Jennie Yoon, founder of online jewelry brand Kinn, Photo Credit: Karen Rosalie
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And in the case of Jennie Yoon, founder of the online direct-to-consumer jewelry brand, Kinn, an unfortunate event led to a golden opportunity as an entrepreneur. When Yoon’s parents were robbed and lost all of their precious heirlooms (including her grandmother’s antiques), they were devastated by the loss. So she decided to create her own jewelry brand of modern heirlooms inspired by antique styling.
Yoon was working at tech accessory brand Casetify when she first launched Kinn in 2017, and was splitting her days between two passions: her corporate job during the days, and her brand (a.k.a. her baby) after hours and before dawn.
Two years into running all aspects of Kinn, Yoon is now focusing on her e-commerce jewelry brand full-time, while maintaining a strategic consulting role at Casetify as Chief Business Officer.
Learn more about how Yoon navigated both aspects of her career at the same time, as well as some of her favorite productivity hacks to ensure she maintains a work-life balance with grit and grace.
Karin Eldor: What was the inspiration behind Kinn?
Jennie Yoon: When you’re shopping for jewelry, you’re usually offered two options: 1) aspirational jewelry, which would cost you thousands of dollars because the industry is traditionally marked up by at least 10x, or 2) disposable jewelry, which may be affordable at a glance, but we’ve all seen it tarnish over time, including turning your skin green.
I wanted to offer a third option: fine jewelry—not plated, filled, nor vermeil—without the traditional markups. By selling through our direct channels.
We also believe that it’s not about what happens to you, but what you do about it. Since my parents’ robbery, I wanted to make pieces that last, not just through quality materials, but also through signature pieces inspired by the old world with a modern twist. So one day, you can pass Kinn on as a family heirloom.
Eldor: I know you launched Kinn as a side hustle at first, while at your full-time job at Casetify. How did you make it work?
Yoon: We all have 24 hours in a day, it just depends what you decide to do about it. When I committed to building Kinn, I chose to give up a lot of my personal time. That meant less happy hours, less Netflix, and motivating myself to get things done.
While I was working full-time, I remember waking up extra early in the morning so I can fulfill customers’ orders. After I got home from working at Casetify, I’d make sure to carve out time to have dinner with family, and then I’d be back online to work. I would also use my weekends to do less of the operational work, but to think about the big picture and strategize. From time to time, I sketched jewelry because it was therapeutic. Then as the week started, I was back in the sprint all over again. There were so many times I wanted to throw in the towel and give up. I was in complete denial and was even trying to bargain myself out of it. But ultimately, I was always reminded of why I started, and that seemed to have always gotten me back on my feet.
Eldor: What advice would you have for someone who is doing the same thing: launching their own business while at a full-time job?
Yoon: I don’t think there’s really the right or wrong way to go about it. But one thing is for certain: make sure you’re passionate about what you’re building and stay focused. It’s easy to be discouraged. I’ve even had people tell me that I would be facing an uphill battle. Keep your head down, stay in your lane, and keep pushing through. It’s also easy to be distracted—make this, sell that. But I wanted to make sure I was known for one thing only: solid gold at an attainable price point.
Eldor: Why did you make Kinn a direct-to-consumer brand?
Yoon: Jewelry is very personal. Everyone has their likes and wants. I wanted to make sure my relationship with the customers is as direct as possible so that I understand where their pain point is, and also understand exactly what they’re looking for when shopping for fine jewelry. This allowed us to build meaningful relationships, which then turned into trusting relationships, who are now the most loyal customers.
Another reason to make Kinn a D2C brand is so that I can cut out the middleman as much as possible to make the price point more accessible.
Eldor: What are some of your favorite productivity hacks? I know you wear all the hats with Kinn, and as a founder, the juggle is real!
Yoon: I tell myself that we’re in this long marathon, and we’re in a short sprint every day. I write down three things I want to get done every day. These are the three things that I’ll get done no matter what. Put them on a sticky note or in your calendar, anywhere they’re visible. This can be as little as emailing someone, to diving into your email analytics, to building on the second phase of the strategy you’ve been working on. Whatever the three items are, this helps you get things done while not overwhelming you.
Then at the end of the day, write down three things you want to work on the next day. And repeat.
Of course, we also rely heavily on our technology, so I would use all the tools out there possible to help you get organized (i.e. Mixmax, Trello, etc). I also remind myself to turn off all notifications when I’m working on something. Maybe this is why people are so productive on an airplane ride, like I am right now!
Eldor: What are your 3 biggest tips for female entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?
Yoon: 1 – Ask questions and ask for feedback. This not only helps validate your idea, but it will continue to help build on your idea. I’ve learned that some people aren’t open to sharing their feedback unless asked.
You’d be surprised who’d be willing to share their feedback with you or even become your mentor!
2 – Be honest with yourself, but don’t be too harsh. Ask yourself, why does the world need another XYZ company? What do you need to get you to the next level? Do you need to bring in someone to help you? Do you need to pivot the business?
3 – Remember why you started. You will hit rough patches. You’ll run into issues. You’ll make mistakes. Learn from them and be flexible to pivot. But always come back to why you started. This will help you get back on track.
Eldor: Tell me about one of your missions, which is “Redefining Modern Luxury.” I love your take on this!
Yoon: Today, the definition of luxury seems to be changing. It’s not a simple equation of quality, price and rarity like it used to be. But rather, a package deal of how people experience your key features.
To us, luxury does not always mean the nicest nor the most expensive things. Luxury is a state of mind of great comfort and pleasure. Luxury forgoes trend for timelessness, so that one day, you can pass Kinn on as a family heirloom.
This article was written by Karin Eldor from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.