Today’s blog post features New Yorker Christine from Yun Boutique who makes hand-made jewelry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
For nearly 10 years I worked in Arts & Culture journalism before moving on to work on building the jewelry business I share with my neighbor and partner Ariel Tian. Ariel’s background is in production management. Both of us began making jewelry as hobbyists. It seemed to be written in the stars when we met as neighbors. After realizing that we share a similar vision about the power of handcrafting, we decided to go into business together.
What kind of business do you run? When did you start it?
Yun Boutique is our handmade jewelry business. We launched our Shopify store on New Year’s Day this year, but Ariel started Yun Boutique on her own in 2013. After I joined on as partner in the latter half of 2015, the company grew and its brand identity began to rapidly solidify. Working as a partnership rather than a solo entrepreneur injected new energy into the enterprise.
You design the jewelry, do you also manufacture it?
Everything is handmade with the exception of some metal parts that we source.
What inspired you to start this business?
Both Ariel and I practice Falun Dafa, an ancient Chinese meditation practice. Its core principles are truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, which practitioners hold themselves to in daily life. When Ariel began Yun Boutique in 2013, she had just taken up the practice again after a long hiatus, and wanted badly to share with the world her newfound sense of peace in a beautiful way. Falun Dafa meditation taps into millennia of self-cultivation traditions that existed in ancient China, and millions of practitioners all over the world have experienced the change in outlook and well-being that it brings.
Which resources to run your business do you use most?
We rely on the wonderful experts at Shopify and the third-party developers who designed our shop’s theme. Shopify more like an ecosystem than an e-commerce solutions company—the platform itself is an oak in the forest, supporting a wide array of talented designers, coders, and troubleshooters always ready and willing to help.
Another great resource, which we think is underutilized, is SCORE, the free business coaching arm of the Small Business Administration. Just speaking to a coach is like therapy for an overextended small business owner, not to mention that the coaches are all retired from long careers in their respective fields and harbor a wealth of knowledge.
What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?
It still astounds us how overwhelmingly positive our customers’ feedback are. Every time we ship out an order, be it a pair of earrings, a necklace, or a hair accessory, in a week they come back with glowing reviews. This proves to us that Chinese culture and aesthetics really resonates with people, and that they feel the positive energy we put into our craft. It heartens us to know that with every order shipped, we’re introducing someone to the spiritual discipline that’s changed our lives for the better.
What is your single best non-obvious tip for running a business?
When your to-do list is the length of your leg and screaming at you, ignore it. What’s most needed in these instances is perspective, not a jackhammer—especially because you’re responsible for the health of a business. One of the most helpful lessons I’ve learned from Falun Dafa’s teachings is that when you’re met with resistance, the key is to step back. As Master Li Hongzhi said, “when you take a step back in a conflict, you will find the seas and the skies boundless, and it will certainly be another situation.”
Do you have a Unique Selling Point?
We sure do! When we began looking at the market for Chinese jewelry, we noticed that it was divided into two extremes: souvenir-grade items, and fine jewelry made in Chinese ateliers that are actually Western in spirit and style. Nothing we found reflected the best of Chinese culture, which is deeply spiritual. The advice to creatives is to “write the book you wish to read,” right? We decided to make the jewelry we couldn’t find.
How did you come up with the name of the company?
“Yun” means “cloud” in Chinese. Clouds evoke faraway places, the realms high above, dreams and wishes, and the conduits between the earth and the heavens. For those reasons, clouds are also a classic motif in Chinese decorative arts. “Yun” embodies so much of what our brand stands for.
How do you stay productive and not get distracted?
It’s important to work with, not against your most productive times of day. I find that I’m most creative and effective in the mornings and evenings, so I schedule tasks accordingly. Chinese medicine also says that the mid-afternoon (when you usually hit the slump) is the best time for physical exercise, so that’s when I take a walk and get recharged. To prevent distractions, I work off a daily task list, one’s that’s reasonably challenging so I don’t get overwhelmed and start procrastinating.
What are your future plans for the company?
There seems to be a renaissance of people becoming interested in Chinese culture beyond its relevance for international business. We plan to continue reaching more people who love Chinese culture and the arts. On our blog, we write about Chinese culture, jewelry, and design, and the response has been good so far.
Do you think that anybody could start a business?
We believe that anyone who has the passion and motivation to bring something really valuable to the world and their community could start a business. You can succeed if you really put the benefit of your customers above their own. Because we believe it is part of the principle of the universe: a spirit of generosity and a genuine concern for others are the first conditions for true success.
To learn more about Ariel’s & Christine’s jewelry please visit Yunboutique.com.