Member Spotlight - Helena Chan

Helena Chan - Founder of fine jewellery company HYC Jewels

You used to work for the United Nations and followed your other passion, fine jewellery, tell us a little about this transition?

I followed my dreams and worked for the United Nations, and fell in love with fine jewellery when I had the opportunity to design an engagement ring. I started taking courses online with the Gemological Institute of America and helping my friends with their engagement rings. But I loved what I did at the UN, so did this for fun on the side. For my 30th birthday, I purchased a sapphire ring. It took a year to find the perfect stone, but it was a beautiful stone and ended up doubling in value. My friend and mentor who is in the fine jewellery industry said that I had a good eye. That is when I had a light bulb moment and wondered if I should do this professionally. 

What were some difficulties you faced going into the jewellery industry, if any?

Changing careers is always a challenge because you need to prove that 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 did not have a network in the fine jewellery industry. I did not come from a family who has been in the industry for generations. But I  knocked on as many doors as possible, and spoke to people. All you need is one person (or a few if you are lucky) who believes in you,  to give you a chance. So my advice is be persistent and don’t give up. For every ten or one hundred 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?

Have a network of people to support you. I was told that being an entrepreneur can be one of the loneliest journey one takes. I was fortunate enough to get accepted into a highly competitive accelerator program, so my journey did not feel lonely at all. I was connected to other inspiring entrepreneurs and we shared, and continue to share our journey, challenges and success together.

Understand that the path will be full ups and downs (a lot more than in your corporate life). If you know why you are doing this, it will help carry you through the times of doubt and challenges. Being an entrepreneur offers a lot more freedom and flexibility.  

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 and communicate 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 re-designing your grandmother’s ring, celebrating a birthday, new addition to the family, or just because you deserve it; I want the client to look at that bespoke piece that we created together and feel the joy each time she looks at it and wears it.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?

Remember Ying and Yang. Learn to meditate. Sometimes slowing down and finding balance in life will lead to more optimal and better outcomes. This is something I still have to remind myself on a regular basis.