In this era, many traditional businesses are looking to bring their legacy into a new generation through branding and digitizing efforts.
Taiwan-based Maison M Jewelry might be a new brand on the block, but this family business has been generations in the making. Catherine, founder of Maison M Jewelry, learnt the tools of her family trade from young. After she completed her education overseas, she decided to establish a new brand to consolidate her family’s network of jewelry business.
“I’m not exactly inheriting their business. As the 3rd generation, you can say I am evolving and transforming my family business.”
From conceptualizing to launch, Catherine fully embraced the digital era, utilizing her website and harnessing the power of a strong online presence to establish Maison M Jewelry.
Let’s dive into Catherine’s journey to learn how she transformed her family business!
A family legacy since 1965
When deciding on a domain name, Catherine decided to include “1965” to “Maison M”, hence the URL maisonm1965.com. This is because her family’s business began in 1965. Based in Kaohsiung, Catherine’s grandparents started trading diamonds with traders who frequented this coastal city. Soon after, her relatives began operating their jewelry businesses in Kaohsiung and Pingtung, opening up outlets one after another.
From diamonds, they started expanding their jewelry selection, ranging from gold to other precious stones. Given their focus on high quality gems and artisan design for wearable jewelry, their clientele were usually niche.
Having been in business for more than 60 years, it was a strong family business rooted in traditions, poised for greatness and continuity. However, fast forward to the 21st century, Catherine saw her elders’ business gradually becoming part of a sunset industry. She was determined to keep her family’s legacy alive.
From Paris to Taiwan: evolving a traditional family business
As the eldest grandchild in her family, Catherine was the natural successor of her family’s jewelry business. Growing up with the business, Catherine became fond of the process and cultivated an interest in design. She pursued her further studies in Paris, majoring in design and haute couture.
In Paris, Catherine was inspired by the elegance of Parisian women, and the style and quality of their accessories. This became a major inspiration behind the brand ethos of Maison M Jewelry.
“For me, the ethos of Maison M Jewelry is companionship (陪伴) for a lifetime. You can wear our accessories all the time – be it to sleep, or shower. The quality of our jewelry is such that it will stay with you every moment for the rest of your life.”
Looking at her family’s business, Catherine realized that people of her age group would not be able to afford high-end jewelry sold by her parents and relatives. Given the hefty and vast ranges in prices, most of the clientele are usually much older.
Armed with that knowledge, Catherine knew she had to run the business differently. Upon her return to Taiwan, she took her GIA certifications and began her journey in creating Maison M Jewelry.
The process of creation and sharpening tools of the trade
Catherine’s parents and relatives ran each of their jewelry shops separately. This meant that customers viewed these shops as separate entities. There was nothing to unify these entities into a strong brand that signifies legacy and heritage.
Hence, when Catherine was asked to take over the business, she knew the process will be one of transformation. She needed to first establish a strong brand, before turning back to unify her elders’ shops as a single brand.
With Maison M Jewelry, Catherine wanted to target the younger crowd by offering jewelry that is affordable for them.
Combining her knowledge in design with jewelry craftsmanship and high quality materials from her elders, Catherine wanted to extend Maison M Jewelry’s reach beyond her elders’ usual clientele.
Not only did Catherine dive straight into designing Parisian inspired jewelry, she also worked full time in marketing roles to understand the ins and outs of running a business. As someone who is measured and meticulous, she planned ahead to ensure that she was ready to start a business.
“For me, entrepreneurship was not an organic and random process at all. While it started from my interest in design, I believe that merely knowing design is not enough. In that case, you’re just a designer. I did some courses on business management and worked in marketing teams so that I can learn how to manage a business, as well as market and sell products.”
Armed with the experience and network from her career stint, she started building up to Maison M Jewelry’s launch 8 months before launching it in 2020.
Digitizing and launching Maison M Jewelry in the midst of COVID19
Just as Catherine was about to launch Maison M Jewelry after months of hard work and preparation, the pandemic struck. With most of her prep work done, Catherine knew she had to launch her brand.
