Yesterday I shared a little of my story after being inspired by the jewelry and philosophy of Alex Woo. Today, it’s Alex’s turn! The founder and creator behind the Alex Woo designs was kind enough to answer a few (or ten!) questions. It’s all about how she got her start (she actually designed and created her first piece of jewelry at age 8!), what keeps her creative and inspired, and why she loves being an entrepreneur and business owner. I feel motivated just reading her answers, and I hope you will, too! Let me know what you think in the comments below, and which Alex Woo charm represents your story.
1. Your designs are beautiful and also have a way of telling a person’s story. What inspired you to begin creating jewelry?
My father was a master bench jeweler, so he raised me with a definite appreciation for gems, precious metals and fine craftsmanship. At 8, I designed my first piece; it was a cute two-tone pendant in silver and brass that I hand-cut with a saw and finished on a polishing machine. My father was so proud of me. In that way, he cultivated this path toward art, but it wasn’t until later on, when I enrolled in actual jewelry design classes that I discovered my passion.
2. What has your professional journey been like and why did you decide to start your own business?
At a young age I knew I wanted to be some type of artist, but it wasn’t until my formal training at Parsons that I discovered my passion for jewelry. My professor at the time encouraged me to enter a national design competition sponsored by the Women’s Jewelry Association. I was competing with professional designers from all across the country, so imagine my surprise when I won the grand prize! This incredible honor is what gave me a vote of confidence and inspired me to launch my own collection.
3. Being an entrepreneur is tough! There are so many ups and downs along the way. Was there a specific moment or “win” when you knew this business idea was going to work?
The first pieces that were ever featured were in two back to back issues of InStyle Magazine. I will always remember that editor that gave me my first big break. I was literally in shock and was so overwhelmed with happiness! I bought 10 copies of each magazine and gave them to friends and family. I still have some at my apartment.
4. Your designs have been on television shows and worn by celebrities. What does it mean to you to see Alex Woo with such a high profile?
It’s really so exciting to see anyone wearing my designs! I actually get just as much of a thrill seeing someone on the subway or on the street, but of course it’s an honor to see a celebrity like Jessica Alba, Halle Berry or Eva Longoria wearing my designs. What’s especially exciting is that they wear my pendants not only as jewelry – but as mementos of something meaningful and special to them like their kid’s initial. There was actually an episode of “Private Practice” where my letter necklace was written into the story line of the show as a thank you gift that the lead actress, Kate Walsh, presented to the birth mother of her adopted child. It was such an honor to be a part of such an emotional storyline, and really shows how jewelry can be so meaningful.
5. It’s written right under your name, “Made in New York”. What role has New York played in your process?
My workshop, showroom and studio are in the heart of New York – more notably, across from Rockefeller Center. As a born and bred New Yorker, I only felt it appropriate that my jewelry is also made here, as my philosophy is that if someone wears my brand, they are supporting an essential part of this great city. This is why we re-branded our logo a few years ago with “Made in New York” as an essential element of the design. That being said, I love that everything is so central and easily accessible in New York. If I need inspiration, it’s all at my fingertips – from 5th Ave, to Soho.
6. One of the things that drew me to your brand is your commitment to empowering and supporting women by giving them an outlet to tell their own personal story. You also highlight other strong business women in your Q&A series, Charm the World. To you, why is it important to highlight and support other women?
Jewelry is the best story teller and being able to have my fans tell their stories through my pieces always brings a smile to my face. Whether a gift or a self-purchase, the wonderful thing about my jewelry is that it is usually purchased to commemorate a special moment in your life, or represent something meaningful. Being able to share and take part in these womens’ lives is so touching and meaningful to me as a designer.
7. What’s the most challenging part of being a business owner?
There’s nothing that could have prepared me for how different the business world is today from 10 years ago. Social media and the retail environment are always rapidly changing, so there is no precedent or formula on how to be successful anymore. Everything is so accessible – which makes it easier and harder all at the same time. It’s a challenging, but also a very exciting time, as you really have to continually innovate and create an exciting experience for everyone.
8. What is your favorite part about being a business owner?
It’s a truly creative business, where I can have an idea one morning – and the next, I’m telling my team, let’s try this! They say to choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life, and it’s really true. I just feel so blessed to be able to be creative, and collaborate with so many people in so many different ways. I wake up every morning looking forward to what I can do next!
9. What is your biggest piece of advice for women who might be thinking of starting their own business or taking a big professional risk?
I think finding your talent and doing something that you love is the ultimate dream. I feel very fortunate to do what I do, and something that I have felt was an important part of my creative process is staying true to myself. Trends can affect your design process, and you can be influenced by those that surround you, but I think sticking to your own vision and point of view is what makes you distinctive as a designer and as an entrepreneur.
10. Where do you see the Alex Woo brand in the next 5-10 years?
After over 15 years in business, I’ve created over 1000 different charms that have touched the lives of women from all different backgrounds and ages. This is the ultimate reward in what I do. I design for that classic woman, who wants to invest in that favorite piece of jewelry and be able to wear it year after year. With having so many fans throughout the years, we want to continue to foster these relationships and grow with the changes and milestones in their lives. At the same time, we are always evolving and growing the brand for new generations of women to wear, with new brand collaborations, designs, and price points. As a designer, this is a really exciting time, as we have the chance to really interact with our customers and design what they want and love. I’m always working on something new, so I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned…
MY ALEX WOO PICKS
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