…Always stay consistent with your lifestyle message! Our message is two-fold: always protect the environment, whenever given the chance. And cherish the history behind heirlooms. When you wear a ring with history, your own story becomes woven into that continued history.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Sachs.
Suzanne worked at Sony Music in NYC as a Director of Licensing for eleven years but always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a plan to lead to her own company. Her husband is a wholesale diamond and antique jewelry dealer. When they became engaged in 2004, Stuart 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. Suzanne recognized this was the ideal time to launch her own business. She could take the knowledge she acquired from the corporate world and integrate it into a new business on the world wide web.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Sure. I grew up in South Orange, NJ with two wonderful, hard-working parents and two protective big brothers. My parents were strong role models and I knew that whatever I did when I grew up, it would involve hard work and commitment. After graduating college I eventually moved to NYC and worked for Sony Music where I was an Associate Director of Licensing.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
Funny enough, while I was working at Sony Music I met my (now) husband on a blind date who happened to be a wholesale diamond and antique jewelry dealer. When we became engaged, knowing we wanted to start a family, we began to talk about starting an antique engagement ring business online. My husband recognized the future of business was in e-commerce. I took a chance and left Sony in order to begin ArtDecoDiamonds.com (now VintageDiamondRing.com).
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know if it’s “funny,” per se, but I really thought that starting an online jewelry business would be easy! Little did I know how many moving parts there would be, how much time the business would consume and how much innovation it would require. The internet is ever-changing. Can you imagine the daily transformations that have gone on from 15 years ago until today!?
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The single most impactful story I’ve ever heard was never told in a book, or on screen though it is dramatic enough to have been a bestseller. My mother-in-law 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.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This is a very good question. My husband’s uncle once told him “If you can’t get through the front door, go through the side door. If you can’t get through the side door, go through the back door. If you can’t get through the back door, climb through a window.” in other words, never quit!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
To me, a Lifestyle Brand is a brand in which the products say as much about a person’s inner beliefs, as it does about their outward style and flair. Any brand 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. For instance, when consumers turn to a company like VintageDiamondRing.com, they often do so because it just feels right to purchase and wear sustainable, eco-friendly items.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
For me personally, I could never have found as much reward in a company that focused solely on buying and selling and financial bottom lines. Knowing you have a product that truly makes a positive impact on consumers and society at large, is an unquantifiable benefit all its own.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Funny, shouldn’t I say VintageDiamondRing.com!? I believe we have done an incredible job in offering ethical and conflict-free jewelry that any person can feel good about wearing. The only way to replicate a good lifestyle brand, again, is by having a product you believe in, that truly leaves a positive imprint.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Most importantly, you have to know your market. If you don’t really know who you are catering to, you will fail. You can have an incredible product but the branding is all within your customers and their lifestyles. When you connect with them on that level you are able to tap into their world.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
One of the biggest mistakes anyone starting a business can make, especially a lifestyle brand, is that they believe they will make a profit during the first few years. Most businesses do not turn a profit for years. With that misconception, they don’t save money to invest back into their business and then unfortunately they have to close shop.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Well I would congratulate them on brainstorming a fresh idea! The next step is to become as knowledgeable as they can be about their consumers, their behaviors and their lifestyles. I would tell them to immerse themselves into that market. Really research the target consumer. I can’t stress that enough. Know how their brand will benefit their buyers. Have a logo that matches the brand’s personality, and know how it fits into the consumer’s lifestyle.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
First, know your market. The majority of our customers want Art Deco engagement rings. However, we have a vast collection of engagement rings from different eras for the ones that may be looking for something particularly unique. We’ve come to learn this.
Second, the product should be part of a lifestyle trend. At VintageDiamondRing.com we offer eco-friendly engagement rings. It fits with our own priorities and vision, and it offers like-minded consumers the opportunity to wear engagement rings people feel good about.
Third, always stay consistent with your lifestyle message! Our message is two-fold: always protect the environment, whenever given the chance. And cherish the history behind heirlooms. When you wear a ring with history, your own story becomes woven into that continued history.
Fourth, simplicity is key! Don’t over-complicate your business goals. Know your message, your mission and your niche.
Fifth and above all, be true to yourself and your brand. Really believe in what you are trying to accomplish. People will know if you are feigning authenticity. Consumers tend to stand behind someone who they believe stands behind their product.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
There is nothing more important to us than taking care of the environment. That is why we sell vintage engagement rings. 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 and reusing at its core.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oh, what a fantastic question. I would actually choose news anchor Mika Brzezinski. She is the epitome of empowering women with her format of Know Your Value.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.