A Family business, this is what my brother and I have known since we were children. This is what we are used to being around, in the jewelry business. In my father’s old factory that he owned, his retail outlets he owned and distributed to. And being around that all my life, it just gravitated my brother and I to get into this industry just because of our family history.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Of course. We were young men getting into a business that we really knew nothing about, we didn’t know how to run a business but we had all these bills to pay like rent, employees, lawyers, accounts, and obviously vendors. Owning a business and having to think about all this overhead and figuring out a way of executing a plan which was to cover our overhead was pretty difficult for us. They say the first 5 years of business is a test of will power, the next 5 years is a test of determination and success.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
It’s just something that is within me and my family and our bloodline. We just are resilient, we keep pushing through no matter what, no matter how, we just push through. We’ve been through a lot in our industry, you know the luxury business always gets hit first as far as when it’s tough times. Our industry, which is a jewelry industry, the golden diamond is a luxurious product, so whenever the country or the world is in shambles, the luxury business gets hit first. We’ve experienced 9/11, we’ve experienced the Afghanistan Iraq war, we’ve experienced covid, we’re experiencing this Russia and Ukraine stuff. We’re experiencing cost of living like gas is up, rent is up, all types of things and we’re still here, we’re still persevering through it, we’re still fighting through it and how and where do we get this drive from? I guess it’s within us, it’s passed down through our bloodline to continuously push through anything and everything including rough times.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
It can’t rain forever, it can’t be bad forever, there’s always gonna be light at the end of the tunnel you just gotta get through it. Once you get through it you’re gonna have sunny days, you’re gonna have warmer days, you’re gonna have days that you’re appreciative of. If you don’t go through the tough times in life you will never appreciate the easy times. You have to put in the work in order to appreciate the results. If you don’t put in the work and things get handed to you then you will never appreciate it.
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’ll give you a perfect example — You know that spinning globe that we made for Cameron, the iconic spinning globe. The first piece of jewelry ever made, we did that piece two times for the fact that we had finished the piece and the piece fell and the globe split in half so when the piece fell and split in half. I learned a lesson never to hold an unfinished piece of jewelry over anything soft, I need something soft or on a counter that way it doesn’t fall to the ground.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes our company stand out is us as individuals. Why? Because I’ll give you a story for example, here’s a story — Coi Leray, when she and I started working together it was always constantly creating unique one off pieces for her only. Nothing generic, no generic pieces at all and when she got on with her new song that put her on the map and made her go mainstream which was with Lil Durk ``No Parties” she called me and she was like “Joe I made it, I made it, I need the biggest chain you have in stock, the biggest Cuban link that you got in stock.” And I told her “I’m sorry I’m not gonna sell you that, I’m not gonna sell you that.” Even though it was the easiest thing to do to ship and collect a wire, you get what I’m saying but at the end of the day I said nah we’re not gonna do that we didn’t do that from the beginning and I’m not about to do it now I’m like we’re gonna need to make you something iconic. I have to sit here and think about what fits your personality, do you get what I’m saying? Just because I have that mindset of building and crafting something that’s unique and one of a kind and that no one else has. Where you’re identified and mainly you’re identified by your piece of accessories, you might have long hair I don’t know down to the ground. Or a coi fish necklace, people identify you because of your accessories. Now if you’re gonna have a Cuban link every rapper, football player, basketball player, entertainer, drug dealer, youtuber has a Cuban link. So why would you want to be in the mix of everything if you have somebody such as myself that can make you your own.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Put in the time, put in the foot work, put in the work. Have creativity. Mental health is very important, having a drive means you have to have some sort of vision, having a vision means you have to be mentally healthy and prepared. Not every journey that you’re gonna go on is going to be a smooth one, there’s always going to be hiccups. There’s always going to be issues that life throws at you, same thing with building pieces that are one offs, there’s always going to be issues within creating and engineering and building all the pieces that we build but we, like I said we persevere through it. You have to find a solution and not dwell on an issue and that’s one thing that life has taught me. You know having to be like I told you an Olympic hopeful in the sport of Judo, not every training session is going to be a great one, not every competition is going to be one that I want, there’s always lessons to be taken from the moment and bring it back to the dojo, think about it, write it down, see what happens, see what I’ve learned, what I can adjust to better myself and to better my tactics and the same thing translates in life like what do you see happen here? Why is this off? Alright now what can we do to fix it? This is what I do every day over here. not every piece of jewelry is coming out perfect because it’s never been done before and because it’s never been done before you’re gonna have to do it multiple times to get it right. And that’s what we do here and that’s why we pride ourselves in being of the spoke company where we make stuff that’s one off and when we do finish something it’s at a pristine finish so ultimately what I recommend to my colleagues within the industry is don’t quit, always push through, always push the envelope, don’t copy, don’t plagiarize, because all that does is make you look stupid and don’t just do it for the money do it for the legacy. Have something that you want to be able to leave behind in the world like an imprint in the history books.
