Amanda Ang // Ep 20 // From Goldman Sachs to Diamonds - An Unexpected Journey

Welcome to Episode 20 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Amanda Ang on this week's episode.

We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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After leaving Wall Street, Amanda did a brief stint as a travel and food writer, before moving into the startup world. There, she led international expansion efforts for a Japanese marketplace called Voyagin (the predecessor to Airbnb Experiences) into new countries like Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Her team’s international success led to an eventual acquisition by Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce platform.

Amanda Ang is the founder of August Bespoke, a custom jewelry house that helps couples skip the cookie-cutter experience of traditional stores and create one-of-a-kind engagement rings to celebrate their love story.She was introduced to gemology at a young age by her mother, a passionate gemstone collector, and was inspired to start August Bespoke to help her friends who didn’t know who to trust with such a symbolic and important long-term investment. Amanda is certified in diamonds and colored gemstones by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in New York City – one of the largest and most important diamond markets in the world.

Prior to founding August Bespoke, Amanda’s career has spanned multiple industries. After graduating from Boston College with a degree in Finance, she became a star analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York where she helped launch some of the most exciting and important Asian IPOs of the time such as AIA, Agricultural Bank of China, and China’s version of YouTube.

Amanda is passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs and is excited to be building a company with heart in a traditional, male-dominated industry.

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Transcript

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan. 

And my name is Maggie 

And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.

We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, Everyone welcome to the Asian Hustle Network Podcast. My name is Maggie

Bryan: (00:00:27) my name is Bryan

 

Maggie: (00:00:28) And today we have a very special guest with us. Her name is Amanda Ang and she is the founder of August Bespoke, a custom jewelry house, which helps couples skip the cookie cutter experience of traditional stores and create one of a kind engagement rings to celebrate their love story.

 

Amanda, welcome to the show.  

 

Bryan: (00:00:50) Yeah, Amanda, we’re so happy to have you here and we understand. 1:00 AM in Singapore analysis. Thank you for staying up and making the podcast with us. We really appreciate that.

 

Amanda: (00:01:01) You know, Asian Hustle Network international, right. So look across all time zones.

 

Maggie: (00:01:08) Yeah, that’s cool. Thank you so much for being on this show with us today. You know, we will just jump right into, it would love to know, you know, your background, you know, where you grew up, where you were born and you know, what your family situation was like, you know, were they a very traditional Asian family or, you know, where they pretty much very laid back.

 

Amanda: (00:01:28) Okay, so I’ll start from the beginning. So I grew up in Singapore.  I spent 18 years of my life here. I did public school all the way. Um, I would say I was like a typical Singaporean student, you know, went to the good schools, study really hard, got the A’s. Um, and then when I graduated high school, I guess it was a little bit surprising cause my parents expected me to go to college here. I think like most Asian parents, they kind of want you nearby, right? But, um, I had a friend who had done like a summer program at U Penn one time or like it was like somewhere between a sophomore and junior year of high school. And he was like, hey, you should think about applying to the US right.

I was like, I don’t know. That’s really far away, right? We’re literally on the other side of the globe, but, um, he was so excited about it. I was like, all right. So in Singapore, we do the Cambridge A-level exams. So we had no like college guidance counselor, or the way that you guys have in the US so literally after I finished my British exams, I was like, okay, I have a week left before, like the US applications closed. So let me get one of those books, cause back in the day, Um, we had like the US news ranking, you know, there’s this book with a thousand colleges, so I kind of flipped it. I was like, okay, common application. Uh, let me apply to a bunch of schools. Um, so it’s my, like, that’s how I actually ended up in the US. Funny enough um, I. I think my dad is a person who is like quite open minded. Um, I had actually gotten into a bunch of good schools. Actually.my dream school was UC Berkeley. I think that’s a very Asian school in California, right? And in Singapore that’s a famous school. So I think when I had gotten in, um, everybody just assumed, well, Amanda’s going there.

And in fact, I had assumed I was going there because I guess in Asia, people care a lot about the name. But, um, my dad’s quite open minded, so he was like, oh, let’s go take a tour. Like, go see the other schools you went, you know, you got into, so we did a college tour. We started on the East coast. Um, and then I happened to see a school called Boston College, a school I got into.

I did it, no anything about it. I checked off a common app. A friend had like, had a cousin going there, so, but I was super impressed when I got to the campus. They’re very liberal arts school is very different from, I think, what people in Asia focus on, right? Cause Berkeley had a very good, uh, business school. Um, and Boston College is like a Jesuit college.

 

They’re very into, uh, like developing you as a whole person. So I had a very good impression I’m going there and after a whole bunch of. Like tour, I was like, wow, this is a very different experience than what I would’ve imagined. But I said, okay, is Berkeley, right? I mean, that’s where you go. Um, but I, when I went to Berkeley, uh, and I went to visit the campus, it was a very different experience for me because it’s a public school. They could care less if you’re there. I remember going to the admissions office, I was like, hi, I’m here. I flew 24 hours to come. And like, Register and the woman in the office was like, I’m sorry. Sorry. Hold on a second. Have, is your name in our database? And I said, no. I like, like I said, I flew 24 hours to come and register, she’s like, well, I’m sorry. Before your names. Um, on our list, you don’t exist to us. And this is like, quote, unquote, exactly what she said to me. I went back to the hotel, started crying cause for the first time in my life, I thought, hey, you know, I had this path, right. I was like a student. I got into this good school and this is where I was supposed to be.

