Many Black and Brown women who start businesses do so out of necessity. Whether it's a side hustle for an additional income stream or because of being laid off from their jobs, other times, it's a creative outlet to balance stressful working conditions. Natacha Metayer didn't have plans to start a business, but when she heard that one of the largest insurance companies she had been working for was closing she debated whether or not to do so. Thankfully, her job gave her five years versus a two-week notice.
Natacha decided to resell jewelry. She connected with a wholesale vendor that sold diamonds and gold and began to study diamonds. Natacha would read about the four C's of diamonds and decided to share her knowledge with her community on Instagram. That's when someone asked her if she could design a custom ring.
Natacha never dreamed it would be at the level it is now. She said, "I was up for the challenge. And then I just started to like, learn how to make it. Then I made an engagement ring, and then I made another one, and now I'm making custom pieces. So that's what made me start. Out of sheer necessity, because the office was closing, I just fell in love with it and the process." The initials represent a handle that she and her brothers refer to themselves. Each of them works in the company in some capacity. Natacha is the founder of JNCY Jewelers.
What are you most proud of when it comes to JNCY Jewelers?
Natacha is most proud of the relationships she developed with her customers and knowing that she's a part of their love stories. Some clients have become great friends. Natacha didn't realize the powerful and sentimental impact jewelry had on people. She loves watching her clients' relationships grow, often from marriage to having children.
What fears did you have along the journey?
Natacha had quite a few fears along the way. She's a first-generation jeweler and has never worked in a jewelry store. Natacha had to learn the industry from ground zero. She had to teach herself how to think in millimeters, convert the numbers, learn about pricing, which is difficult because gold prices change daily, similar to the stock market. Furthermore, she had to navigate a male-dominated industry where people didn't expect to do business with someone that looked like her.
She said, "Going into our diamond district and trying to find vendors has been hard, but I've built good relationships with the ones that I do know, but I'm not taken seriously. Because sometimes people will call me and and they're like, can you tell the owner that I called? But I feel like they can be overcome because there are so many more Black men and women in the jewelry industry now. So, as we start to grow, people will start to expect us."
What's the biggest risk you've taken so far?
The entire business has been a risk for Natacha. The jewelry industry is hard to enter and is a generational business. Therefore it's risky to enter without any contacts. Being a woman in the industry is a risk and being Black in the industry is a risk. Deciding to sell engagement rings, diamonds, and colored gemstones versus costume jewelry were also risks. Her business model of having concierge services versus relying on a retail store is a risk.
Natacha said, "But it's been the most rewarding risk. Because not only for the customers, but for other people who look like us who have similar backgrounds or even not similar backgrounds but just can see a minority in something like this, and be wowed, like, okay, you know, it's possible. And I think just having people in certain areas makes you realize that it's possible. And people have told me that, and I didn't realize that I was just doing it in the beginning. But when people tell you, hey, you make me know that somebody could do it is like the most rewarding part of the risk."
Tell us about any major setbacks that you had and how you recovered.
Natacha launched right before COVID in the summer of 2019. The business was only six months old. She wasn't eligible for the PPP loans or the EIDL because the company made more money in 2020 than in 2019. Natacha self-funded her entire business. She would spend all her money with the hopes of seeing a return. However, her biggest setback was pricing. She didn't know how to confidently price the millimeters. She also feared that if she priced too high, people wouldn't buy.
When asked how she gained more confidence, she said, "I love to learn, and if I don't know something, like I get flustered, I'll get tongue-tied. So when I didn't have all of the knowledge, it kind of made me say, are they going to figure out that I don't know everything yet? But once I started to like, educate myself, and get the degrees in jewelry, I became confident. I knew what my work was worth, and I knew the craftsmanship. So then I started to become confident, and as I started to showcase that on social media, people were not objecting to it."
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
Benita Gordon introduced Natacha to the pitch competition. The first time she applied, she did not move forward. Natacha applied for a second time and was invited to pitch. She said, "My experience with it was phenomenal. Even within a short time, it was very helpful because you guys gave us feedback, and then we had specific times to meet outside of the pitch practice.
