Alex Woo started Alex Woo Jewelry in 2001 and has since become one of the hottest jewelry designers in New York. We asked her to share what inspired her to start her own brand and how she’s gone about partnering with some of the world’s largest retailers, such as Macy’s.
What encouraged you to start Alex Woo Jewelry?
At a young age, I always knew I wanted to be a designer, but it wasn’t until I did some formal jewelry design training that I discovered my passion for jewelry.
My professor at the time encouraged me to enter the Women’s Jewelry Association’s national design competition. I was competing with professional designers from all across the country, so I was completely surprised when I won the grand prize. It was an incredible honor that gave me a vote of confidence and inspired me to launch my own collection.
What was the process like when creating your product? Did you think it would be as successful as it is?
My background is in fine arts, so my process always begins with an idea and inspiration from a place, person, or emotion. From there, I like to sketch out my designs. I love creating these small collectible sculptures that become keepsakes and memories of special moments in our lives.
Although simple in shape, and modern in form, I spend a lot of time thinking about each design — from an aesthetic and emotional point of view. So I wouldn’t make something that I wouldn’t be proud to wear myself. I have a lot of confidence in the quality of my designs, and I always hope that people will continue to appreciate my older and new designs for years to come.
Can you share the story of being introduced to leaders at Macy’s?
I was literally sitting in a waiting room and happened to pick up a magazine and see an ad for the Workshop at Macy’s. It was the first time I had ever seen an ad asking for female and minority entrepreneurs to apply to a fully sponsored business workshop. I thought this was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.
So I went through a long application process and was later brought in to interview with their executives. It was a truly exciting experience to meet with so many people from their team and get such a warm welcome. They just happened to be looking for a brand like mine to carry in their stores, and it just felt like I was in the right place at the right time.
Macy’s is known for working with diverse suppliers. Was it important to you that you partnered with a brand like this?
Yes, I am very proud to have partnered with an organization that continues to be so supportive of female and minority entrepreneurs. It is extremely generous of Macy’s to support and sponsor a program like this, and I am so excited to hear that this upcoming year will be the 10th anniversary of their program. This level of generosity and dedication to our community is something I really don’t see with any other retailers, so I am extremely grateful.
Can you share advice with small business owners looking to make these partnerships?
As an entrepreneur, I have been very fortunate to meet wonderful people and have great partnerships. As much as I have been lucky, I also think that there’s plenty more opportunities out there as well. We just have to seek them and create our own “luck.” Joining trade organizations, attending events, and going to business summits have been great resources for networking and meeting new people.
One other piece of advice is to sometimes go to these events alone. I found this to be scary at first, but it was the best advice my husband ever gave me. Being out of my comfort zone has been a great way for me to build my confidence in meeting new people and finding new opportunities.