As we grow older we look back and can really understand what sustainability is all about. When you’re older you are looking through mature eyes, and are aware of how we can contribute to the health of our own planet. When I was younger, this wasn’t something that snared the world’s attention. But hindsight has given me clarity, and I’m thrilled to see that young people today recognize the threat to our environment.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Sachs — VintageDiamondRing.com.
Suzanne grew up in South Orange, NJ with two wonderful, hard-working parents and two protective big brothers. Her parents were strong role models and knew that whatever she wanted to do, it would involve hard work and commitment. After graduating college she moved to NYC and worked for Sony Music where she became an Associate Director of Licensing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I worked at Sony Music in NYC as a Director of Licensing for eleven years but I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and intended to lead my own company. My husband is a wholesale diamond and antique jewelry dealer. When we became engaged in 2004, he mentioned starting an online antique engagement ring website, a move he saw as critical to staying relevant in the field. His NYC office kept him busy though, and so it happened. I recognized this was the ideal time to launch my own business. I knew I could take the knowledge I had acquired from the corporate world and integrate it into a new business on the world wide web.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
VintageDiamondRing.com isn’t just a one-dimensional, virtual storefront. I am acutely aware of the fact that each vintage engagement ring and antique piece of jewelry comes with a treasured history and a personal story woven within. When it finds a new home — the customer becomes a piece of that continuing story. Each carefully chosen ring within our collection becomes a reflection of the person who wears it — his or her sentiments, relationships, style, elegance.
Couples today are more socially conscious and aware of sustainability, environmental impact, and natural alternatives than ever before. It is no surprise, then, that many couples are concerned with choosing an eco-friendly engagement ring that will show their commitment to the planet even as they make their commitment to each other.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Sure! At VintageDiamondRing.com protecting the environment is more than a “cause”… it is an obligation, a duty and a shared global necessity. Vintage engagement rings are eco-conscious, as they do not require new mining or metalwork. New mining can devastate land and cause irreparable harm to the ecosystem, but vintage jewelry is low impact and environmentally responsible. We also promote recycling which aides in the effort to protect our environment from climate change. Choosing vintage jewelry is the ultimate in recycling. Because vintage jewelry pieces do not need to be remade, no additional resources are required for them to be enjoyed again. Even if the stones are remounted into new pieces, it is still recycling at its core.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Any business can have a logo and a product, but when a consumer can turn to a company and know their purchases say something about who they are and what matters to them, it falls into a different category. So often, customers come to VintageDiamondRing.com and tell us they wouldn’t consider buying anything other than an antique piece. We can relate. There is something special about knowing you are providing products for like-minded people, and I think that that authentic connection is a big component of our success. Vintage jewelry can affect far more than just one person. No matter what the piece of jewelry may be, vintage jewelry can continue a romantic story that started long ago… long before diamond mining was marked by ethical conflicts and human rights violations, and long before our climate began facing the existential threat of global warming. Our jewelry can make people feel as good on the inside, as it makes them look on the outside.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
1) As we grow older we look back and can really understand what sustainability is all about. When you’re older you are looking through mature eyes, and are aware of how we can contribute to the health of our own planet. When I was younger, this wasn’t something that snared the world’s attention. But hindsight has given me clarity, and I’m thrilled to see that young people today recognize the threat to our environment.
2) We, as parents, can teach our children to connect with other children around the world, using the vast technology available to us today to educate them about what sustainability is, the different movements there are, and how it is beneficial to other cultures.
3) We can educate our children about social justice. Because of its age, vintage jewelry was mined, sourced, and designed long before modern conflicts and insurgencies that create human rights violations. This makes vintage pieces conflict-free, and wearing vintage jewelry supports social justice around the world.
4) We can show, and enlighten our children about the importance of creating family traditions. Vintage jewelry can be an easy way to create memorable, treasured traditions, such as every bride wearing a special ring, necklace, or bracelet on her wedding day, or a brooch being passed down to new mothers for many generations.
5) I firmly believe our children should understand the importance of supporting small businesses. Purchasing vintage and antique jewelry from local retailers rather than choosing new pieces from large chains helps support small businesses and the local economy. This helps protect local jobs and promote economic growth.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Great question! First, you may have a fantastic idea but it doesn’t mean that it will translate to a successful business. In actuality, a large percentage of small businesses will fail within the first couple of years. So don’t quit!
2) Never, and I mean never extend credit beyond what you can afford to lose.
3) One should be aware that business cycles will always fluctuate, there will be upswings and downswings. Be prepared for these changes, as they will always come and go.
4) I was glad someone taught me to keep my overhead as low as possible.
5) Invest back in your business! If you want your business to succeed you need to nourish it to grow.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Well, I would have to say the person that motivated me the most was my mother-in-law. She and her sisters were prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp during the Holocaust. She spotted one sister in line for the gas chambers and devised a plan, risking her own life to save her sister. Nothing can really have an impact on you, quite like hearing those horrific stories firsthand. When I heard my husband’s mother and his aunts’ accounts of what they had endured as young teenage girls, I knew I could not I give up on my own plans and dreams if I became frustrated. I had no right to. I had this opportunity to grow my own business.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Aren’t we in the middle of a movement regarding sustainability and global warming? I think this is a huge challenge for businesses, and society today and going forward within the next decade and beyond.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Actually yes! This is easy. My husband’s uncle, Ben Mellen, was a prominent diamond dealer in NYC. Unfortunately, he passed a few years back but the lessons he taught my husband, who in turn taught me , are unforgettable. “If you can’t go through the front door, go through the side door. If you can’t go through the side door, go through the back door. If you can’t go through the back door, climb through the window.” Never quit