HELENA CHAN – CEO of HYC Jewels
Pivoting from the UN to diamonds is a major transition! Tell us a little more about it?
I followed my dreams and worked for the United Nations, but fell in love with fine jewellery when I got engaged and had the opportunity to design my own ring. I started taking courses online with the Gemological Institute of America and helping my friends with their engagement rings. I loved what I did at the UN, so it was just for fun on the side. Then, for my 30th birthday, my husband and I purchased a sapphire ring. It took a year to find the perfect stone, but when I did, it was a beautiful and ended up doubling in value. My friend and mentor, who’s in the fine jewellery industry, said that I had a good eye. That’s when I had the light bulb moment about doing it professionally.
Did you face any difficulties going into the jewellery industry?
Changing careers is always a challenge because you need to prove you have the correct experience and skill set. But how does one do that when it’s in a completely different area? It was also hard because I didn’t have a network in the fine jewellery industry – I didn’t come from a family who has been in the industry for generations. But I knocked on as many doors as possible, and spoke to as many people as I could. All you need is one person (or a few if you’re lucky) who believe in you, to give you a chance. My advice is to be persistent and don’t give up. For every ten, or every 100, ‘no’s, there will be a ‘yes’.
You now own your own fine jewellery company HYC Jewels, what are your three top tips for someone wanting to branch out alone?
First, have a network of people to support you. I was told that being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, but was fortunate enough to get accepted into a highly competitive accelerator programme, so my journey didn’t feel lonely at all. I was connected to other inspiring entrepreneurs and we shared, and continue to share, our journey, challenges and successes together.
Secondly, understand that the path will be full of ups and downs (a lot more than in your corporate life). If you know why you’re doing it, this will help carry you through the times of doubt and challenges.
Lastly, fail fast and fail often. We learn the most from our mistakes, not successes. It’s OK not to be perfect.
How do you best connect with your customers when creating bespoke pieces for them?
I sit down with the clients and we discuss the occasion, sentiment and vision. It’s important to capture that special moment or celebration in the piece of jewellery. Whether it’s redesigning your grandmother’s ring; marking a birthday; commemorating a new addition to the family; or just because you deserve it, I want the client to look at the bespoke piece we created together and feel that same sense of joy each time she looks at, and wears, it.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?
Remember yin and yang. Learn to meditate. Sometimes slowing down and finding balance in life will lead to better outcomes.