And in my heart, I felt like there was something wrong with this whole situation cause even when I left, um, you know, how you do college tours and stuff like that. Yeah. One of the tour guides was like, not surprised at all by my experience. And I was like, hey, this woman said this to me. He was like, well, if you want to be mollycoddled you can go to Stanford.

 

I was just like, wow. Okay. So that was the night where my dad who was quite open minded was like, oh, like you can choose any school you want. Yeah. And I think that was really like the first kind of, of unexpected decision I make. So I chose to go to Boston college, which again, liberal arts school, nobody knows it in Asia. That is more well known in the US but, um, so that’s how I ended up. I went to undergrad, um, at BC I studied finance, which I guess is a very. Uh, save major. I actually studied finance and French, so that was like my side passion, you know, I discovered a love of languages. Um, and then. I started working on Wall Street. So I graduated in 2008, which was an interesting time to graduate. Um, Bryan, you know, we talked about this. 

 

Yeah. Luckily for me, I got an internship on Wall Street. And then the summer of 2007. So I was interning when things were so good, right. Where the insurance would go on cruises and like networking events are really exciting. So, um, so after I graduate in 2008, I started working at the Asia equity sales desk. So my team was focused on basically launching IPOs from Asia into the US market. So our clients would be like us hedge funds and. All the institutional guys um looking at Asia. So I was, I was, um, working at Goldman. It was a great experience. We can talk more about that. I think it really was quite a, uh, life defining experience for a girl who came from a country, like, you know, halfway across the world to be working like with the serious guys on Wall Street. I was like, wow, this is, this is the big leagues. As they say, you know, So, um, so yeah, so then I ended up working there for three years. Uh, at one point my dad actually got sick and I think this was the first point where I also had to do a little bit of like self-reflection. Is this where my life is headed? You know, at that point I had spent seven years in the US and I think I remember, um, one of the defining moments being that. It was my dad’s 60th birthday. But you know, when you’re working on Wall Street, I used to work like 5:00 AM to midnight every day, because when Asia closes the US open. So it’s a crazy schedule. Um, and I remember getting a call or actually no, cause no one could call me cause I was too busy. I was like, guys, I have no life. I’m on my Blackberry. Yeah. I’m a busy. So I get an email from my mom saying, hey, you forgot your dad’s 60th birthday yesterday. So, which is terrible, right? This person is that is like a huge figure in my life. I just was like, oh my goodness. I’ve been so down in the trenches doing my work that I forgot the most important thing. So as, at that point, you know, my dad got sick, he had kidney cancer, so, well, he had a, like a tumor in his kidney.

 

So I had that and then I forgot his birthday. And then I started, um, reading the book, the Alchemist. I don’t know if you guys have ever read it. It’s great. But so it really changed my life at that point. I actually, I was surprised I even had time to read it because I was so busy working. But at that point, yeah, we didn’t have Wifi on planes. So when I was flying from like Boston to back to New York. After seeing a client, I bought a, I bought the alchemists at the airport. I just started reading it on the plane. One of the lines said, one of the reasons why people are afraid to chase their dreams is they’re afraid that if they fail, they have nothing left. Yeah. That really hit me cause I was like, thinking, Oh, is this it like, is this supposed to be my life? You know so. At that point um, I made a decision to move back to Singapore, to move and spend some time with my dad. I actually did a bunch of world travels with him. We went to South Africa, you know, it was at that point where you sort of realized like, life is really short. um, and you don’t have a lot of time. So I moved back to Asia. I did a bunch of jobs. We can talk about that too. Um, and eventually I found my own company, so. That is a yeah.

 

Maggie: (00:09:38) Well, I’m, I’m so sorry to hear that, you know, you took the effort to fly halfway around the world and you went to the admissions office and they gave you that response.

But honestly, I’m not surprised either. Yeah. I think it’s one of those things where, why the US. The school system is so messed up a little bit. Yeah. Because it’s like you spend all this effort to, you know, go over there and, and make it known that you’re here to, you know, go to school and get accepted and register, but it’s more of like good for you, you know? Yeah. What are you supposed to say to that, right? And yeah, I’m, I’m, I’m very inspired that you actually. It all, it all worked out for you, you know, and you took those experiences and you applied them to your own life and you’re able to grow from them. And now look at you now, right. You have your own company. Um, so I found that very inspirational.

 

Bryan: (00:10:31) Yeah. It’s very inspirational to hear, uh, you know, you started putting your family first at the realized, like what’s most important. Um, I can definitely relate to that. You know, I used to be workaholic or all the time, everything sort of guy. But at one point you just kind of looked back on like, is this where I want my life to go? And this is, you know, you have this, this grand plan when you’re younger and you follow that path. And then you’re like, okay, I’m going to get really good grades. And we’ll go to really good school, I’m gonna work at one of the best companies in the world. But you don’t look beyond that once, once you achieve all those goals, what else is important to you?

You know? That’s when you start looking at the untraditional path, you know, how can I take control of my own life again? You know, you start reflecting really hard and you start pursuing passions that you never think that you pursue when you’re younger. And you find that the most important thing in life is family and pursuing stuff that you actually feel passionate about. And money’s great. Money’s important. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s not everything. Is this in some ways, just a tool to get to where you need to go. And I feel like some people out there are so blinded by it that, you know, they create a lot of selfish thoughts like I can’t help my peers. I can’t help other people. And it’s very scarcity mindset. You wouldn’t go that far was a scarcity mindset. You go a lot further with it mindset and abundance mindset that everything in the world is besides time. It’s so abundant that you can help out people that are worrying about anything cause it’s so ingrained in Asian culture. That, you know, if I win, you have to lose. If you lose, I get to win. And that’s not the case at all, but the case is like your happiness or create more happiness, you know? And yeah. Success is a journey really. It’s not destination. I’m sorry. Yeah. Sorry to hear about your dad’s experience.

