Sea Harris
Senior Events Marketing Manager @ Yotpo
February 24th, 2023

In celebration of Black History Month, we sat down with the Founder of her namesake brand for a candid conversation about her entrepreneurship journey

Gwen Beloti is busy. When she isn’t working on her fast-growing gold jewelry brand, Gwen Beloti Collection, she’s holding down a full-time day job, and also finding ways to give back to her community.

Gwen is also an Amazing Women in eCommerce 2023 Honoree, and her brand is a participant in Yotpo Grow, an accelerator program for Black-owned brands that we are really passionate about. Brands participating in the program receive free access to Yotpo’s eCommerce marketing platform, along with ongoing support through a dedicated Customer Support Manager, training and education materials, marketing opportunities, and events.

We recently had the honor of hosting Gwen in our office for our Conversations @ Yotpo series, in honor of Black History Month. She and I sat down for an inspiring and enlightening conversation about Black entrepreneurship, breaking into the notoriously difficult jewelry industry, and what’s next for her brand. Here are the highlights.

So tell me a little bit about you and your brand.

I’m the founder of my namesake women’s gold jewelry company, Gwen Beloti Collection. I design a line of gold jewelry that is perfect for everyday wear, and style and quality is really important to the brand. One thing that I’m really proud of is that we are a size inclusive brand. So we offer extended ring sizes, longer necklaces, longer anklets. It was important that I consider my own personal experience. My weight has been up and down most of my life, so I wanted to be inclusive and design for all women.

I know jewelry was a big focus for you, but you started with clothing. What made you want to focus on jewelry as the main product for your line?

I was an apparel designer before I started designing jewelry, for about seven years. And then I introduced jewelry to the company in 2018. And the jewelry just did way better than the apparel. I’ve always had a personal love story with jewelry, so it was really an organic trajectory. So I decided to just focus on jewelry in 2019 when I launched my first full collection, and it’s just been received really well by customers, friends, and family. I was a little bit nervous because everyone knew me as an apparel designer and I kind of had that imposter syndrome, because when I designed apparel I was the maker as well as the designer. Jewelry is more so the designer, so I rely on my production team to help me with construction and understanding the back end. It’s different, but I love it. It’s been a really cool ride so far. Hard, not easy, but fun for sure.

It’s hard for all entrepreneurs, I’m sure. What are some of the challenges that you faced in building the brand?

I am a solopreneur. I don’t really have a big team. I also have a full-time job. So it’s a lot to manage. I wear pretty much every hat at the company. So I think my struggles are prioritizing what’s most important, managing time to ensure that we do things as efficiently as possible — “we” as in “me” for the most part. Specific to jewelry, the jewelry industry is very closed off and very generational. So if you don’t really have a way in, it can be really challenging. So being introduced to manufacturers and production people, that’s not as easy for me as it might be for someone else. I won a grant in 2021 and it wasn’t about the money, it was more so about the introductions. They connected me to the current manufacturers that I’m working with today, and that has been invaluable. Things like that have made it a little bit easier, but it’s not as easy as I would like or as accessible to me as it should be.

It’s Black History Month and it’s a celebratory time, but we also know that Black founders struggle more when it comes to trying to get a brand off the ground. I’d love to know what your experience has been as a Black founder.

So piggybacking on the access part of it, access to resources, obviously capital, is a challenge specifically for women, and Black women like myself, along with access to resources such as manufacturers. But I am grateful for opportunities like this one, like the Yotpo Grow program ,and some other really cool programs that I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of. In full transparency, it does frustrate me that those are necessary, by way of who I am and what I look like. But I’m still very much grateful for them and use them to maximize opportunities as best as I possibly can.

Let’s touch on allyship a bit. How can allies do more for the Black community and Black businesses, and not just during the month of February?

I’d say by just being really genuine and being committed for the long term versus just doing it as a one-off or just to say you’re doing it. Introductions are really important, extending your network is really valuable because we’re not necessarily invited to certain spaces. So I think if you’re coming from a genuine place and you’re committed, I think that that can have a huge impact beyond this moment.

You mentioned that you have a day job. How do you find the balance?

I don’t know that you find the balance, it’s a lot for me, I literally have two full-time jobs. I go to work from nine to five, and I’m super grateful for my job and it affords me the opportunity to do Gwen Beloti to some extent, but it’s a lot. And then I work on my business from six to most days, like 1:00 AM and all Saturday and Sunday. But I enjoy it and I think it’s gonna lead to something more. So for now I’m gonna keep at it, but it is a lot.

What advice would you give to other Black founders? What are some things that you wish you would’ve known when you got started?

I don’t remember where I heard this. I think it was on a podcast and they said that especially in business and as an entrepreneur, the highs can be really high and the lows can be really low. And if you lead in with that perspective and that understanding, I think it helps, especially on the days that are really low, and knowing that it’s going to get better, and you’ll see those high days again. So having that clear understanding about trying to find that middle ground, that has helped me because there are plenty of days I’m just like,”Should I throw in the towel? Is it all worth it?” But I keep going.

I know that you’re really passionate about community and giving back, and I’d love to know, how do you leverage your brand to be able to give back?

I think it’s really important to give. I have a small company, but I still think it’s very important. When I was designing apparel, I launched a project called 100 Dresses for Little Dresses for Africa. The community would come together and we would cut and sew little dresses made primarily out of pillow cases, and the the leftover materials that I had from the apparel that I was designing. And we did that for like five years straight. That was really special to me because fashion is important to me, right? So there was a connection there. And during the pandemic in 2020, we started a project called Gift an Educator because a lot of people were on the front lines, but the educators really were, too. And I feel like they weren’t getting the appreciation that they should have. So we invited the community again to nominate a teacher in their life to be gifted jewelry from us on their behalf. So that’s something we still continue to do today. Those two projects. We don’t still cut and sew the dresses because I don’t have material, but we donate to the organization and we do the Gift an Educator project every year.

I’d love to hear your experience with the Yotpo Grow program so far.

It’s been amazing. You guys have given us access to all of your programs and resources and I’m super grateful. I use a lot of different Shopify apps on my store, but none of them has given me a dedicated CSM. So that has been super valuable being able to actually talk to someone. It’s just been great — the loyalty program as well as integrating Instagram posts and things like that. I’m super grateful for it. I mean, how can it not be a good thing? It’s really been a positive experience.

Let’s talk about some of the things that you’ve been celebrating recently. I heard a little bit of buzzing about something with diamonds.

So two things. The first one is that we partnered with Sacks. So now Gwen Beloti is carried on Sacks online. I’m really excited. It’s been on my vision board for years, so to see that come to fruition is really special. The other thing is that myself and five other emerging jewelry designers were selected to be a part of the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative with the Only Natural Diamonds Council in partnership with Lorraine Schwartz. She’s  Beyonce’s go-to jeweler. So we have the opportunity to curate a fine diamond gold collection and showcase it at JCK, which is the largest jewelry trade show in the world in July. So I’m really looking forward to that.

To learn more about Gwen and Gwen Beloti Collection, visit gwenbeloti.com. You can read more about the Yotpo Grow program here, and to learn more about Amazing Women in eCommerce, check out womeninecomm.com.

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