I was excited because one to do a pitch and then to do a pitch that's attached to something like Black Girl Ventures was really good because the main focus is trying to help us get to the next level because I didn't know initially that there was any funding available. And then I didn't think that people would have helped me get funding because I had a higher-ticket item.
Many people assume that with jewelry, you just have money, but like eventually you do, but not when you first start. It's such an expensive thing to start. So I was just happy to find out about it and being accepted. Then like being accepted into a group of women and men who will help us so much because outside of the pitch, all of the emails that we get and the opportunities that come after I really appreciate it." Since then, Natacha has pitched two more times.
Her advice to those looking to pitch is, "When you're pitching, definitely do your research, know your numbers, know your industry because that's crucial. If you also want to invest in the industry, you're going to have to know if it's like a growth industry, and if it's not a growth industry, why should an investor invest in you? And what sets you apart from an industry?
Because like, for example, for me, there's a lot of jewelers, but is there a lot of African-American jewelers that does concierge? And a whole package where you get complimentary champagne, and then I'm backed by science? That's what makes me different from someone else.
So even if you're selling like wigs or something. What makes your wigs a little different? Is it that you have this high-quality hair? Are you helping people with alopecia? What sets you apart? And I think once you define what sets you apart in your industry, then someone will be willing to invest in it because no one wants to invest in something that you can just find at Walmart. You have to carve your lane. And then also by, you defining that, you can then set yourself apart when you are giving your service."
Natacha used her pitch funds to furnish her office space and purchase equipment, such as a microscope. Now she can meet customers in person to discuss their jewelry needs. This helps her be more personable, especially since she offers concierge services such as a bottle of champagne and handwritten notes.
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Natacha admitted, "I think in the beginning, it really was disappointing because I was like a one-woman army with everything that I was doing. Because you want the help, you want people to believe in your dream, but they cannot see it because they just never saw it. So they think that your vision is too big. In the beginning, it really hurt me because I was, you know, working hard studying and everybody that I knew was like, that I did tell about this was like, well, you know, make sure you keep your insurance job because you know this stuff, sometimes it doesn't pay off.
And now it's completely different. They're like, oh, don't get a second job, just focus on this, and it'll get you far. Finding out about your group, Black Girl Ventures, Black and Jewelry Coalition, I realized it is a lonely journey. It is hard, but many like-minded people are starting businesses who want to help and give support. So I think for me, at least it was in the beginning. Now I feel a lot of support because I know that I could just email Isabelle, email Adrian from the Black and Jewelry Coalition, and you guys will get back to me and help. Two and a half years in, I feel the support, but it was like a long journey in the beginning. I remember those sleepless nights."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Natacha said, "Business is hard, but it's easy. Having a plan and knowing what to do is critical. Even if it's for the week and you want to plan out what you're going to do on social media, have a plan and then take little steps. So you can have a big overarching theme that you want for the year, but have the steps that's going to take you there—also delegating. If you can get a virtual assistant in the Philippines or India, get someone who can help you take the load off of you.
Because when I first started, I wanted to do everything. I wanted to be a part of everything. And I think that in the beginning, it is good to know all parts of your business, so when you delegate, you can be confident in what the person is doing, and if they're doing it wrong, you can say, hey, I know you're supposed to do it this way.
But allow somebody else to help you because many people want help. They want to see a business succeed. And if you do get help, embrace that person into your business because the more that the person loves your business, the more they will be willing to do what it takes for the business.
Educate yourself. Education is the biggest thing. And then there's also a lot of resources out there that we don't think are there, like with the SBA, with our local university, um, with different incubators, um, just on social media. So what I learned in business is educating myself, delegating, and looking for resources because it's out there."
