Christina Grasso and Ruthie Friedlander co-founded the nonprofit The Chain in 2017 as a support network for women working in fashion and entertainment media and struggling with or recovering from eating disorders . Since its inception, the group has partnered with several creators and brands to bring its community together at monthly events. However, after hosting several of these rallies, Grasso and Friedlander realized they faced a merchandising problem.
“We really wanted to find a way that people could, first of all, represent their belonging to this community, but I also know that I’ve personally found so much therapeutic value in touching things when I’m feeling anxious – that it either twisting my earring or holding my bracelet or twisting my necklace,” Friedlander explains over the phone. “So Christina and I were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great for us to start a jewelry line?’ ”
Sure, the idea was great, but Grasso and Friedlander have full-time jobs, and The Chain is a non-profit organization funded solely by donations, which are used to organize events. They had no extra money to start a jewelry line.
This is where the online market Pietra has arrived: Launched last August, it’s a fine jewelry platform that connects jewelers directly with customers. It’s the first of its kind, where customers can work with a global network of jewelers to create bespoke designs of their dreams. For The Chain, that meant a line of semi-fine jewelry inspired by its namesake.
“We came to Pietra and said, ‘We want to make a line of chains, really simple designs, but something we can sell to our community and our supporters. All proceeds will go to our organization, but we ne “I don’t know where to start. All we have is our brand logo and a community of people that we know will buy,â says Friedlander.
Ronak Trivedi, co-founder and CEO of Pietra, describes the company as an “enabling platform” that gives creatives like Grasso and Friedlander, without start-up capital or the time to develop manufacturing and supply relationships, the tools to bring their businesses to life in a matter of weeks, in the most profitable way.
âWe can take an idea â it’s literally something that’s in your head or on a notepad â and take you straight to a complete e-commerce setup,â says Trivedi. “We work at the creator’s pace. It takes about 14 days of production time to get samples. So we like to say, ‘In a month you can be up and running.’ But if you want to work on a purely digital scale, you can launch in 10-12 days; if you want to wait for samples, it can take more than 21-25 days.”
The system is super flexible, according to the creator, but the ability to launch a business in 30 days or less is a powerful concept – especially now, when small businesses need as much help as possible.
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Grasso and Friedlander began working on their jewelry collection for The Chain in late January and had products available for purchase on Pietra by the first week of March.
“We had a very clear vision, and that made things simpler, but I have to say that every obstacle Christina and I encountered when trying to start something for The Chain – whether it was finding event space, to create a sweatshirt or redesign our website – was removed by being able to use this platform,â says Friedlander. âNot only was it really fun for us to be able to design jewelry, but like all the profits go At The Chain, selling $5,000 worth of jewelry in a week is a lot of money for us because it costs us around $1,500. organize an event. Â»
Cumulatively, Friedlander and Grasso have two decades of fashion experience, working for various publications and brands, so it didn’t take them long to land on their jewelry designs. They made sketches, which Friedlander jokingly calls “doodles”, which Pietra then sent to a manufacturer for them to create at the desired price.
“Some things were really important to us,” says Friedlander. “We wanted to make sure that we were going to be able to use recycled materials. We wanted to be able to make sure that we could have things that were going to cost less than $100.”
The final product line includes nine pieces in total and ranges from $49 for a single link earring to $4,449 for a solid 14k gold necklace. Each item is available in four different metal options.
It took Grasso and Friedlander about 35 days from when they sent in their sketches to when they received their samples. They then uploaded sample iPhone captured footage to the site and immediately began presale. They sold more than $5,000 worth of jewelry in their first week, Friedlander says, which also happened to be the week before the world actually shut down in response to the spread of Covid-19.
âPeople want to get their ideas out there,â says Trivedi. “The biggest hurdle is having meetings, traveling overseas, building partnerships and people just don’t have that time. Now with everything going on in the world, they can’t certainly not go out and participate in these meetings.”
The collection is made to order, so Grasso and Friedlander do not have to keep inventory. And even though it takes two to three weeks for their customers to get their parts, this workflow allows the co-founders to imagine and create more products.
“We’ve found that throwing more frequently is huge and the ability to have newness is so important,” says Friedlander enthused, noting that they’re currently working on their next collection, which will span different types of channels. .
According to New Jewelry Designers, nothing has been slowed down due to the pandemic. Things are certainly picking up pace for Pietra: the site expanded categories and launched candles and fragrances this month.
Trivedi believes there is an abundance of creativity and he is committed to helping people bring their visions to life, as he did for Grasso and Friedlander.
About a month after its official launch, The Chain has made just over $8,000 in revenue, Friedlander said, with all proceeds going towards the group’s programming. The couple also discussed allocating funds to help members of their community get proper medical support, as treatment for eating disorders is extremely expensive and often not covered by insurance unless that you follow very specific guidelines.
Trivedi â who calls Grasso and Friedlander “rockstars” â hopes designers of all types will come out because of what these women were brave enough to do.
âWhat they are doing, especially now, is worth pointing out and shouting from the top of the mountains,â he says. “The word I would use to describe what we see with The Chain is nothing short of inspiring.”