The truths behind a successful jewellery start-up (+ IG insights)

With a family involved in the jewellery industry for many years, BIANKO founder Belinda Madonini has always been surrounded in the world of jewellery and design – but a desire to forge her own path in the world of marketing and events saw her temporarily elude the pull of the craft. Several years later, and Belinda realised her true calling was heavily ingrained in her past.

Inspired to create a range of high-end jewellery but without the high price, Belinda began sourcing less expensive alternatives to diamonds and precious gemstones. And thus, BIANKO was born – a fine jewellery range crafted using gold, Sterling silver and natural pearls and gemstones.

Three years later and a successful year in 2018 that saw BIANKO catch the attention of some of Australia’s top lifestyle influencers, Belinda has now transformed the business into her full-time career.

Joining the growing number of start-ups immersing themselves into a fashion world no-longer just dominated by the major consumer giants, we pulled Belinda aside to chat to us about everything from getting started, to sourcing manufacturers, to how she’s utilised influencers to help market the brand (plus all her Instagram tips and tricks for brands).

Image credit: Olympia Vlachou

Can you tell me a bit about BIANKO?
BIANKO is inspired by the everyday woman. From the beginning, our mission was to create jewellery with her lifestyle in mind. I wanted to give back to the women that inspire me by creating high quality, luxurious jewellery pieces that are attainable – a collection that can give every woman her daily dose of luxury.

Why did you decide to launch a jewellery brand?
I come from a family of jewellers. My parents own and operate a jewellery store in the Perth city which specialises in diamonds and fine jewellery. My idea for BIANKO came from my love and appreciation of beautiful jewellery. I saw a niche for high-end looking jewellery that didn’t come with the price tag.

How did you come up with the designs?
I spend a lot of time observing trends and discovering ways they can be applied to classic and timeless designs. I design pieces that will find a place in every woman’s jewellery box. Pieces that can be worn every day, with the styles lasting several seasons. I also consciously design items that look great on their own, but also look great styled with other jewellery. I think this is what women want when they purchase jewellery for themselves or as a gift. There is definitely a place for fast fashion – that pair of earrings you only purchased to wear with a dress that one time – but I want woman to love their BIANKO so much they choose to wear it again and again.

Image credit: Fakander

When did the brand launch?
I launched the brand in December 2015 but really only gave it more focus in the last 18 months.

How long were you concepting the brand before first bringing it to production?
The idea came to mind about 6 months before I launched. I wanted to save enough to start the business without having to borrow any money for the start-up costs – so it took me about 6 months to get all the logistics in place and have enough capital to press the green button.

Did you have to source overseas manufacturers for the brand? How did you go about doing this?
Yes, whilst BIANKO is designed in Australia, my workshop is based overseas. It has taken me some time to find the right manufacturer, but I have a great team now and I can be sure that the pieces are created using high-quality materials and delivered accordingly. I found my manufacturer by attending industry trade shows and meeting with the team directly. It’s important to find a team that you can communicate with easily and don’t require huge MOQs (minimum order quantities).

Image credit: Nikki Cruz

How has BIANKO been going since launch?
To begin with, BIANKO was simply a hobby business. I enjoyed creating designs and my sales were mostly to friends, family and their friends/family. It was fun making sales, but as I worked full-time, there was no pressure to sell and the whole business was ‘just for fun’. In the last 18 months, the business has grown significantly and I have just stepped away from full-time work to increase my focus and continue to grow the business. It’s a really exciting time for the brand as there is so much opportunity now that I have more time to develop and implement new ideas.

What makes BIANKO stand out from other jewellery brands?
My aim is to always listen to my customers. BIANKO is not trying to set new trends or reinvent the wheel. It offers beautiful jewellery created with high-quality materials but at an affordable price. By comparison to brands that offer similar product, you will notice the price point is lower as I want to ensure the jewellery remains attainable. In saying that, while the price point is lower, the quality is never compromised. BIANKO also stands out because the designs are enjoyed by a really vast range of customers. Whilst our target market is 20-30 year old women, I recently sold a pearl pendant to an 80 year old woman who wanted to wear the necklace to her granddaughter’s wedding. The day before, I sold the same pendant to a 16 year old to wear to her high school senior dance.

You say BIANKO is inspired by beautiful, smart, hard-working, and real women. Is this something that was important to the brand from the get-go? Why is this?
100%. From the moment I started the business, I was designing with my peers in mind. Real women are true customers. They are the ones who will click ‘add to cart’ on my website or browse a boutique looking for that special something. I would say at least 90% of my sales are made by women who are buying for themselves, and that is exactly who I want my customers to be.

Image credit: Tayana Yarkaya

We’ve spotted your brand on a few influencers. Can you tell us some of the influencers who have been wearing BIANKO?
I’ve worked with lots of influencers over the past 18 months – but the most recognisable of those would be Fredrika Akander (@fakander), Ashleigh Jade (@ashleighjade05), Kiara King (@lioninthewild), and Ashleigh D’mello (@ashleighdmello). I’ve also really enjoyed working with local micro influencers such as @inspiringwit, @izzysmith, @olympiavlachou, and @featherhorse – all local Perth women who have really gotten behind and supported the BIANKO brand.

How do you choose which influencers you want to collaborate with?
It’s been a learning curve. I’ve worked with influencers who have added so much value to the brand, gone above and beyond to create incredible content that has a mutual benefit to themselves and also BIANKO. On the same token, I have had some very disappointing experiences. Influencer marketing needs to be strategic and aligned with a brand’s values and aesthetics. A chosen influencer has to have a following that matches up with your target audience as they are your potential customers. I would also recommend getting involved in an influencer trip like Somewear Elsewhere (Australian business) which I’ve had a great experience with in the past.

Does Instagram make it harder or easier to launch a brand in the modern day?
Yes and no. To launch a brand in today’s Instagram-driven world might be a little more difficult than what it would have been a few years ago (due to increased competition – every business has an IG account these days) but if you create beautiful content and offer something people want to see, your brand awareness will increase organically.

Image credit: Kendall Baggerly

What would be the top Instagram tips you’ve learnt as a new brand?
I am still learning what works best for BIANKO but my tips so far would be…

  1. Use your Instagram account to tell your brand story.
  2. Mix up your posts between product images, styled images and inspiration
  3. Remember – followers and likes don’t necessarily equal sales. It’s important not to compare yourself with other brands/competitors as an IG presence doesn’t always reflect business success.

Have you got any exciting plans for 2019 that you can reveal to us?
I already have my next collection underway with a launch date set for April. It has been inspired by the North West Australian coastline and the colours of the Kimberley. I am really excited to create a collection that celebrates Western Australia (my home state!). I am also looking to take the brand over East and find some stockists in Melbourne and Sydney. I have so many customers on the east coast of Australia that have asked to be able to try on pieces to check sizing etc but I haven’t been able to offer this as I don’t have a physical presence in cities other than Perth.

Where are you hoping to take the brand?
The brand is still very young and, whilst I have some vision for the future, I am also happy to let the brand develop into what it wants to be. If I am able to have success with stockists on the East Coast, I would love to see BIANKO go international! But I am all about baby steps. My motto has always been ‘better not bigger’. Perfect each stage of development before moving on to the next.

Image credit: Sara Eshu

Main image: Fakander | In partnership with Somewear Elsewhere

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