Every month we talk to a different entrepreneur behind a sustainable business about the brand that they’re blooming. We’re floored by the incredible insight and vulnerability that comes from these inspiring folks, and we want to share their stories. You can read all of these on the Brands that Bloom Series Page!
This month, we got in touch with Asia, the young lady founder behind Hannahliya Jewelry. And get this – she started her business when she was still in high school!
Interview with Asia, Founder of Hannahliya Jewelry
Did you always want to be a business owner? How did you decide on creating a jewelry line?
I was born in Trinidad & Tobago and migrated to the US in 2010. As a child I spent a lot of time at the beach. I would collect seashells, and they were always turned into little works of art. I would inveigle my dad to bore small holes into the ones that were the perfect size and shape, and I would make necklaces. I was always making something with whatever I had.
I decided to start my Jewelry Business in the summer of 2019, right before my senior year in high school. I watched every YouTube video I could find on different techniques, types of materials, and tools needed. Once I ordered materials, I got to work.
As this new venture was unfolding, I experienced devastation. I lost a family member to suicide. Hannah was only 16. The shock and grief was almost unbearable. I never knew grief. I never knew how much it can deplete you to such an extent that the slightest tasks become monumental.
After the initial shock and sadness, I was angry. At myself. How could I not know she was suffering? We had many sleepovers together where we talked, laughed, took endless selfies and silly videos of ourselves.
I researched mental illness and learned that it doesn’t have a face. It is almost invisible and more common than many think. It changed me.
As I worked on my designs, there were nights the tears rolled off my face and fell on my materials. The more it happened, it was as though my vision became clearer. I decided, this is it, I am going to use my creativity to impact women to feel good about themselves. I want all women to know they are not alone.
The business name was created not only because it’s my middle name, but to honor the memory of my beloved, Hannah.
When did you officially launch as Hannahliya Jewelry? What is the guiding purpose or story behind your brand?
In the fall of 2019, I officially launched several jewelry collections consisting of over 200 pieces. I showcased my designs to about 80 attendees, consisting of my classmates, their parents, friends and family. It was a beautiful evening with drinks and bites being served as everyone was able to look at all my pieces, try them on and purchase them if they liked.
During that event I had each person fill out a short survey giving feedback on what collections they liked the most/least so it gave me an idea before I opened to the world on my website www.hannahliya.com. This really guided me, because sometimes you think people will respond more to this particular style but then they don’t.
My vision is for Hannahliya Jewelry to be the go-to for boho chic styled jewelry. A brand that’s inclusive of every woman and be known for great quality, style, prices and personalized customer care.
I think of my craft as a tangible means to affect societal change, by allowing creativity into the world. And that is what it is all about; creating something, complex or simple, recognized or unnoticed, that impacts the lives of others.
Could you tell us a little bit about the production process for your pieces?
I am constantly perusing beads, findings and other jewelry making materials from supplier catalogs. An idea of a design is usually sparked once I see something I like. So usually I have a general idea of what I would like to do when I place an order but oftentimes when it arrives, something completely new comes to mind! (my mind works a little bazaar at times.)
I am also inspired by places I have visited, certain trends, pop music icons or something in nature.
90% of my products are made by hand, the other 10% are machine made designs like metal bangles that compliment my beaded stuff in creating stacks and layers. Those I often refer to as “essentials,” kind of like “a little black dress or pair of jeans”
Currently, I’m obsessed with mixing metals. Gold, silver and rose gold. I just added the Belle & Venus Bangles and working on a few other new styles that would be on the website soon: https://hannahliya.com/collections/new-arrivals
A family affair!
Hannahliya is primarily a family affair, my mom handles everything to do with the website, and the business aspect. My grandma assists me with constructing pieces and keeping stock/inventory organized. I have 2 assistants that help with constructing as well as all the other million things that have to get done – like packaging, shipping, product photography, etc!
And I can’t forget my 8 yr old little brother who is in charge of finding runaway beads on the floor! (This happens a lot, round beads have a mind of their own!)
What does “Quality” mean to Hannahliya?
I use only top quality materials. I’d rather spend a bit more and deliver a long lasting quality product and ensure my customers are happy. I also offer a lifetime repair guarantee. (because let’s be real, no matter how hard you try, shit happens!) I would repair any handmade piece at no cost to the customer. I want them to have jewelry that lasts and even become heirlooms!
Everything I make, someone on the team will wear everyday for at least a week, this is our “grind” test. I want to make sure it’s comfortable to wear, can stand some rigor (women are busy and shouldn’t have to think about tiptoeing around their jewelry) and easy to put on and off.
I also offer custom sizing on all handmade items, I have a small wrist and it’s always been a challenge with bracelets rolling off my wrists. My great aunt has a big wrist and I remember once she visited and we went shopping with her for a watch. Even with additional links in the box, it was a challenge to make it fit. That has always stayed with me. I would customize for a comfortable fit for anyone.
What do you find the most challenging aspect of growing a business online?
It has been nothing short of overwhelming. I wished I started 1 year earlier and went through all the learning/testing before I started my senior year. The biggest challenge had been balancing school, senior activities, college application deadlines and the business.I made it through, thank God!
As time goes by, I am learning everyday and getting a clearer idea of what customers like and want. Focusing more on what’s most loved and scaling back on the not so loved. The easiest and most enjoyable part, hands down is always designing and making. I’m still learning and have a long way to go to achieve my goal.
Words of advice
I think for most young people business seems like something that’s beyond them. We tell ourselves stories, “I’m too young, I’m too this or I’m too that.”
My advice will be if you find something you truly love doing, go for it! And if you find it early, you are ahead, because most people don’t discover it until later in life.
First, make sure it isn’t something you like in the ‘now’ but something you can visualize yourself doing for a long time. Starting a business takes time and money, so ensure before you invest such valuable commodities you are passionate about it.
Secondly, test, test, test. Start small and test each idea/design..test the market, the need, the audience, and build upon that. An easy way is through social media, even if your followers are not buyers, you can see what they respond to quite easily.
New business comes with risks, so you have to be ready for disappointments that WILL come and be dead set on your vision to keep you going.