Since launching their business, sisters Lauren Chang Sommer and Alana Chang Weirick have built a multi-million dollar empire that is turning the diamond industry on its head. Here Alana explains how she started a business at the age of 24.
The current statistics about start-ups can be scary, but they don’t have to be your story.
My sister (Lauren) and I started our own business when I was only 24, and she was 25. We were young, but we were determined.
It was 2004 and Lauren was trying to buy some earrings for her wedding day. Our parents had just returned from an overseas holiday and dad showed us a piece of jewellery he had bought for mum. It was made from Moissanite – an ethically-sourced jewel that has similar chemical properties to diamond but comes at a fraction of the price. It was then that we realised there was a massive gap in the market for high quality jewellery that didn’t break the bank.
And so we set out to bring Moissanite here to Australia, eventually winning the rights and setting up Moi Moi.
By entering completely unfamiliar territory, we had well and truly thrown ourselves into the deep end. Very few Australian’s had even heard of Moissanite and we had no idea how consumers would respond to it. We’d set out to carve a whole new category of fine jewellery into the marketplace, and it certainly felt like a David and Goliath scenario taking on the industry like we did.
But we survived and now we are thriving 12 years on. Here are just some of those lessons we learned from starting a business in our 20’s:
It’s never too early to start
Establishing a business early has a multitude of advantages. Generally speaking, young entrepreneurs are more fearless, energetic and hopeful; characteristics that absolutely contribute to success.
It’s so important to take advantage of these priceless qualities while you have them. Establishing Moi Moi at such a young age was a huge risk but it meant we had the passion and drive to persevere in an industry dominated by older and more established diamond retailers.
Starting early was the best decision for us because now, 12 years down the track, we have gained crucial experience that has helped us reach our current success and given us the tools to thrive in the future.
Lots of people are willing to help if you ask.
The entrepreneurial spirit is contagious and you will be surprised just how willing people are to offer their time, energy and expertise to help you in your business journey.
It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, in fact, it’s a smart decision to outsource some of your knowledge because figuring everything out yourself is nearly impossible. There is always going to be someone that will know more than you, so take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that’s out there.
When my sister and I started our business in our mid-twenties, there was so much we didn’t know. We wasted no time in gathering a network of contacts including Moissanite experts and distributors from around the world and frequently called upon their knowledge and experience. I cannot recommend this enough, because the help we received was invaluable in fast-tracking our growth, establishing our professional network and we have been seeing the benefits ever since.
Work hard, especially at first.
It’s a common belief that when you start your own business you get a fabulously flexible life. But unfortunately, that is not the reality.
Starting a business is all about staying afloat, and that means doing whatever it takes to succeed. When we started, we gave it all; working late nights, weekends and investing money back into the business often without even being paid ourselves, which was all a part of the growth experience.
It’s no secret that success doesn’t happen overnight; work hard in the beginning and eventually you’ll see the results and all of those long days and sacrifices will all be worth it.
Manage your cash flow well
Cash goes out fast and hard when you start out, so it takes a while to start seeing profits and results. It’s easy to get carried away with the seemingly endless overheads, so a contingency plan should always be in place.
Try and stick to the absolute essentials, only stocking the inventory needed and keeping close track of debts is so important to staying alive in those crucial first stages.
Don’t be offended when people ask to speak with your boss
Being a young entrepreneur, people will inevitably underestimate you, even if by accident. At first I used to get defensive when I was asked this question, but eventually I began to see it as a secret weapon.
When you are underestimated it makes it that much more satisfying when you prove yourself. I believe quiet confidence is everything.
Moi Moi Fine Jewellery Founders and designing sister duo – Lauren Chang Sommer and Alana Chang Weirick – discovered Moissanite in 2004. The captivating brilliance of the jewel and the very attractive price point encouraged them to take a leap of faith and start their own business, offering consumers an alternative choice for their engagement rings. The sisters have since pioneered a whole new category of fine jewellery in Australia, more recently developing their own Moissanite jewel called SUPERNOVA Moissanite. For more information visit https://www.moimoi.com.au/