Natacha believes that not everything is monetary at first, but what you learn can become monetary later in your business. She said, "Sometimes I rather have the free things, like somebody teaching me about marketing, than the money, because the money can go like, okay, I paid the rent, I got my equipment, but then after that, what else is coming with that? I like the resources that come with being a business owner."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
Knowledge is the most critical skill to have to succeed in business. There will always be something to learn, but every entrepreneur needs to have core knowledge. Outside of knowledge, Natacha believes networking is another great skill to have. As you grow, you meet more people and learn about other industries, which can also help your business grow.
What's the most exciting part of your business?
When Natacha was in school, she didn't like science. But now, the most exciting part is learning the science behind the diamonds and seeing how it's a natural part of the Earth. She's been learning more about the history of colored gemstones and feels proud knowing that the best diamonds and colored gemstones originate from Africa. Natacha loves knowing that countries in the continent of Africa are taking back their ownership, cutting their diamonds, and doing less outsourcing by keeping the roughs and selling them themselves. The other part of the business that Natacha loves is relationship building. She enjoys helping her clients choose their jewelry and creating customized pieces for special occasions.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Natacha said, "It just makes my heart light up, that there are more Black and Brown business owners. I think that a lot of times when, at least when I was growing up, you didn't see that many business owners that look like us in our neighborhoods. And if there were, you didn't really like, know them all that well, or if you did, it was like one or two, but to see women like starting their business, has been amazing. So I think the future is very bright. I think, mainly because we see people that look like us in these spaces, that would be what we would say is common to us?
The champagne company that I use is a Black-owned champagne company. And I'm also using Black-owned whiskey. So it's like so many different areas. So it's so amazing to see us in other spaces that people didn't think we would be in. And I believe that the sky's the limit, and a girl who's like two years old can now grow up in a family full of business owners, and she can think, okay, I can start a business too. And then she'll have the resources because her parents or auntie or uncle has already started a business. So I think it's infinite what will happen for us."
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
The biggest milestone for Natacha would be to still be in business three years from now because that would mark five official years. She will consistently deliver high-quality products to her customers. JNCY Jewelers will create quality pendants and tennis bracelets. Natacha would love to have billboards, commercials, and magazines that feature other Black and Brown women in the luxury industries.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Natacha credits her mental health to having supportive friends and family members. Her friends encourage her, and she doesn't spend time discussing the pressures of being in the industry. When Natacha is home, business is off-limits. On Sundays, she spends that day with her mother. Natacha has family time with her brothers, whether they're watching Tv or playing video games. She receives a lot of support from her mentor, also in the jewelry business.
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
Podcast: Behind The Baller
Book: Proverbs For Selling: Mastering Sales Through Prospecting, Referrals, and Discipline by Tamara Bunte
What's your favorite business hack or app you can't live without?
What's one food item that you have a hard time saying no to?
I like cookies, especially Subway cookies and, of course, macadamia nuts.
What's next for JNCY Jewelers?
JNCY Jewelers is designing custom pieces because of the story behind each one. She'll be creating a Haitian product line and Basquiat custom jewelry.
Any last words…
I just want to say to all Black and Brown business owners and minority business owners that you have a voice out there. I grew up very shy. I'm getting out of my shyness through being in business, but your voice is worth it in the world. And there's a reason why you're on this Earth, and you have something to express.
And sometimes it is hard because when I worked my nine to five, I didn't really realize all of my talents. I didn't know I was this creative. I didn't know I could look at jewelry and imagine earrings or, you know, a necklace, but you have a voice hone in on it.
Even if you have to spend like a couple of extra hours, you know, everybody doesn't want to be an entrepreneur per se, but you have a voice, even if it's an art and you want to express yourself through painting or maybe through scent, like, you know, maybe you love different senses. Maybe do candles, even if it's not something that's full time, just express yourself and let the world know that you're here and you have an opinion and you have a voice about something, and paths are being laid now to allow the future to tell their story without fear that they can't do it.
There are resources now available where you don't have to do everything by yourself. You don't have to spend all of your money. So that's what I want to say. Just show the world your voice."