When Adina Kamkhatchi was in college, she had an eye for jewelry but not much of a budget.
"I couldn't buy expensive jewelry and I also couldn't find cheaper good quality jewelry that would last," she says.
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So she decided she'd try her hand at making her own.
At the time, she was a freshman at Brooklyn College and she only had classes two days a week. "I wanted to do something more. I consulted my mom, told her about it and she loved it," says Adina, now 22.
With about $1,000 of her own savings, Adina bought materials — beads, pearls, stones, strips of leather, chains — from wholesalers and got to work at the kitchen table at her parents' house.
She named her line Adina's Jewels (after her grandmother with whom she shares a name). And once she built up enough inventory, she started selling it door-to-door. But about three months in, she realized she needed a better way to reach customers.
She approached the owner of a local swimwear store and asked if she could display her jewelry on one of its tables. The idea worked for a little while, but then sales tapered off. The swimwear business was too seasonal and, in the off-season, low foot traffic hurt her sales.
Her parents then suggested she try selling at the hair salon down the block. "It was perfect because hair salons always have customers," she says. Sales took off -- and remained consistent throughout the year.
Now, four years later, Adina's Jewels is a profitable multimillion dollar revenue business that has drawn the attention of tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. The company has a store in Brooklyn, a web site selling more than 600 different items and a roster of celebrities, including Ariana Grande, Emily Ratajkowski and sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid, photographed wearing the jewelry.
Yet, none of these successes have changed Adina's approach. While Adina's necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets have become wildly popular, it's critical to her that they remain affordable.
"I want people, like me, who don't come from a wealthy home, to be able to buy beautiful jewelry," she says.
In fact, Adina still designs most of the pieces herself. The sterling silver and 14-karat gold-plated items, for example, are priced between $50 to $250.
"Be your own boss"
As Adina started to grow the business, her brother Mayer Kamkhatchi jumped in to help.
He was only 17 at the time, but he set up the company's web site. "It was a lot of trial and error and learning stuff from YouTube," says Mayer, who is now 20 and a senior at Baruch College, majoring in entrepreneurship.
The next step was to get some buzz around the brand.
"We reached out to a fashion blogger who is a major fashion influencer on social media. They loved our vibe and talked about us," says Mayer.
It was the breakthrough they needed. The site's traffic spiked, as did sales. "It was a snowball effect," he says.
And the buzz continues.
"It's like someone will tell us they saw Ariana wear one of our rings and they want that same ring," says Mayer.
The brand's growing popularity among its core 18-to-34-year-old "fashion-forward" customers, as Mayer refers to them, is also evident on social media, where Adina's Jewels has racked up 140,000 Instagram followers.
Mayer now handles the day-to-day operations and marketing while Adina focuses on product design and customer relations.
For both siblings, entrepreneurship has been a goal they both have had from a very early age.
Their parents, who met on a blind date in New York, immigrated to the United States when they were young — their father from Syria when he was 25 and their mother from Israel when she was 16.
"When my father left Syria, he had his own textile company, which he had to give up," says Mayer.
Now both parents work in sales positions at different companies.
"My parents really wanted us to be independent and work for ourselves," says Adina.
As early as the third grade, Adina could recall her mother encouraging her to aspire to be more than an employee.
"She would say to me, 'Adina, don't work for anyone else. Be your own boss and write your own check,'" she recalls.
Adina and Mayer took that advice to heart.
"I was selling stuff like lip glosses and hair accessories in third grade," says Adina. "I got such a rush from selling things."
"It's hard for us to trust anyone else"
To date, Adina and Mayer have self-financed all of Adina's Jewels.
"We've taken it upon ourselves to handle every aspect of the business," says Mayer. "It's been hard but we have trust issues."
In 2016, the company opened its first brick-and-mortar store. A small neighborhood store had shut down and Adina acted fast.
"It was 500 square-feet, the perfect size for a jewelry shop," she says. "It's kind of prestigious to have a store. I think it gives legitimacy to a brand."
And, after working out of their parents' home for the past few years, they moved into an office space in August. Now about a dozen employees help with marketing, web design and packing and shipping merchandise to customers in the US and overseas.
The siblings are proud of their success.
"But it goes back to our parents and how they raised us," says Adina. "They helped us on day one. I even call my dad late at night if I need business advice. They're always there to help."