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This cold emailing strategy generated $150,000 in sales, with Kimai’s co-founder Jess Warch (part 1)

by Female Startup Club
February 9th 2022

Today on the show we’re learning from the co-founder of London based jewellery brand Kimai.

Kimai is a modern fine jewelry brand that delivers true traceability by using lab-grown diamonds an... More

are you on the lookout for a new podcast? To listen to being boss by Emily Thompson is brought to you by the hubspot podcast network and something I love about this show is getting the chance to support my community of fellow creators and business owners. Being boss is an exploration of not only what it takes, but what it means to be a boss as a creative business owner, freelancer or side hustler and I know it's going to resonate with so many of you who are listening in. So if you like female startup club, trust me, you're going to love being boss. This is just for female startup club mm hmm. Hey everyone and welcome back to the show. It's Dune here, your host and hype girl today on the show, we're learning from the co founder of London based jewelry brand Kimye kimye is a modern fine jewelry brand that delivers true traceability by using lab grown diamonds and recycled 18 carat gold by using lab grown diamonds which are physically and chemically identical to those that are mined and recycled gold.

They cut out all mines and middlemen and control the whole jewelry process from design to delivery. They operate on a mission to prove that diamond mines are not forever and that the biggest luxury is knowing where your jewelry comes from and safe in the knowledge that it doesn't harm people or the planet. In this episode, we chat through the serendipitous moment that generated $150,000 worth of sales. Her approach to fundraising and how they built a new brand in the midst of a pandemic And by the way, if you want to come to our London launch party for the book, Remember to email me so we can pop you on the list at hello at female startup club dot com. Let's get into it. This is just for female startup club. Are you working around the clock to build the business you always imagined? Do you want to communicate with your fast growing list of customers in a personalized way, but in a way that gives you time to work on the rest of your business. Do you ever wonder how the companies, you admire the ones that redefine their categories do it. Companies like living proof and chubby's.

They do it by building relationships with their customers from the very beginning while also evolving in real time as their customers needs change, these companies connect quickly with their customers, collect their information and start creating personalized experiences and offers that inspire rapid purchase, often within minutes of uploading their customer data. Clay Vo empowers you to own the most important thing to any business. The relationship between you and your customers and the experiences you deliver from the first email to the last promotion to learn more about how Clay vo helps you own your growth visit Clay vo dot com slash F S. C. That's K L A V I Y O dot com slash F. S. C. Female startup club precincts. Yes. Hi, welcome to the show. Hey, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to have you on here today. Same, really excited to talk about anything and everything.

Do you want to start by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about what the business actually is? Of course. So hey everyone, I'm jess, I grew up in Belgium in antwerp And moved to London have been living in London for the past 10 years. So for those of you who don't know basically antwerp is the diamond center of the world. So we basically grew up around diamonds and jittery our entire life and over the years moving to London and kind of like getting out of our country zone. We started to become more and more conscious of our impact, more conscious of our purchasing decisions and that's how we started asking questions about the origins of our purchases, where we're seeing all kinds of industry evolving in terms of transparency in terms of supply chain and looking at the diamond and fine jewelry industry, which was an industry that was really important to us personally, growing up. We couldn't find any simple answers to our question. It was impossible to know where the diamonds we were buying were coming from and that's basically how we launched kimye.

So I'm the co founder of which is lab grown diamond and recycled goals fine jewelry brand. And and so yes, basically it started looking into that issue, started talking to different people really to understand. How can we solve it? How can we make that industry not only from a transparency perspective, but also from a marketing and the way we talk to our customer more approachable to us as a younger generation and that's basically the idea behind the brand and how we decided to use only lab grown diamonds and all the pieces we make. And I don't know if you want me to tell you everything straight away or I will, I will guide you, I will ask you some things I want to dig in a little bit first about more, you know this time in your life where you were starting to explore the idea of having a lab grown diamond company because you started a few years ago and I feel like even now it's only just kind of becoming, I don't know if mainstream is the right word, but like I certainly didn't really know about lab grown diamonds and obviously you come from the jewelry industry.

I think your dad was in the industry and your co founder's father was also in the industry. But what kind of got you thinking about lab grown diamonds and how did you become exposed to that specifically or did you know about it from a really long time ago? So there were two issues in the industry that we just felt that it wasn't talking to us anymore as younger customer firstly like jewelry has always been important to us because it's something so sentimental, it's something you can carry over from one generation to another is something you buy yourself or get from someone to celebrate a special moment in time or that reminds you of a special person. So we wanted to figure out how do we make that industry that hasn't seen any changes over the years, That has known many controversies from blood diamond to child labor. How do we make it relevant again? And so we started talking to different diamond traders started looking deeper into that issue and even asking diamond traders about the origins of the stones. They were selling about anything about the supply chain, the working environment.