 

Amanda: (00:12:32) No, no, I, I appreciate that actually. It was interesting now that cause you guys, you know, you start at age and to really support like the Asian community. Now I look back and actually I was quite lucky because I worked on the Asia desk, right at Goldman in New York, which was like, they’re the best colleagues I’ve ever had. So I got very lucky right out of school, right.

To have a team that really felt like family. And when I was going through this like personal crisis with my dad, you’d be surprised like that. All these super senior partner people would take me into their office and write some of the. Uh, at that point, um, one of the partners in the US as equities desk is super senior. He took me into a room and he said, you know, like, just like what you said, Bryan, like, you know, family is everything. You can have all the money in the world and what is the point right? And other team members that I had also said, uh, like on a personal level, that life is about much more than just this. Um, and once you have the expensive mortgage and the Mercedes Benz is kind of hard to go back. So one-on-one is funny how they’ll give you sort of the advice that. They may not, you know, they, they look like super like successful, happy, you know, um, on the outside, but, you know, there is some, uh, or they, they do when they think about it, go, you know, there’s a tradeoff to that life, right. There’s a trade out to that life. So, yeah and I think I was quite lucky because my dad, um, actually said to me, when he found out he was sick, that like don’t regret things in life right. Like if there’s something you want to do, go do it. You know, I hadn’t heard that up to that point because you know, you’re on a path, right.  Yeah.

 

Bryan: (00:14:15) Yeah. That’s really deep. And I absolutely agree. I live life, try not to regret a lot of things. It is very difficult. So I walk away from a very comfortable job. I’m pretty sure that you complete that you can understand from that perspective too, because I’m pretty sure Goldman like pays a lot and they’re known for doing that and to walk away from that and to enter into your business, you know, what was that transition like? And how did that conversation come about with your family?

 

Amanda: (00:14:43) Uh, I think my mom, what’s never really happy to be honest there in her mind was like, Oh good. My daughter’s like working in a Wall Street firm, like she’s fulfilling her life potential. right. So I think when I left. Um, because of my dad, she understood aspect of it. But after that I started, um, doing a lot of things. Like, you know, I had that conversation with her life is short, right. So I like moved to Paris. I study French for a year. I, I wanted to become a food writer. I just thought, okay. Like passion right. I love. Food travel language. I became a food writer for a while.

Like, um, then I, uh, decided to join a startup really early stage startup. It was basically the predecessor to Airbnb experiences right. So just to start out, I joined them when they were like five people. My mom, literally I would come home and she would say like, is this even a real job? Right. Like, do you even have health insurance? Like that was, that was she wasn’t thinking, oh, that’s so cool. You’re like building this company, like launching a new market and doing something from scratch. She was just like, you went from like golden man. I could this, that was really what was on her mind. You know, so I think that transition was, was hard for her to see, and I actually quite hard for me personally, to hear it. Like, I, I think I spent a lot of my life trying to. You don’t realize it, but at least for me now, as I’m older, I realized, Oh, I think I was trying to prove something to them. Like, um, you know, kind of show them that, Hey look, I’m like doing okay. So when your mom says to you, like, is this even a real job? I think there was a part of me that, I mean, I sold her dog, right. Because I’m like, this is what I wanted to do. And this was what. I felt compelled to do, but if I were really honest, with you guys, like at that point is super hurts to hear your own mother say that and I think to this day, so I started my own jewelry company. Um, in a way, thanks to her because my mom is a gemstone collector. She’s passionate about it. So I’ve been around it my whole life. So the ironic thing is like, even though she loves the industry, I mean, there is the part of her that still, like, I bet you secretly wishes that I was not starting my own company though.

It was just like, you know, some fancy managing director somewhere. I think she is still traditional that way. My dad’s very old. So mind that he’s like, life is about choice. Go ahead. You know, yeah.

 

Bryan: (00:17:22) Yeah. Okay. I can totally relate to, because when I left my engineering job, my parents didn’t talk to me for like six, seven months. They’re just so disappointed because they’re like; you’re so comfortable in your engineering job, then you left it for uncertainty. I was like, how was that? I’m unhappy. And they’re like, what is unhappiness? What does it even mean? You’re living the American dream. Like we came over here to sacrifice for your, for your life and to make sure that you have a lot of, a lot more opportunities than we did, and for you to just leave it out of luke. Cause you’re unhappy,

 

Amanda: (00:17:59) personal problems, right?.

 

Maggie: (00:18:02) Yeah, exactly. And that also resonates with me and my parents too, because while I still have my nine to five, but I’m. You know, obviously starting the conversation with my parents about, you know, working on Asian Hustle Network full time right. And they have this perception, right? How do you even make money like that? You know, how do you even make money with that type of, of company or like with other Asian entrepreneurs in AHN? And I think that story resonates with a lot of our members because you know, our parents, they. Most, a lot of them immigrated here from Asia to the United States. And, you know, they did that to provide a better life for their children right. And to make sure that they go to a stable job and, you know, they go to college, you know, go through the safe route. Um, but you know, if you tell them, like, I want to go through entrepreneurship. They oftentimes, they don’t even know what that is right. And there, they expect you to become a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant or something very stable. And so, yeah, I think that’s, that’s very relatable to a lot of our AHN members and so would love to no, you know, if we take it a step back, what was your experience like at I’m on Wall Street and, you know, what, what, what was your experience like being, especially a member of minority and a woman in that industry as well?

