guilty that your small business isn’t utterly thriving during these crazy uncertain times.

I have many clients on hold who are waiting for services to open back up but I’ve noticed an increasing number of female clients choosing their own engagement ring during this time and presenting even bigger budgets! A strategy that has worked very well for me is to plan out exactly what I want to do with Agent Engagement when the market fully opens up and concentrates on other countries that are less restricted than the UK.

Another lesson the pandemic has taught us is how valuable legal and written partnership/service agreements are. If you have a signed contract or SLA with a supplier or partnership then even if that business goes under or staff inside change very quickly, you have a legal document to fall back on if you’re owed money.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Despite everything I actually feel really empowered by what I’ve been through this last year and have really enjoyed working for other entrepreneurs during this time too, as well as feeling excited about how Agent E will thrive in a post-pandemic world. I’ve made more profit from fewer orders, and there’s a lot of valuable lessons in that!


Everything about the engagement and jewelry industry for the next few years is about recovery and the joy of celebrating life’s events with some level of normality!

I’m really looking forward to meeting jewelers and clients mask-free, attending global events and conferences, and building Agent E fully once again.

Have you read any good books in the last year?

During lockdown walks, I discovered the audio-book version of A Company of One by Paul Jarvis - ‘A refreshing approach to entrepreneurship centered on staying small and avoiding growth - maximizing happiness, sustainability, and profitability.’ I absolutely love it and recommend it to everyone.

Paul Jarvis left the corporate world when he realized that working in a high-pressure, high profile world was not his idea of success. Instead, he now works for himself out of his home and lives a much more rewarding and productive life. He no longer has to contend with an environment that constantly demands more productivity, more output, and more growth.

In Company of One, Jarvis explains how you can do the same, including:

  • Planning to set up
  • Determining desired revenues
  • Keeping clients happy
  • And, of course, doing all this on your own!


Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

The global pandemic has put a spanner in the works for so many ideas and new businesses - even entrepreneurs who technically have an increased market during this time have still needed to focus on putting food on the table from a more reliable source of income and home-schooling if they’re parents. There’s no shame in that and the delay this period has caused - the extra thinking time will be better for your business in the long run.

More than ever it’s really important to be the leanest start-up machine you can be! We still see too many people pour far too much of their life savings into fledgling ideas and concepts that haven’t been fully tested, and it’s easier than ever these days to build a minimum viable product using free or very low-cost applications - e.g. WIX, Squarespace, Slack, AirTable, TypeForm, Gmail and your cell phone.

The question I would keep asking myself as a new or seasoned entrepreneur these days is: What’s the smallest but most efficient and profitable business you can build during this time?

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m still looking to hire myself. Wish me luck - again!

Where can we go to learn more?

Rowena Cumner, Founder of Agent Engagement
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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