It was really impossible to get any transparency at all. Uh so we wanted to find an alternative that doesn't trade off on quality and lab grown diamonds at the time. The first time we heard about those diamonds was about four years ago and at the time it was really the first time we heard about it. Even looking up online, it was very, very little information available and that's why even today, we talked to many people that haven't heard about those diamonds yet, but there's definitely been a huge awareness since then, but at that time when we decided to use those lab grown diamond basically to give people of context of what those diamonds are. Uh today, thanks to technology, we were able to replicate the mining environment in the lab and we're able to grow diamonds in the exact same way as they would under earth, but without the social environmental impact of mining. When I say exactly the same way, it means that those diamonds are chemically and physically identical, that a diamond trader Can differentiate one from the other and no one can really see the difference.

Besides with a very specific machine that has been developed over the years and it's not even 100%. So when we first heard about those diamonds, we really saw this as our best solution to bring not only the transparency we're looking for, but also the modern and innovation side that the industry was missing. And so we knew that it was a challenge because as I said, like there wasn't many articles available online. The diamond industry has a lot of money and can pressure any new technology through marketing etcetera, like market increased marketing. Um yes, publishing companies etcetera. But we found it as the best way to to make yeah, to modernize that industry. And so it came with as well, a lot of education. So when we launched most people could see those diamonds as fake diamonds, what what does it mean? Love grown. Um so it's definitely a learning curve for customers and we're not here to tell them okay, you should only buy lab grown diamond, we're here to give them the information and educate them on the topic and we've definitely seen a huge um the industry has definitely shifted in the past three years.

So when we started, we launched with fine jewelry thinking, okay, it's gonna be easier to educate customers with pieces That are below $1,000. Not even thinking of engagement rings because engagement ring is a more traditional purchase. It's gonna take longer for customers to accept that change and make that switch for such an important purchase in their life. But with education, with customers becoming more and more conscious, people are really looking for an alternative. And the more information you've got on the topic, the more you understand that that is the best alternative today and that you're getting the exact same result. So we launched engagement ring a year ago. Ah and we're definitely seeing that trend continue to grow. That's so amazing. Just a side note question, how long does it take a lab grown diamond to form? So it takes between 6 to 12 weeks and it will depend on on the side of the stone that you're trying to grow, etcetera, wow.

And when you're looking at like the machine, can you see it growing? Yeah, you can see like there's a very tiny hole in order for you to see it grow, but I can send you a video afterwards. It's so cool. Oh my God, yes, Please send me a video. I would love to see it. So obviously jewelry industry, you need a lot of capital, that's no secret there. What kind of money did you need to invest to get started and launch the brand. So, so when we started to be honest, we had zero understanding of what it means, fundraising. And also we had zero confidence in going up to investors and asking for money just based on an idea and on top of it, we didn't know any inventors and investors at the time. So for us, when we came up with the idea, we wanted to Test the product market fit before going for any big investment. So we were lucky enough that because we come from that industry, we didn't have to commit to any inventory in advance and we could really produce one piece of age design.

We started with a small collection of 20 pieces. We could pay the suppliers much later and we're able to launch with a very simple website without any strong branding, without any strong launch day, really testing it out with friends and family and figuring out ways to get the word out there. And then basically at that point, our only strength because we didn't have money to invest in marketing and honestly our branding side of things was very basic. We took the simply ist like Shopify website. We're like, okay, so what do we do now? And so at that time? Like our strength was really like emails, emails are free, get in touch with people and figure out ways to get the word out there. There was also another tricky part is that Compared to like other DTC brands where their price point is usually average order value at $100, you can kind of like, let's say take the risk of gifting a few people and hope for the best cause at that point you won't be able to pay any influencer to wear your pieces.

But for us, because our average order value is more in the 600, and today it's getting even higher. It was even gifting someone was like a big kind of risk 100%. And I, I always think this is about high price point products, like how you approach influencer marketing and gifting because it's such a big piece of the puzzle for regular dtC brands definitely. And that's definitely something we're still working on. Like, we haven't done much gifting just because of that. And also today, like it's so crowded in the industry in general. Like if you look at one influencer, like you'll see one product after the other and you kind of like disappears in that messaging and it doesn't feel as authentic and for us, what is important is We want people that align with our brand to wear our pieces and we want as well, like on top of just showing that the designs are nice, which we're trying to work on, it's about telling a story, it's about educating customers on what they're buying. Um so getting back to my point basically when we started, we launched a brand in November 2018 and so we started sending cold emails to people and trying to figure out who would be the best ambassador, like who like entrepreneurs uh influencers, but like really aiming high.

