- Founder Secrets
- Turning $18k into $40M
Turning $18k into $40M
How Krish reinvented the business model of the jewelry industry
After graduating as a mechanical engineer, Krish began working on a drilling rig in Louisiana. While drilling for oil, he was amazed at how frequently they would find water. "We would spend weeks drilling for oil, but we would hit water within minutes," he recalls. This was a stark contrast to the water crisis he witnessed in developing countries during his youth. "I couldn't believe that people were dying because they didn't have water when it was right beneath their feet."
Around the same time, Krish was looking for an engagement ring for his girlfriend and became increasingly concerned about the ethics of the jewelry industry. These experiences led to the creation of Do Amore, a jewelry company that is committed to ethical practices and social good. Krish started the company in 2014 with only $18,000 and managed to grow it to over $40 million in lifetime revenue without any external funding. Let's delve into how he did this.
Rethinking the jewelry industry's business model
Krish launched Do Amore with minimal funding and has been profitable from day one. This is largely due to his idea of reimagining the business model of the jewelry industry, from the supply chain to the end consumers. Unlike most jewelry stores that stock pre-made rings, Do Amore crafts each ring from the ground up every time. He recalls, "It was very weird to me that I had to buy a ring that hundreds of people had already worn. And after buying it, the jeweler would cut it and size it for us. You're adding all this wear and tear to this sentimental purchase right from the start."
Do Amore stands out by taking a different approach. They only create a ring when it is ordered, ensuring that each ring is unique and tailored specifically for each customer. This not only aligns perfectly with the nature of the product (it adds a sentimental touch to it), but it also eliminates the need for a large inventory. This allowed Krish to start the company with almost no funding and eliminates the risk of money tied up in stock that might not sell.
Testing marketing creatives
While Do Amore reimagined its business model, they initially made a mistake when it came to marketing. Starting out, they decided to follow the traditional path of the jewelry industry, aiming for a highly polished style. However, they soon realized that this approach was not effective. Krish admits, "A huge mistake we made is that we were very late to the creative game. For so long, we thought that we had to be very luxurious, and use high-end creative. But then we realized that simple videos on TikTok do way better."
This realization marked a significant shift in Do Amore's marketing strategy. Instead of focusing on luxury, they opted for authenticity and a different way of connecting with their market. Not only did their new creative approach resonate better with customers, but it was also more cost-effective. Krish points out, "For our old content, we had to do a $12k shoot. If that didn't work, we couldn't just spend another $12k to try a different content angle. Creating simple videos allows us to continuously test fresh creatives and new angles."
By allocating their budget to multiple styles and messages, Do Amore was able to experiment and quickly adapt to what resonated with their audience. The key lesson here is to not let assumptions hinder experimentation and testing. Through running experiments and iterating quickly, you might discover that something you initially thought wouldn’t work actually resonates much better than expected.
Targeting shift and consumer behavior
Another turning point in Do Amore's paid media strategy is related to a better understanding of how couples make their choices together. Initially, Do Amore focused on targeting men, assuming they were the primary decision-makers when purchasing a ring. "However," notes Krish, "we realized that both partners are now involved in this choice."
After recognizing that it is common for one partner to (not so subtly) guide the other toward a specific design or brand, Do Amore adjusted their targeting strategy and started to create ads that appeal to both genders. This strategic shift holds a valuable lesson that can be applied to any industry, be it B2B or B2C. Marketing and sales go beyond who makes the final purchase and require a deep understanding of the dynamics of decision-making and consumer behavior.
Impact and purpose are not enough
One of the appealing aspects of Do Amore is that when you purchase an engagement ring, you also contribute to providing clean water to someone on the other side of the world. While Krish is deeply committed to their social mission, he emphasizes a fundamental truth: "Having an amazing social mission, a give-back program, and sustainability is not enough. The product still comprises 99% of the business." In fact, one of the most popular startup trends in various industries over the past decade is to embrace sustainability, believing that adding a green angle and a direct-to-consumer model is sufficient for building a successful business.
Krish seeing first-hand the impact of their water projects in Ethiopia
The reality is that the success of a business lies in the quality of its product, its marketing, its customer focus, and its team. Krish explains, "Our social mission and impact are important, but the reason we are thriving is because our product quality is exceptional."
Reflecting on Do Amore's early days, Krish admits, "When we started, we made the mistake of making our marketing solely about our mission and sustainability, neglecting the product." This was a valuable lesson learned, as they realized that while their mission attracted attention, it was the product that needed to take center stage in order to convert that attention into sales.
This realization prompted a significant shift around 2017, when Do Amore rebranded with a renewed emphasis on their core offering. In Krish's own words, "When we decided to focus more on the key aspects of the product, it marked a major turning point for the company. It enabled us to increase our conversion rate and raise our prices." The key takeaway here is that while a social mission can give your brand a soul, it's the product that forms its backbone. The quality of what you offer is what will ultimately sustain your business and drive its growth.
Expanding the product line
With high repeat rates, customers initially drawn in for engagement rings often returned for wedding bands. But there was a catch. Krish explains, "We were giving customers an amazing experience, so they came back for their wedding rings. They had another amazing experience, they loved us, but we would lose them forever because there was nothing more to buy."
Krish recognized that Do Amore had to evolve into a brand that celebrates various life milestones. This expansion meant offering products for other significant life events — anniversaries, the birth of a child, and more. It's a strategic move that not only extends the customer lifecycle but also strengthens the emotional bond with the brand. We have discussed this in previous episodes of Founder Secrets, but it’s worth reiterating that a single product might be your launchpad, but it’s the breadth and depth of your offerings that sustain and grow your business in the long term.
To conclude, Krish leaves us with one last piece of advice about the importance of seizing opportunities. Reflecting on his early days, he admits, "A mistake I made early on was not putting myself out there more. I was so focused that I was saying no to everything." His story of attending a seemingly disappointing event in San Francisco, which only saw about 15 visitors to his booth, encapsulates this lesson. This event, initially a source of frustration, turned into a cascade of pivotal moments. "I met a random person, had lunch with him, and got invited to an event where we met the organization we now work with for our clean water projects. Going to Ethiopia to see our water projects and show customers what we're doing wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gone there. And without that footage, I wouldn't have gotten on Shark Tank. It's a snowball effect, and without attending that one event, none of the other stuff would have happened either.” If you want to follow along, you can connect with Krish on LinkedIn.