In 2019, Maya Portorreal started an online jewelry business as a side hustle. According to her, she started the business because she couldn’t find a piece of jewelry that she could wear without getting itchy rashes. Some were also either expensive or were made from inferior materials.
“I have very sensitive skin. I can’t wear brass … I can’t really wear too much copper,” she told CNBC Make It. Among other things, her goal was to manufacture pieces of jewelry sensitive to her skin, cheap but of good quality.
She birthed her jewelry business idea while working at apparel brand Pierre Hardy as a retail assistant. When she floated the idea to start a jewelry business to her colleagues, they made fun of it. However, she took inspiration from her own family to pursue her business idea. Her uncle and grandfather were both real estate entrepreneurs who also faced numerous challenges when they commenced their respective businesses.
With $2000 from her savings, she started the jewelry brand Kitten Co. Jewelry, which makes affordable jewelry from skin-friendly materials. She made contact with suppliers and manufacturers to further her goals.
Initially, she paid jewelry manufacturers to put her brand name on existing designs. Although some of her products are still private label items, she now creates her own jewellery designs using computer-aided design programs, according to CNBC Make It. Her brand also sells over 150 different products, including rings, earrings, ear cuffs, necklaces and anklets, she told the outlet.
Her jewelry business got a major endorsement when rapper Saweetie wore her brand’s Maiko butterfly necklace in her official music video for the single “Best Friend.”
Maya recalled that when she first started her brand, she was recording zero sales until she decided to take social media seriously. She used her social media following and also contracted social media influencers to feature her jewelry in posts. Soon, orders started coming for her products. According to CNBC Make It, Maya now makes more than $30,000 in monthly revenue.
“I never [predicted] making as much as I do now. I never thought it would happen this quickly,” she said.
She also took an online course where she learned how to create Facebook ad campaigns, write captions, among others.
“That class alone scaled my company to a point that’s unimaginable. That $3,000 class probably made me $700,000,” said Maya.
Maya eventually quit her day job in mid-2020, that’s more than a year after launching her jewelry business. At the time, the company made $472,000 in gross sales which was almost double the $250,000 from her first year in business.
Amidst the pandemic in 2021, she made $350,000, a dip in her sale, but quite significant because most manufacturers had suspended operations due to the pandemic. Moreover, people’s purchasing power had been reduced.