So basically we looked at Meghan Markle as the perfect kind of match for our brand because at the time like she was wearing a lot of young brand, a lot of female founded companies and she kind of like was also changing a whole kind of like more traditional way of doing like in the royalty family etcetera. So she was the dream. But of course like when you dream of Meghan Markle, you think it's never gonna happen, but what we've done is like looking into her clothes network, trying to figure out how can we get in touch with her and how can we tell her our story. Um and basically true sent through a few cold emails, we got her to wear our pieces two months after our launch? No way. That's so cool. What? Wait, I need more information here. Like what do you mean cold emails? Like what did you send and who were you sending them to? Like a business account or just like her friends or like what do you mean? Honestly, I am a strong believer in cold emails, like I called email everyone even like investors, but we'll get to it later.

But like whenever we started raising funds, we didn't know anyone. So like just like looking online, figuring out what are their emails, guessing them or finding them. And with Meghan Markle was really about looking into who are her close friends that aren't asthma digitized than she is. And then going on their facebook, going on their linkedin, like figuring out what their email. So it was more of a personal email and really super, super straightforward, super simple, just telling them about who we are, what our story, why we're doing what we're doing and that I would love for Megan to wear our pieces. Oh my gosh! And so she wears your pieces. What happens? Like what's the impact of doing something like that? So basically she, we get an email, we think it's of course it's spam, like it's not real like that to happen, like it's not busted, but like for two hours we're looking into that email, is it true, is it not? Uh and basically she can't accept gifts. So like they bought the pieces um and that was like in december and so they said, okay, she's probably gonna wear it anytime soon, but then you never know, right?

Like you don't know what happens with those pieces and then every day in the news every day being like, is there a new outfit posted exactly, where is Megan? Where is Megan? We're obsessed and then in january, I think it was mid jan. She came, she did her first official outing with her baby bump um and she wore the pieces and basically the pieces she, we're we're like a very unique design and usually she's more traditional in the design she wears and it was also an event that was really magnetized because of the fact that like first time she comes out with her baby bump the first time in the new year that she does an official royal outing um and so press really, really picked it up and on top of it, first time that royalty is seen wearing lab grown diamonds and back then two years, two years ago, three years ago most people were still like questioning that industry what's gonna happen is that the future, is it not like what, what's happening on that, on that, like in that space?

You know when something like that happens, all these pictures come out, how do they know it's your brand? Have you already told the media or do you have to backtrack and be like that's our brand and like piggyback off those photos to be honest. Like I think they must have someone in the house that kind of communicate with press because we didn't have to do anything and also the president came out, we're focusing on lab grown diamond like Meghan Markle, where's lab grown diamonds. So it's so cool, it's really something that people picked up. So we're super lucky which made it, which made us like sell worldwide super quickly without any investment at first, but it's really true, like hustling and like getting things done so that enabled us to kind of like get money in organically right, and because you made everything and you still make everything to order, so you had no inventory costs, you started with a small amount of money kind of like super bootstrapped it, you have this crazy moment, a lot of orders flooded in and this opens the window to more people.

Exactly know definitely. So we started with $5000 each into the business um and that's it. And so today of course we have, we don't make everything to order just because in order to scale up and in order to ship faster, like our pieces that are performing best, we have some inventory on hand limited compared to like any other bread because we don't want to have like we don't wanna find ourselves with waste at the end of the year. But but yeah, at that time like we basically when we we we we sold the earrings to Megan market, we're like ok let's produce five earrings just in case she wears that, but we were so out of like we were so far off, how many kind of of that particular earring did it sell like in the kind of immediate aftermath In like 2, 3 weeks we've done $150,000 without any marketing. Okay, so it's super impactful. That's crazy, wow.

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Yeah, impossible to plan. And definitely the month after that happened, like we had to fulfill those orders, right? And we didn't have any inventory and of course we didn't have a team, like we were as my co founder was telling a full time job, like we were making the packages ourselves at night, like and dealing with customer service and where's my package? So it was a very but, but yeah, from there, we, we kind of like took advantage of that situation to go and fundraise because we're talking to different people, people were telling us it's the right time to fundraise. You've proven your concept now in order to like scale up, you need cash and take advantage of what you've been able to do now because you never know what happens afterwards. Okay, so what, what's that story? How does that happen? So basically that's when we fund raised $1.2 million. And that happened again, as I said before, like, we didn't know anyone in the industry, the entrepreneurs or investors or any of those because we were just like starting up.