 

Amanda: (00:19:16) Uh, I would say it really was quiet. Uh, if defining moment. I mean, my first, um, interaction with Wall Street started when I was a summer intern right. So 2007, I mean, Goldman was always famous for the summer internships right. Um, and having gone through it myself, I will say that I understand why, because the, the way that the, um, Summer internship is structured, at least for like the, uh, securities division where I intern was that, um, there would be like 200, a hundred of the best and brightest, right. We’re talking to Harvard, Yale, Princeton. We’re talking about like the cream of the crop showing up on their first day. They give us, you know, back in the day that we had like a physical Facebook. So we had like, literally, you know, our faces, our names and our schools and they give us a name tag. And the way that summer internship worked was it wasn’t clear which desk was hiring.

They would give you a list of desks, right? So during the 10 week internship, you’re going to have the rotations. Um, but they wouldn’t give you a list of desk and they would be basically say, we’ll start you off. And in your first desk, we’ll, we’ll put you somewhere, but your next two rotations are going to be up to you. So it’s kind of like the way they structured. It is really to sort of test how you’re able to network with new people, um, and try to in a very genuine and sincere way be interested in their business, but at the same time, figure out are you hiring or not right. So they would make it really opaque on purpose, um, to make everybody so, yeah, kinda, uh, like deal with it, you know, on their own and just try to find their own way it was purposefully unstructured.

right. So, um, and the other interesting thing about this internship is because we, I, like I said, we have name tags, so I would have like Amanda at Boston College, any full time employee at Goldman could stop me in the hall and be like, Hey, what do you think the price of gold is going make as much right.

So that, that will be one question or an MD can be like, Hey, Amanda, like pitch me a stock, like as I’m walking in the hall and going to lunch right. That because they have your name and your school, um, you, they really are sort of looking at you from a 360 degree angle right. You’re eating lunch when you’re interacting with people or you’re interacting with staff, like they know your summer intern

They know the firm is there to test you. Um, and because they were not, we didn’t have our series seven and we couldn’t actually get on the phone with clients. So the only way to test is, is also to give us like tasks, like, Hey, go get lunch for the 35 traders on the 50th floor. So getting lunch right. I mean, it sounds like a simple thing right? Go get lunch for 30 traders. We’re talking about hungry, like, um, traders who all have. For specific requests it’s like, they want dressing on the side. They want like chicken, that’s like fried, not grill, trying to get all those little details right. Would be how they would test you as interns. Like, can you get like the basic things right.

So that we can trust you with like a hundred million dollar transaction down the line, you know? So I would say it was, it was a very, very interesting experience. I think, you know, having to. Sort of be on 24/7. I mean, working really early until really late. Um, anybody can quiz you, but anything we used to have these open meetings, um, where they put 200 of us in a room and then MD would come in.

I swear, I’d be like slow motion. Like in a movie he would slip be like, pray, please don’t call my name. right. But he would point to someone and it’d be like, Hey Bryan and then Bryan would have to stand up. And say his name and his school and the MD would ask him, yeah. Like pitch me a stock. And if you didn’t know the answer or like he said, okay, what’s the price of gold today?

And you didn’t know the answer. You’d have to say, I don’t know, but I will find out and I’ll be back. So then Brian would have to leave the auditorium from 200 other fellow interns go ask someone because we didn’t have desks, right. Interns don’t have desks. So you got to use your social skills to then go ask a trader to let you borrow his Bloomberg terminal to go find the answer and then come back.

And say Mr. MD partner. I have the answer and then like, to everyone. Examples to show you that like at the end of 10 weeks to kind of, I guess people that you become, you know, we’re very different. I think from at the beginning, you know, we’re all like, bright eyed, bushy tailed, you know, and then you, you sort of go through the roof and then you realize, Oh, okay. Like if I, it’s not really about always knowing the answer, it’s about being able to find out, right. So there are a lot of like life lessons that I think they taught me that. You know, a lot of, even my fellow analysts who started with me will say that we take to this day, you know, things like Goldman’s all about like under promise over deliver, right? So that’s like kinda, you know, drilled into our brains. So I would say as a, it was a very formative, um, few years of my life.

 

Bryan: (00:24:29) I like that too cause I like how, if you don’t know something, you have to go find an answer. And that’s very much an engineering culture works as well. It’s like, none of us knows everything about. To coding and structures and everything, but we know that we can Google anything and everything. Yeah.

 

Maggie: (00:24:51) yeah and as nerve wracking, as that sounds to me personally, I think, you know, the whole purpose of that is just to go outside of your comfort zone.

 

Bryan: (00:24:58) and you’re really broke my perception too, because for me, and I don’t know, maybe it’s just like our generation. I think that maybe the US people are a little bit entitled in some ways it’s like, Oh, I have to go eat your lunch.

What am I a slave? No, but your perceptions. Yeah. Oh yeah. Like it’s how you do the small thing is how you get every, everything else. You know, I never really thought it from that point of view. So do you really like enlightened me in that side? For me, it’s like, Oh, I’ll get lunch. What am I slave?

 

Maggie: (00:25:30) Yeah, yeah. I think, yeah, we have a lot of people in America who think that way too, like, oh, I have to get your coffee. Like, what am I, you know, I, I, I’m not, I’m not going to stoop down to that level, you know, but I think that’s a really good perception, you know, if you can apply those. Same basic tactics and, you know, make sure that you’re diligent in your work, especially, or even like getting lunch for the traders right. If you can do that, right, then you will apply those same habits to everything else.