At the onset, Catherine had to overcome the biggest challenge of launching Maison M Jewelry online. Due to cost concerns and the pandemic, she had to put plans on setting up physical stores on hold. Hence, it was at this moment when Catherine decided to shift her focus towards establishing a strong online presence. How would she build brand awareness, ensuring that people know Maison M Jewelry’s offerings and be convinced enough to purchase? For a product which people are used to trying out before making a purchase, Catherine had to find a way to build trust with customers in the digital space.
In hindsight, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise.
COVID19 has completely changed the way people consume and shop. With more people shopping online, consumers were also more receptive to purchasing jewelry online.
This worked in Catherine’s favor. She launched Maison M Jewelry’s website and marketed the brand through digital advertising & PR. Leveraging online media outlets and KOLs that were popular in Taiwan amongst her desired target audience to build brand awareness, these efforts paid off.
With more people doing extensive research and seeking opinions online before purchasing, Maison M Jewelry was able to ride the digital wave and establish a firm footing in the hearts of her newfound customers.
As the pandemic went on, I actually saw increases in sales on our web store. In fact, after establishing a strong brand for Maison M Jewelry online, I received invitations from prominent departmental stores in Taiwan to have our accessories sold there or collaborate on a pop-up store.
Setting up Maison M Jewelry’s first website with GoDaddy
While planning for the launch of Maison M Jewelry, Catherine was very hands-on. Despite having support from her family in terms of products, she took care of everything else by herself. This included building Maison M Jewelry’s website from scratch.
Together with her business partner, Catherine put together a brand and business plan. This exercise gave her clarity in direction. Through this process, they identified the need to build a website quickly since they weren’t going ahead to set up retail stores.
Catherine started searching online to understand the process of setting up a website. She saw that she needed to get her website domain, and discovered GoDaddy early during her search.
“My business partner and I felt that GoDaddy is a brand we can trust. Amongst the ones we’ve found, GoDaddy had the easiest process when it comes to setting up our website. I read countless articles to try and figure it out, and at one point even thought I’ll save the trouble, use a 3rd party provider to get my online store going and pay them a fixed fee every month. However, I came across GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress and it suited my business needs. GoDaddy’s customer care is also very responsive and helpful.”
With the help and tools in place, Catherine went about building her website on her own. She attended courses on WordPress and managed to get the first iteration of her website up and running.
The challenges of building her first website
However, it was also at this juncture where she learnt an important lesson. Looking back, she wished she sought help earlier in getting her website up. When she started building my website on her own, that stalled her business launch for a couple of months. There is more knowledge and expertise that goes into building a website, such as design, user experience, security (SSL), which she was not sure how to do.
Catherine’s challenge is not unique. Many small business owners faced similar challenges when building their first website. Be it using a website builder that is both user and SEO friendly, or turning to professionals for help, there are many ways one can overcome the hurdle of building a website!
For Catherine, after seeing her website idling with little traffic for months, she sought help from professionals to spruce up her website.
Editor’s Note: Need help getting started with your website? Let our team of experts help you out! Check out GoDaddy’s Website Design Services for more details.
Looking to the future: digitizing a family legacy through Maison M Jewelry
For Maison M Jewelry, the road ahead is an exciting one. While Catherine first faced challenges in establishing her brand in a product vertical where retail experience matters, she has managed to build a strong online presence for the brand. Now, she is planning to expand her brand offline with pop up stalls or an appointment based studios. Thereafter, it would be time for her to continue digitizing her family business and consolidating them under Maison M.
Maison M Jewelry’s focus on Parisan style elegance in their offerings set them apart from other local brands. Catherine hopes Maison M Jewelry will be known for its high quality products and evergreen style suitable for all ages. There is still much product education that needs to be done, but the journey has only just begun.
And Catherine has some business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
Always plan well! Budget allocation matters too. Learn from people who are in different industries. Most importantly, think from the perspective of the customers. Business folks tend to go into business for the sake of their own preferences, but what they offer might not be what the customer is looking for.
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