The success of Mark Shami’s online personalized jewelry brand, M Jewelers didn’t happen overnight. After years of working alongside his family in New York City’s diamond district, Shami decided to put his knowledge and experience to the test by launching his own digital brand in 2014. Shortly into launching on his own, his friend Anthony Frisina joined as partner and the two decided to take advantage of what was then, the Golden Age of Instagram. In this spirit, they invested their money heavily into Instagram ads and influencer gifting. It wasn’t until the holiday season of 2016 where they saw the impacts of their investments, with sales coming in at record numbers. Today, M Jewelers is the largest online personalized jewelry company to date, beloved by celebrities and consumers of the Instagram generation. As their sales continue to multiply, we sat down with founder Mark Shami to discuss the evolution of the brand’s ongoing success.
Tell me about launching the brand in 2014. Why did you decide to launch MJewelers and how did you do it?
I grew up all around jewelry. My father and my two uncles were all involved in jewelry in different ways. While growing up, my father owned a mom-and-pop store in the Diamond District in NYC and my two uncles are heavily involved in the world of department store jewelry. I was able to learn all different aspects of the business from retail, wholesale, sourcing, development and production from the three of them which led to my love of custom and personalized jewelry. I was always making nameplate necklaces and name rings growing up working at my fathers store for customers and friends. I started building TheMJewelersNY.com in the summer of 2013 while working in the diamond district in NYC. I built our original website, designed our initial collection of 25 items, shot all of our product and launched TheMJewelersNY.com. As excited as I was to launch, once I officially launched the site in 2014, a week passed and my sales stopped coming in. I then spent the next 6-12 months, day and night direct messaging people on instagram, asking ‘Hey I’d love to make you a custom Nameplate Necklace.’ I remember spending everything I had on these gifted items for months. Everyone began answering, I was shocked and I became addicted. The timing was perfect, we were still in the golden age of Instagram and the playing field was completely open. My best friend Anthony Frisina loved what I was doing and wanted to join the business in 2016. He asked to buy into the business with a small amount of money, so I made him a partner. We both didn’t know what to do with the money at the time. We thought about buying inventory, opening locations, hiring more staff. Instead we took the money he had brought in, pooled it with what the company had and put everything into Instagram ads which at the time had just launched a few years prior in November of 2013. We spent every cent we had on ads and nothing happened. It wasn’t until our first big holiday season in December of 2016 that we realized all the influencer outreach and ad spend had actually worked and orders began to come in every second. It was time to expand.
What was a specific achievement or milestone you felt most proud of in the beginning? And also more recently?
It all felt surreal when we leased our first office in NYC and hired our first employees. It was only a 800 sq ft office in the garment district and we outgrew it quickly. We ended up moving to bigger floors in the building every few months because we were out of space. We just recently leased a 4,000 sq foot office in SoHo, NY and have started building out an entire new production space which was always our dream in the beginning.
Tell me about your brand partnerships strategy.
We’re always trying to align with brands and partners we believe in and fit our NYC ethos. We have been working on a license with the MLB for the past 2 years that we are finally launching this year, as well as an activation with programming to follow where we will highlight NYC creatives.
MJewelers is favored by celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Billie Ellish. How did this happen?
The celebrity aspect of the brand happened very organically. We receive a lot of styling requests and pulls for shoots. We’ve been able to maintain great relationships and friendships with the stylists and editorial we work with. We’re able to make our pieces in house which allows us to turnaround a custom item for a shoot overnight.
What was your experience like during Covid? What changes did you have to make, if any?
Our process is very unique and each piece is completely custom and made by hand so covid really shook us up. It really forced us to become more remote overall and get creative with our rollouts of new styles & collaborations. Our sales increased drastically during covid so we even had to get some of our jewelers equipment to work from home. We sustained it [and] it made us stronger than ever.
Plans for the future?
We are opening our permanent store in NYC on Mulberry street in Summer 2021. We are constantly continuing to find ways to improve our functionality and customer experience while we expand our production capabilities.