 

Bryan: (00:25:57) they kind of minds you how U S military kind of works. Um, so when you wake up and you kind of make you do your bed and do you, do you make your bed? You make one thing, right? It’s how you do everything, right. And increase that one habit for you. That’s very applicable to a lot of things. So it really reminded me of that, that sense.

 

Amanda: (00:26:15) The key thing about that is also like attitude. And I don’t, I feel like that’s something that supervise I’ve hired like interns and people through the years. It’s like, I kind of wish that. Or I feel like, like later on, as I was hiring people in like multiple years after Wall Street, I felt like I was almost pitching their job to them. So like, when I hire you, it’s like, I have to constantly pitch your job to you versus when I was starting out, we were grateful to have jobs. And we were like, what can we do lunch, coffee? And, and, and I don’t know if it’s just like a generational thing. I don’t know if it was during a crisis, but I did feel my entire analyst class. We were like, Give us something to do to prove, you know what I mean? And in fact, we didn’t need to be told what to do. We’d be like, let’s take the initiative to go and do it. So you know what I mean? So it’s attitude, right? It’s like how you choose to like, look at, look at a task

 

Bryan: (00:27:12) Yeah. During crisis too, 08, 09.It’s really hard to find a job at all. I can lose this one. Definitely went through that one as well. Oh, yeah, go ahead.

 

Maggie: (00:27:26) I also wanted to point out that, you know, Bryan mentioned um a lot of people feel entitled, right. And that’s a really big problem because we have the opportunity to work and, you know, make money and learn from those experiences. But a lot of people actually are really entitled, like, Oh, I’m so ungrateful for my job, you know, but I never heard you once say that you had a bad experience on Wall Street. And you were able to really appreciate your experiences there and learn from that 

 

Bryan: (00:27:52) Pretty sure its all attitude right there. I’m pretty sure it’s not all rosy and rainbow.

 

Maggie: (00:27:57) Yeah. So you never once said anything bad about your experience there.

 

Amanda: (00:28:01) I’m grateful. I think that’s, that’s the thing. If I look back on it, I feel I’m just nothing but grateful, right. For an international girl, like, you know, I, I went to a new country, went through college. And then here I am working at Wall Street with these, like, you know, people that I was like looking up to so smart, you know, people are, so smart. I got lucky. I don’t know. I can’t speak for every team, every division, but. You know, I just had people that were just so not just like smart, but actually kind and nice. And you know, they really treated me like family. My boss treated me like family. You know, when my parents came to town, the entire team went out with my parents, which you know, not all, I think colleagues in the U S would do that right go with your parents. So I think I was very lucky.

 

Bryan: (00:28:51) Yeah, that’s awesome to hear. And I want to dive into your business now, can you kind of walk truly how your business works or yeah, it’s all the operational stuff behind it. Cause we’re kind of curious too, because as you mentioned before, like you’re really leveraging the.

Pandemic and doing everything online and pre life, big purchases, you know?

 

Amanda: (00:29:12) Well let me tell you a story about how I got started. Okay. How I started a jewelry company, right. How I went from like Wall Street jewelry. Um, so, so like I mentioned to you guys, my mom. is a gemstone collector. She’s, you know, she actually used to be, um, a flight attendant, like for Singapore airlines back in the day. So in like, I think the seventies, he used to travel, which back in the day, people didn’t use to travel our parents’ generation. It wasn’t easy for them right. So she started collecting it. And so when I was growing up, she would always like quiz me on the four C’s of diamonds and like, just be showing me stuff.

She’s just a collector right. So I just go with her and everything. And so at one point, you know, after I, um, Moved back to Singapore. I was like working in startups and everything. And after I started, I got acquired. A lot of my friends started getting engaged. Like that was the time when we were getting married. And so people would know my background and then I would kind of be like the secret detective. I go with them to stores. I would help them do research cause you know, the guys, they can’t tell that many people, but they want someone to kind of give them a second opinion. So I will do the research with them online and offline.

And I realized like, wow, like the jewelry industry, he like does not make the experience easy for a customer right. So anybody listening, if you’ve ever bought a diamond ring, you know exactly what I’m talking about right? So you walk into a store and you kind of feel like, well, there’s a lot of stress here, right? They’re judging you. How much money are you going to spend then the store. Like the structure of the industry is such that they basically take out loans to buy inventory to them, put in the store and then hopefully get you to buy as you come in right. So they Jack up the price and they put a huge discount and they go, look, this is on sale.

 

Buy this. Oh, that just makes you feel like, um, this is, they’re not completely neutral. Basically. If you want to get your fiancé something or your girlfriend, something. You don’t really have neutral advice because everybody’s incentive devices tell you something, right? Bloggers, are you making money off of affiliate links right? Big brands are, uh, they have a great markup, you know, and, and jewelry stores just want to tell you what they have. So at the end of the day, I felt like. There needed to be a different way to go through this process. It was more meaningful. Um, and so that’s when I started August bespoke right. And, and we’re different from other jewelry companies and that I actually have no inventory. So I tell my clients, I’ve literally aligning my interests with yours. I don’t actually care what you buy, but because I’m certified in diamonds and gemstones by GIA or Gemological Institute of America. So I’ve studied these things. I grew up with them. So my job is to give you all the information that you need to make the best decision for you, because what’s right for Bryan may not be right for Maggie.

