Be willing to learn the business side of the industry you want to penetrate.
Meet Izabela Domachowski, Creative Director, Designer, and founder of Iza Jewelry, a Vancouver-based, but Bali-inspired jewelry company. I came across the brand one day while browsing Instagram and was instantly captivated by the brand’s sleek, classy, yet gently new-age designs. I reached out to Izabela to learn more about her story.
In today’s BRANDMAKERS, you’ll learn how Izabela transitioned from running her own creative agency into learning the ins and outs of jewelry-making and manufacturing. Though she initially experienced several roadblocks, she worked through them and was able to launch her line with success!
Check out her story below for pointers on how you can continue to find inspiration to pursue your own passion project and turn it into a business!
What inspired you to create Iza Jewelry?
I took a jewelry making course six years ago and during the 8 week course, I made a ring that I have worn everyday since. It’s a simple design with a pink champagne mirrored glass stone. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t received a compliment on it. That was it. I never took another course and never in a million years did I think one day I would have my own line.
Fast forward to three years ago and my brother and I were running DOMOGENEOUS, a creative agency in Vancouver and decided to go on a trip to Bali together for my birthday. While we were there, we noticed all these signs for silversmithing. My brother suggested I set up some meetings with a few manufacturers simply out of curiosity. I left Bali with a deeper understanding of producing jewelry overseas and few extra contacts.
The next year, our creative agency was the busiest yet, and I had no time to pursue the jewelry “idea.” However, that following New Year, after a much needed break, my brother and I decided to close down our agency and focus on our own passion projects…mine being jewelry design.
We packed up the office and my house, closed all of our client accounts and I embarked to Bali with nothing but a few contacts scribbled on a piece of paper from the visit the year before.
What kind of challenges/setbacks did you face early on in launching Iza Jewelry and how did you overcome them?
The first two years were so difficult on so many levels. The manufacturer I started working with proved to be a nightmare to deal with and after 5 months of struggling in Bali, I decided to come home – defeated – to regroup and potentially go back in a few months with a fresh perspective and a new manufacturer in place.
The second trip was a bit more successful, but I faced many challenges because of Bali’s incredibly slow pace of life and work. What I thought was going to take 3 months, took a year, nevermind the fact that money was rapidly leaving my account and I had nothing to show for it. After a few months, I finally decided it was time to come back to Vancouver, expecting my first shipment of goods soon thereafter. However, once I opened the package, I quickly discovered that I would have to return 80% of the goods because the quality was not up to my standards. It took my manufacturer an extra 3 months to remake and deliver the next round which resulted in countless customer complaints and a lot of refunds for pre-orders that were placed months in advance. Everything inside of me wanted to quit. Everything! However, my friends and family really pushed me to continue and somehow I pulled through and officially launched IZA JEWELRY in March with over 200 Vancouverites in attendance and the biggest smile on my face. I now have the best team in Bali which makes me feel confident in the future of my brand and upcoming collections.
What’s your favorite marketing tool and how has this help you grow Iza Jewelry?
Instagram. I’ve always been a super visual person, so Instagram allows me to communicate with my customers in a way I know best – storytelling through images. Because I wanted to make sure my product was at its best, I’ve held off from heavily marketing IZA JEWELRY outside Vancouver, but it has started spreading organically, with orders already coming in from all around the world. It’s an incredible feeling to receive a notification that a new order was placed for one of my rings from a complete stranger halfway across the world.
What’s something unexpected that has happened to you during your entrepreneurial journey and how did that affect your business?
My mother got really sick which made me feel guilty for being away from home for the extended periods of time that I was in Bali. A couple of times, I came home too early which resulted in me not being able to quality check the goods in person and thus sub par deliverables from my team in Bali. I also did not expect Bali to operate on such a slow pace.
There was already the language barrier, but not being able to effectively communicate the urgency I needed work done at proved super challenging. I’ve had to learn how to extra patient and kind to the process and to myself.
What keeps you going?
I have the most incredible friends and family in Vancouver –– a powerful group of like-minded entrepreneurs who hustle and create beautifully inspiring products and services. We’re constantly encouraging each other to be the best version of ourselves and to push the limits of what is the norm. You are your friends.
I also have an amazing business mentor who knows just when I need to hash out all of my stresses and doubts over an old-fashioned cocktail. Sometimes, he lets me lean on his shoulder for a much needed cry. (Seriously.)
Is there anything that you could be doing better? How will doing this change you or your business?
I really should hire an intern. I’ve quickly learned that I can’t actually manage and do everything myself, especially since I am in Bali for extended periods of time working on new collections and overseeing production. It would be incredibly helpful to have someone respond to basic customer emails, work on inventory counts and other menial tasks that actually do take time away from the more important, pressing duties. I’m also terrible at making the final decision, whether it be the color of the packaging or the length of chain. This is something thatI have been working hard at.
In your blog post Summer Chill, your model poses topless. What’s your advice to other creatives who may be scared to “push boundaries” within their art/business?
I wish I had the guts to push the boundaries even further. I think once my brand is recognized more internationally, my campaigns will get edgier…because why not?
What makes you the proudest about Iza Jewelry?
Actually starting. They say that’s the hardest part. Leaving everything behind and moving to Bali blind was the scariest thing I have ever done. And despite all of the setbacks, finally, officially launching a product that I was and am still so proud of. Everything- from the brand, to the designs of the pieces, to the website is exactly how I dreamt it would be. To be able to call it my own is so rewarding. The last nine months since officially launching have been a great success in terms of online sales and exposure. At this rate, I am very much looking forward to the next nine.
What’s next for Iza Jewelry?
So much. I am currently in Bali working on my second collection ‘Metallic Dreams’, which will launch early 2016. I plan on heading back to Vancouver for a few months before returning to Bali in the March to begin the much anticipated men’s line. My guy friends are constantly asking me when they can have an IZA ring, so my gut feeling says the men’s will do better than the women’s. Super exciting times ahead.
What makes you shine? (What are some of your personal strengths that you think have helped you get to where you are today?)
I love people and developing deep connections with complete strangers. There is some magic in letting every vulnerable guard down and just being present with the energies around you.
One of my favorite things to do is to meet up with potential customers one-on-one over a coffee or cocktail and get to know them on a personal level before showing the jewelry. It helps me guide that person in picking a piece that is right just for them. I’ve also always believed that you can do anything you want to do, if you simply put your mind to it. So I am constantly challenging myself to set higher goals and learn new things. So far so good.
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How did you turn a passion project of yours into a business? Share your story in the COMMENTS section!
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