Contrary to the popular myth that only the tech startups can raise fund easily, a jewelry startup called Etkie has raised $34,000 from the investor that usually focuses on supporting high-tech commercialization startups. This startup was one among the four winners of this year’s Los Alamos Venture Acceleration Fund.
Etkie is a jewellery startup that works with native American women in New Mexico and deals with exclusive jewelry boutique. The startup’s CEO Sydney Alfonso said that running a jewelry firm is not very different from a tech startup. “I think what’s overlooked is a distribution model. We had to look at one and we honed in on wholesale. It’s not easy, that’s where your volumes are highest and your margins are lowest,” she said. She also added, “But, now we can start a D to C model.”
She said there were three things that helped Etkie stood out from the rest among the 61 applicants for VAF funds. The three things are sales, a set of supportive mentors and working with a population that are no way aware of this kind of funding. The VAF funding is not similar to the usually funding. It is like a loan that the company does not have to repay until or unless the company is being sold.
It the hard work of Alfonso that has been paid through this fund. The company has strived hard to have grown to make sales of $110,000 in just 13 months since its inception. Alfonso did not try to sell her handbags and jewelry in smaller boutiques like the posh Collette in Paris and Lilly Barrack in Albuquerque but also markets at giant online retailer like One Kings Lane, that has 10 million members worldwide.
Etkie was part of the Creative Startups accelerator program where the mentors guided her through the process and even financed her to the first Fashion Week at Paris, which gave her a break through to display her jewelry to the international market. It was the her business model of working with Native American women to create handcrafted jewelry and handbags that stood out from rest of the crowd. The company introduced to many people the idea of using beadwork which is modern yet has a traditional touch.
With the new funding, Alfonso plans to finance for employees for the company where she was the one-man army so far. “I think I have struggled because I’m the only one at Ektie full-time. I do sales, marketing, emails, shipping, packing,” she said. She also added, “I think all CEOs are on insane roller coasters.”