You know what I mean? So if you’re two different people, I’m going to give you different advice, but you go and read stuff online, Google, like if you’re trying to say, okay, should I buy A or B like 500 people will say, yeah, buy A and 500 people say buy B and then in the end, you’re like more confused than when you started it.

 

Yeah. You know, so, so I wanted to start a company that was very personal, um, that really like makes one of a kinds of things for our couples and our clients. You know, I’ve always been into, I think making people well happy is why I’ve always been in sales, I guess, my whole life. Um, and that part has been really rewarding, you know? Um, So Bryan, I think your question to me, it was also how this whole pandemic has affected me. So I’m lucky in the sense that I have a very lean business motto, right? I don’t have any fixed costs. That’s why I tell my clients also that when you create jewelry with me, you’re not putting it into anything else about your jewelry, you know?

Um, so I started doing a lot of, um, online classes. Now instead of meeting clients, one on one pandemic actually sort of pushed me to get online and teach classes, teach people how to buy an engagement, which I used to do one on one. So in a way, I guess it’s, I’ve been very, again, I’m very lucky, right. Um, is pushing me to do things. I step out of my own comfort zone, um, and get online and teach and then actually reach out to people that way. Um, and Bryan, you’d be surprised like most of my clients actually don’t see me. Like ever, because some of my clients are all over the world right. They find me on Instagram or they’re referred by a friend. And so the whole process is done remotely. So I have a phone call with them right. I try to understand what it is that they’re looking for. And I have workshops everywhere. I have workshops in Singapore or Hong Kong, Chicago right. So I can make jewelry and ship it to you anywhere. Like if you’re in the US I can ship it to you.

 

So in that sense. Um, it’s a, it’s a very wonderful business because I, I mean, unfortunately don’t get to travel to see them in the past. I have traveled to see clients, you know, but, um, nowadays people are so comfortable sitting at home, looking at diamonds. Cause now like my diamond cutter is we actually shoot our diamonds at 20 times magnification. I tell my clients it’s actually better to see in a video on your phone where you can rotate it with your finger, that’s struggling going into a store, right. Because that’s also part of the tactic. They give you tweezers and they give you a loose diamond and you’re struggling because it’s like this tiny thing. And you’re like, Oh my God; I don’t want to drop it. And they’re expecting you to look at it like, like someone, like I would, that’s not possible. So nowadays technology has actually made the process so much easier, right? What you do need though, is like a person who is knowledgeable and like actually knows the stuff to actually tell you what’s the difference between like A and B right? Cause a lot of these, um, a lot of my online competitors, um, they just dump sort of like a huge list of things for you to basically sort through on your own. And then they’re like good luck, you know, because usually for guys, at least like the people, or at least if people proposing, um, this, the first time you were buying fine jewelry for the person you’re proposing to, right?

You’ve never had to maybe buy her. Uh, like Bryan, you’ve never bought Maggie’s clothes. Have you? Like

 

Bryan: (00:35:13) I tried.

 

Amanda: (00:35:14) Okay. Okay. So, so there, there you go right? Cause, cause we’re talking about styles. So like if you’ve never bought anything for your partner, like fashion wise or shoes, clothes, somehow you’re expected to get the one thing that she’s going to wear on her finger for the everyday, for the rest of her life. You’re supposed to guess that perfectly.

 

Bryan: (00:35:39) There’s so much problem with the guide too, because you get judged. It’s just like, let’s kind of weird. It was too small. It was too big.

 

Maggie: (00:35:45) that’s why I sent him pictures of exactly what I want. So, you know.

 

Amanda: (00:35:50) Oh, so that’s a very 2020 dynamic. Actually I helped a lot of couples now.

We’re just, the women are involved. They’re like, I don’t trust him. I’m like, this is so much better. This is going to lead to a much better outcome. Trust me.

 

Maggie: (00:36:00) exactly, exactly

 

Bryan: (00:36:01) are you going to still return?

 

Amanda: (00:36:07) I will say that’s interesting about the jewelry industry. At least for me coming into it was how like, everybody in the jewelry industry is a man. Like it’s shocking cause I, I would go to industry events and everyone was a man and everyone was like 60 or above. So they would look at me and they will, I was one of the Chinese sales girls, like at the fair.

And I’m like, no, I’m here to like buy diamonds we’re clients. So they would be like, huh, cause I’m a Chinese woman and I’m young. So they’re just like confused. Yeah. So for me, because I believe in like, Entrepreneurship for women. So I, there was also a part of me that feels very passionate about that because jewelry, ultimately like women enjoy jewelry, right Maggie you’re with me. So why is a 65 year old man giving a young guy advice about what Maggie wants? I was like, I feel like that should be me, you know? So does one of the, I guess my motivations too, for like building a business in an industry, dominated by men.

 

Maggie: (00:37:12) Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I noticed that too like every time I go into a jewelry store, it’s always a man approaching me. Yeah. And I don’t know why its men and maybe you have more insight to this, but maybe it’s because they are just more persuasive I would say, or I don’t know.

 

Amanda: (00:37:30) I feel like the jewelry industry. Okay guys I love you. If you’re in the jewelry industry, I love you, but it has a little bit of an old boys club. Not even a little bit, quite like an old boys club I’m on groups and stuff like that. It’s like the dudes talking to the dudes, you know, like when it comes to this sort of the really expensive luxury items, I feel like they keep it a very closed network. I mean, and I think that’s the same across all industries right? If you really go out to the, I mean, you guys really promote entrepreneurship, you know, there’s like a ceiling at some point. right? So that’s the part that bothers me that I’m trying to change.