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?
Absolutely, there’s many people who helped me get to where I’m at in life. One of those are my coaches, the ones who instilled great work ethics. My childhood coach, my other coach at the training center who also had an impact in my life and my adult career as far as being a competitor and traveling and dominating in worldwide competitions. All this stuff from my sport background translates back into my business life because everything that I was doing then I’m doing now. First one in, last one out, I’m here normally at nine o’clock in the morning. Remember I’m about to be forty three years old, I have kids who work with me that are here at ten o’clock in the morning. It’s supposed to be ten o’clock and you’re here at ten that means you’re late. If work starts at ten you’re supposed to be outside waiting at nine forty five that means you’re on time. That’s what I was taught. What I’m trying to tell you with that is I come in here every day thinking I’m just now starting out, I haven’t succeeded, in my mind I’m still in the struggles, in my mind I’m still building, in my mind I’m not comfortable I’m still pushing. I don’t know why I have that in me but I have that drive. I guess it’s in my blood that I want to be able to still do what I’ve been doing and to continue doing and pass that message to the next generation.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
With the success that we have and had we opened up a training program called Avianne Fit. It’s been going on for the last three years now. I’m an athlete myself, a retired athlete so I still train today to maintain my mental health, to maintain my overall physique. I invite kids three times a week during my training sessions to come and workout with me free of charge, I sit there and speak to kids. I try to mentally get into their mind and talk to them and pick at their issues that they have in life and see which way that I can help them. — I also haven’t been an athlete all these years, we still to this day sponsor a lot of boxers and fighters because I know how hard it is to go out there and give it your all and train hard and get nothing in return. And most of the time get a beating but at the end of the day you still have bills to pay, you still have to eat, you still have a family. So, what we’ve been doing since the inception of Avianne is sponsor fighters, if you go back in the history the first fighter that we’ve ever sponsored was Antonio Tarver. He was the first mainstream fighter that we sponsored and gained recognition from, Antonio Tarver. To this day we sponsor a lot of fighters, we used to sponsor. That’s another way we give back, obviously there’s a lot of charities that ask for help and we give back, we give proceeds and donate funds to families who have no money.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
#1 — I wish I knew how to start from day one to build a brand recognition. I didn’t know that; it took us trial and error to figure that out.
#2 — I wish someone would’ve told me about marketing and public relations, pr and all that stuff. It took a few years in order for us to understand that we need these kinds of things on board but in order to have public relations you need something to publicize. In order to have marketing you need something to market. Remember we’re just kids who never finished college, we didn’t go to school for running a business, it was just all hands on experience and everything we’ve learned is through hands on experience. We didn’t know how to run a business.
#3 — I wish someone would’ve given us tips on running a business. In order to learn I was told that hands on is the best experience in life, better than even education in school because what they teach you in the textbooks is not usually what is in the field.
#4 — I wish somebody would’ve told me about delegating work. It took me years to realize that I can’t do the administrative work, I need to get an administrative assistant. I need to focus on making money, I need to focus on marketing the company or I need to focus on publicizing the company. Delegating work I was trying to save money, print the tags, put the information into the system, do my inventory. Like I said, trying to save money so that way I don’t have a big overhead. It wasn’t easy for the first five years to come up with x amount of dollars to keep my doors open and employ my employees.
#5 — I wish somebody would’ve told me what to do when your company has come to a plateau level. What do you do to get the company to the next level? How do you take the company from being a twenty million dollar company a year to fifty million a year.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
There definitely are low times in life. You bring in a kid that doesn’t know anything, doesn’t have an idea of what life is about, a seventeen year old kid. You train the kid, you build the kid up, you invest a lot of time, money, energy, resources behind the kid. Next thing you know the kid decides he wants to branch out on his own and now becomes a competitor. You still continue moving forward, you really can’t do anything but it hurts. Now the kid utilizes everything you taught him plus is in the same sector. Jewelry is a big sector, same clients, same type of jewelry, same type of everything. That’s affecting my bottom line at the end of the year, now if I’m selling to clients that are on the same type of level and he’s marketing and promoting himself within the same type of realm that takes away from my plate.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)
Invest in the youth and show them how to be successful. Help the next generation find success and be a mentor to younger people.