Um but that was as well, I called emails starting reaching out to people that have some kind something in common with us, like female founders were the easiest because they understand the product, they've gone through what we've gone through and you connect much easier, like at first, so we started like looking up like female entrepreneurs that are investors that, uh yeah, they do some angels investing and started started reaching out to them, getting on cold and that's how we got like our first money in, through like angels and then actually went, they are and they interviewed two other people and other people and other people. So in that early time, just before, just interrupt you again, because I have so many questions as we go in that time where you're kind of, it's your first time fundraising, you're doing kind of angels, What's the kind of ask like how big are the checks that you asked for? Is there a kind of like minimum that you were asking or were you just kind of open for whatever?

At that time we didn't have the confidence again of like saying a minimum, but we were super confident in the fact that like we didn't want to get just any money in, we wanted to make sure that like we, it was a personal fit because we kind of thought of the fact like it's scary to get investment in because you feel like, you know like when you get a job and start earning money, you feel like you're getting rid of your parents on that side of things and then when you get investment and you feel like you're getting new parents, do you want to make sure that like, you know them well and you want to make sure that of course you want to get their advice, but you don't want to be pressured too much either because you want to be able to build your business in a way that makes sense, rather than from a kind of shareholders perspective. So we were super strict on like who were getting in and wanted to make yeah, to be sure they're the right people, but we didn't put like a minimum in like, a minimum amount in order to join because some people we got in are like amazing entrepreneurs and that have an amazing network, amazing expertise.

And for us it was important to get those people in rather than how much money they were going to invest. So it's really dependent on the people, but we got like, half of the round was like angels, and then we got a fund uh investing as well, so it was half half. Oh my gosh, that's so interesting. Okay, and so you get the funding 1.2 million I think you said in USD what are the milestones kind of or what's the, what happens from then to now? So when we got the money was just a few months before Covid. Um and basically for us, what was the most important part was, as I said, we launched the very simple website, no branding at all, like, compared to how we look at brands today, whenever they launched, they've got like a super strong launch day with amazing pr their branding has been worked on for months, like for us, it was like, really scrappy. So first thing we wanted to do, like invest in branding. So we worked a lot on our branding uh and kind of like weren't doing any marketing at the time, because we really wanted to be organic on that side of things until we get our brand to the right place.

And then when Covid hit, we kind of found ourselves in a situation where we've got a lot of money in the bank, like we just fundraise the world is basically falling apart. We're selling a luxury product, we don't feel comfortable pushing that kind of product in the first few months of the pandemic. So we kind of like, and we don't have a team yet, right? So you don't have any, like, it's kind of like the best situation to be in, but at the same time as young entrepreneurs, like, we don't didn't want to risk spending money without understanding like, what's happening in the world. So we kind of like, brought all of our calls down to zero and really focused on being close to our customers, understanding what they were looking for uh in the brand, in their product etcetera. And it's really at that time that we started working on the engagement in category that we thought would come much later down the line, but actually there's been more and more demand around it. We were educating customers around that burn diamonds and this kind of accelerated on that side of things. And then when Covid kind of like went a bit, I wouldn't say it disappeared because it's it's still hasn't.

But when Covid kind of slowed down we started really investing in marketing and we're really because we're a young entrepreneurs like it's our first company. Like we're testing things out. It's really about like testing and learning like digital marketing. How does it work? Like we spend money without having any return but then until you find your strategy and yes, we're lucky that we've got money that we're able to do those kind of things. But I think it's part of the game to really take those risks and figure out what's the best way to get again the word out there and to get your product in the right hands. What have you found in that time? That does work Well I think for us what we see that definitely we focused a lot on our customer service. So what we've seen is that jewelry is a very loyal purchase as soon as like you trust your jeweler. And also because we offer that bespoke and customization side of things, people come back for more so for us it's about being a personal brand rather than just seeing a big logo.