 

Maggie: (00:38:09) Yeah. Good point. I think in a lot of industries and you know, probably all industries, it’s pretty much male dominated, you know, and yeah, that’s something we want to change with AHN too. Um, but I’m, I’m very curious. So I have a two part question for you. Um, I know that a lot of people might say, you know, the jewelry business is saturated and I’m not sure if people have told you that, but you know, I’m very curious to know what your response is to that and how you deal with competition because there’s so much competition in the jewelry business.

 

Amanda: (00:38:42) Yeah, I think that’s a great question. It’s kind of like saying the restaurant business is saturated too, right? It’s like, why are there more? No, because it’s like, okay, there’s always that hole in the wall with the auntie. Who’s like not very, not very warm and friendly, but you’re like, wow, her food’s really good. So you’re like, I’ll go to her right. And then there’s the other restaurant that’s like, okay, it’s a special occasion place and you want to go there. So I think there is, um, as they say different strokes for different folk’s right? I mean, at the end of the day, I think what I like the most about the jewelry industry is that it really is a very trust base personal business right? So if Bryan were to buy a ring. I think that, because that moment is such an important milestone in his life.

Ideally, he would want to work with someone that he likes and trust and that goal it’s, I guess it’s similar to real estate too. It’s like, why do you work with one real estate agent versus another real estate agent is part of it is, is the dynamic, like how much that person cares about you as a long-term.

You know a friend and a client. I, a lot of my clients have just straight up become my friends because they really care about their love story. I always joke with people. I can’t make your ring until I know your story. Cause people come to me with a transactional question. And my question is always; well, like, they’ll say for example, well, I want to around diamond I just got this today. I want around diamond, 0.8 carriers. I want a D color VVS one. And then my question is. Like why? Right like, because, because I can tell he probably read it on a blog somewhere. That’s the best color. That’s the best clarity. And in my head, I think a lot about like giving my clients to best value. So I’ll tell them that’s, you’re overpaying for something, for example, right. I have clients who buy flawless diamonds and they buy it because you know, for, for their own personal reasons, maybe for prestige, but they make that choice. Right. But my job is to help them understand their options. So that’s. I mean, that’s how I operate, but when it comes to like how saturated it is, I think they’re just different types. I think Maggie you’ve walked into jewelry stores right. So if you walk into, you know, A, B, C, D, E, all of them will feel different to you. right? Um, and so I, I think I look at, but I don’t really think about competition to be honest. I really just think about it making clients happy. Yeah. That’s how I view it. You know, if, if I make you happy, then I’m happy. And that’s why I started this to actually help people cause the guys are super stressed, you know? And, and I always joke, my second job is I’m a couples therapist because the guys are stressed And then sometimes women can’t be honest with them. So I feel like the inventory, like, okay, you’ll be honest with me and I will, you know

 

Maggie: (00:41:24) so I love that. I love that mindset and I love how you are doing more to hone into, you know, the relationship between the two people who are getting married and two for you to ask them, you know, what their story is just goes to show that you care a lot about the process. You know, it’s not just, you know, going into work and making money, but it’s about the process about learning about your customers. It’s about, you know, really. Going into their lives and learning more about themselves.

 

Bryan: (00:41:52) Definitely. I’m a little bit curious about like logistic part too. What kind of early mistakes did you make your business and how did you overcome them?

 

Amanda: (00:42:01) Well, my early mistake and this is why I tell people now I have no inventory. I think my early mistake was, I used to guess what people want. You know, I, I started out like spending like thousands of dollars of my own money going, oh, I think this is a necklace that people would like, and then I would buy it. And then I would try to. Sort of push it on social media and be like, no one wants to buy it. You know? So whatever I thought people want it, it’s not what they want. So that’s why I’m saying like, you know, I’ve, I’ve made that mistake of trying to do that. And then I realized I don’t like this. I like helping people discover what they want you know, so I think that’s the, one of the things that I look back going, wow, that was, I mean, I guess I had to do it to learn the lesson.

 

Maggie: (00:42:41) Yeah. I think that’s, that’s really on point because every time I go to a jewelry store, you know, the first thing that they say is like, this one is the newest in our store right. Or this one is the hottest in the market right. And it’s like, how do you know that that is something that I would like right.

 

Bryan: (00:42:56) Yeah. It’s also curious too, in terms of the marketing, but how do you use it budget and spend your marketing dollars for your online business? Do you like focus more on like Instagram ads, Facebook ads, any other ads or everything is by word of mouth?

 

Amanda: (00:43:11) So for a long time, it was all word of mouth. I think when you make people that happy, then they just tell everybody right. Um, and it’s always nice to work with friends of friends nowadays, I think because I’ve gotten like good Google reviews, I get a lot of organic reach that way. Um, but more recently I started, uh, working on doing more Instagram ads, but I do more education based ads right. I’m not selling product as much as I am saying, hey an hour and a half with me. And let me give you my insider secrets. So that is the thing that I think has really worked for me. And again, it’s part of my personality. I don’t like pushing product in that sense or trying to compete on that level. I really believe in education. So my marketing is very, uh, focused on informing people, teaching them things. Like if you follow me on Instagram, a lot of my posts are helping you understand the history behind the Emerald cut. What like what kind of personality is going to like this particular design? Um, what are some behind the scenes in the industry that people don’t really show you right? Cause most jewelry companies, I buy this, like, like Maggie said, this is the newest thing, or this is $99, like buy this. And I’m just more like trying to help you see the work. And the love that goes into it. I think that’s the part for me that people don’t get to appreciate it as much because I love diamonds and gemstones. I love the process. The craftsmanship of it is amazing right. You’re actually working with precious metals. It’s a. You know, it’s something that’s taken like hundreds of years to like cut a diamond, for example. So I feel a sense of responsibility to educate people. And I think all my marketing right now is really driven towards that, like the educational side and come and spend time with me and learn something. And then if you want to make a ring, great. And then if not, at least you’re more educated, you know what I mean?

 

Bryan: (00:45:05) Yeah, definitely. I love that too. What is your entrepreneur journey life? You know, you make you sound so rosy. I’m pretty sure it was like ups and downs. And there’s a lot of hardship that goes into entrepreneurship. I want to make sure that we highlight those points too.

 

Amanda: (00:45:18) In general, it’s a very lonely experience. I’m sure entrepreneurs will tell you, like, like, you know, um, even to this day, actually my Instagram, I mean, I run it, I read all the comments I post it’s, it’s a, it’s a 24 hour job, right. Replying to people, for me I want to be very hands on because everybody who follows me, I actually read your stuff. You know, I actually folly actually know who you are. Um, so I think that part of it is, is, is a lot of work, right? It’s, it’s lonely. It’s a lot of work. Sometimes I wish I had like, you know, um, I guess that’s why you guys have each other, right? That’s the beauty of having a  cofounder aspect of it. It’s hard because I wish I could multiply myself. That is the, that’s the difficulty, right? On one hand, I have to manage my social media and then, um, because I’m the person who is certified in diamonds and colored gemstones. Was, I, I have to be the person educating you. Like when you get on the phone with me, that’s people are essentially choosing August bespoke because of me.So that there’s a lot of responsibility in that. And I take that very seriously. So that’s, you know, that’s hard, right? I’m like one person and I work with different time zones. I have clients everywhere. So figuring out a scale myself as the current, you know, the current challenge.

 

Maggie: (00:46:40) that’s amazing. Yeah. We’ve seen your Instagram and I saw that you have master classes. So I just want to commend you for that cause we host virtual events as well, and that’s a lot of work, you know, just taking time to have that event and just preparing for it, making sure you have all your content ready. Um, it’s a lot of work, so yeah.

So would love to know, you know, what is one advice you can give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

 

Amanda: (00:47:05) Um, I would say focus on making your customers happy. Like whatever business you’re in. I, I feel like MUN, I know people talk about metrics a lot right. But I think, I think a lot about customer happiness, how to make, how to really go above and beyond right. And really surprise him. And I, and I feel like if that is your focus, the money will come personally. That’s how I view it, you know? Um, because not, I guess in my experience, even just as a customer, you know, of like hotels or restaurants, it’s like people will do the bare minimum right and if you’re a company that goes. Like above and beyond. Like, I mean, I did this for our friend, like yesterday, but like, you know, I, I delivered his ring at like 5:00 PM. He was gonna propose it 7:00 PM in between and I ran to the restaurant, like dropped off cards for them. Like, I mean, I’m saying they were my friends, but I would do this for other people. If I could write, like I dropped off cars for them and order them like her favorite drink. So when they showed up and I talked to the restaurant manager, so when they showed up and he proposed, like, you know, we’re there right. And this is just cause I love it right. I want to, you make people happy. It does not. It’s not really for businesses at all. Like its cause they’re my friends. I care. Like I, you know, when I go, I joke about a couple therapists, but. I planned this surprise right. With,with the guy for three weeks. Um, and you know, he’s become my friend, so I care. So that’s, that’s the thing, I guess I would say, you know, to entrepreneurs, whatever business you’re in, just care about making your customers happy.

 

Maggie: (00:48:46) Yeah. That’s amazing. Yeah. Love that advice. Well, it was amazing hearing your story, Amanda. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Bryan: (00:48:55) Yeah. Thank you so much again for staying so late.

 

Amanda: (00:49:01) No I thank you guys so much for AHN. You know, I actually met someone really sweet from Australia the other day. We did an Instagram live together.

We’re going to do one again. Uh, but, but you know, kudos to both of you for creating a community that’s so supportive and, you know, really tries to build connections and mindsets. I hope that, um, you know, you guys keep, keep it up and, you know, know that we all appreciate it. Even if you don’t hear from us every day.

 

Bryan: (00:49:27) I appreciate that. We love hearing stories like that too. Collaborations.

 

Maggie: (00:49:31) Yep. Our whole goal is just to support, you know, Asian owned businesses and empower and uplift each other. And it’s just amazing hearing your story. And so for our listeners, how can they learn more about you?

 

Amanda: (00:49:41) Um, I think the best way is to follow me on Instagram guys at August, like August the month of August bespoke, by the way, if I can just tell the, the reason why I called the company August bespoke is very, Bryan and I have the same birthday.

So we’ll talk about this. So we have August 28th, so our birthday, he’s got a crazy fucking birthday. He’s got the eight. Two eight, eight, eight, right?

 

Maggie: (00:50:07) Well, happy early birthday.

 

Amanda: (00:49:41) thank you. But I was going to say I have a super, like Asian reason for having August bespoke as my name, but I was born in the month of August right. And August is the eight months of the year. So if you rotate the number eight by 90 degrees, you get. And infinity sign. I always tell people that, you know, my passion is to help you make memories last forever. So that’s where the name comes from.

 

Maggie: (00:50:34) it’s amazing. I love it too. Well, it was great having you on the show today, Amanda. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

 

Bryan: (00:50:42) thank you so much, Amanda.

 

Amanda: (00:50:45) thank you guys.

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