It's really about like talking to our customers directly. If someone has any question they can reach out, we can get on calls with them. We really offer that very high end and luxurious uh service that you'll only find usually at like fine jewelry brand if you're like a V. I. P. Client. So we really, really focus on customer service as a whole. But then I think it's a mix of things like definitely digital marketing words, but you don't want to rely on it too much because you don't want the date that you turn the engine off and you know that sales start stop coming in, you want to lower your customer, You want customers that buy into the brand and the mission rather than just like a nice picture. Um, but we were still trying things out but definitely digital has been useful being on social, being direct with our customers being transparent, doing zoom calls when needed. And as I said before like influencers or like gifting strategy. We haven't done a wide one, but for us it's really About getting the right people to wear the pieces so we don't give many people but the people we do give that there are people that have a voice that there are people that don't have millions of followers, but they might be like entrepreneurs like with thousands 5000 followers.

but I can really represent the brand and talk about the brand and personally love the product. So it's more like people reaching out rather than us going and looking for them. Yeah. And I can also imagine, you know, we've seen the kind of capsule collections created in collaboration with influences. So I imagine when it's that higher price point, those are the kinds of initiatives that, you know, come into fruition. Yeah, so we haven't launched any collapse yet, but it's definitely something we're working on this year, so we're launching one soon in March hopefully, and definitely like other discussions that are ongoing and we'll see how that goes. But it's yeah, it's definitely interesting and also for us from a creative side of things to get a different mind in and to get other people's perspective and do something a bit different than our usual designs, so we'll see how that goes. But yeah, we're excited for collapse what we've done in the past as well. We've done pop, like that's pop ups or whatever you like, however you want to call them, but basically we've done like pop Up at reformation in new york and London were talking to other brands to do some more this year in London and new york as well, so where we go in, we're just in for like a day or two, we do piercing so people can come and discover the brand because we're only online and we felt like quite high average order value online, only people love coming meeting us touching the pieces, trying them on.

Oh my God, that is so cool, We should do a pop up at my book launch party, we should do piercings, can we do that? I would love to do that. Oh my gosh, that is so cool. You know what's funny as well is like when you're talking about the digital marketing side of things for anyone listening, that's how actually I discovered your brand and I had seen an ad, it was a unique piece that I'd never seen before, I bookmarked it. And then when we got introduced and I looked at the brand, I was like, oh my God, I know this brand, I love this brand there in my saved folder and like it's those little moments where you see something and it's so true. It's like, it takes you multiple times to kind of buy something or actually take note of what that is. It's like you see a little something, you save it, you hear about it in the news and you're like, oh yeah, like that comes into your brain, but it doesn't like cement until a few times and I love that, love that for us. That's so cool. And it's and it's definitely like digital marketing builds awareness, then it's not the only touch point because again, it's expensive and and we want people to be thoughtful about their purchase, we're not pushing people to buy the entire collection were more into like thoughtful purchases.

So it allows, yeah, it allows you to reach a white crowd, but then there's work to be done afterwards. Yes, absolutely. To keep them, keep them in your loop and reach them in different ways. I love it. What do you think is your key piece of advice for entrepreneurs in 2022? I think it's super cliche, but it's true, you know, like, it's really about like, I feel like one thing is that a lot of people before launching a brand or a company, they kind of like try to balance out the pros and comes too often, and I think for us, when we started, we were young and super naive and never really kind of question what it's meant to be an entrepreneur or what it is, like what are the pros, what are the counts? Of course, you need to understand your market, but sometimes you just need to go for it because I think like if maybe today, if if we wanted to launch a brand, we wouldn't have launched a bootstrapped, we wouldn't have launched it without a branding, we wouldn't be as crappy in reaching out to like, Meghan Markle, which we would think is like impossible to get.

So I felt sometimes like, don't think too much and just try it out and I feel like you see all those companies fundraising a lot of money and you think that that's the way to go, but there's a lot that can be done with very little money at least in the beginning, definitely to scale up, you need more cash, but you can test out the market and you can Yeah, and just try it out and then see what happens. 100%. So true. It's all about just like tiny steps of action, action towards your goal. Just trying testing I iterating, trying again, asking again. Exactly, exactly. It's all about learning like every day we learn and every day we test but and definitely of course you need to be careful but just go for it. 100%. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode. We are testing out something new here for the next while and we're splitting up each episode into two parts, the main interview part and then the six quick questions part to make them easier to listen to. So that's part one done, tune into part 2 to hear the six quick questions.

Hey, it's Doom here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the female startup club podcast. If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D. I. Y. Course the ads, N. B. A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way. It might seem like such a small thing, but reviews help other heirs find us. So please do jump on and subscribe rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network, See you soon. Mhm.

This cold emailing strategy generated $150,000 in sales, with Kimai’s co-founder Jess Warch (part 1)
This cold emailing strategy generated $150,000 in sales, with Kimai’s co-founder Jess Warch (part 1)
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