Success isn’t overnight, for Vashi Dominguez it’s been about 6 years in the making or perhaps even 15 years counting from his humble beginning as a 19 year old starting his electronics business in Tenerife.
In my interview with him, he tells me how his fascination with his grandmother’s jewellery has led him to this path and how as a teen he’s always wanted to do something big.
Hi Vashi, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
Very well, thank you for asking.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I was born and raised in Tenerife, Spain. Aged 19 I began sourcing technology directly from manufacturers in China to sell in my growing chain of electronics shops. A combination of exceptional customer service and providing the lowest price on the island enabled me to ride the wave of drastically falling electronics prices, and sell my business for profit. This gave me the flexibility to look for another industry, so I chose diamonds.
When I was a young boy I was always fascinated by my Grandmother’s jewellery. I couldn’t get my head around how something so small could be so valuable and so this is where my passion came from. I set about travelling the world to research the industry; from cutters in Mumbai to traders in Antwerp, I leveraged these contacts to grow a highly successful diamond wholesale business selling directly to dealers and jewellers themselves. At this point, the emerging growth in e-commerce prompted me to set up Diamond Manufacturers - selling the highest quality diamond jewellery at the lowest price directly to the online consumer.
So in 2007 I launched Diamond Manufacturers and sold Engagement rings through Amazon. In 2010 I set up www.DiamondManufacturers.co.uk and we have since become Amazon’s biggest jewellery retailer in Europe and have won awards such as the ECMOD Award for Best Mobile site and the award for Best Customer Service at the eCommerce Awards for Excellence.
When did you get the entrepreneurial bug?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to do something big, I just didn’t know how or what. Aged 18 I started working in an electronics shop in Tenerife. After a bit of time I realised that I would probably make more money if I was working on a commission only basis so I did. I began making a lot of money and so I left to set up my own small chain of electronic shops.
How did the idea for Diamond Manufacturers come about?
Having built contacts with the world’s largest diamond cutters by being a diamond wholesaler for years I realised there was a huge opportunity to utilise my supply chain connections to sell directly to the end consumer, bypassing all the middle men along the way.
In 2007 I founded the company and began selling on Amazon. My vision is to be the world’s best jewellery shopping experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, world-class service, and un-matched value, so that every customer tells others and keeps coming back.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
When I first decided to get into the diamond industry I knew it would be difficult as I had no connections within the industry, so I had to start the hard way. I set about visiting offices to try and set up meetings. It was only after visiting over 200 offices that I managed to get my first meeting in Antwerp. The trader cut me a deal and word spread, so I began to build up a network and started by selling diamonds directly to jewellers across the world.
What is Diamond Manufacturers? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Diamond Manufacturers is an online brand that is committed to selling the best quality diamonds to consumers at the best value. By selling our pieces online we can offer our customers items that are up to 80% less than the high street.
We have done this by effectively cutting out the middle men. We buy our diamonds first hand, directly from the cutters in Antwerp and Mumbai, allowing us to hand select only the most beautiful, high quality stones. I personally approve all of our diamonds and on average only pick 1 in 10 diamonds to ensure that our quality is of a high standard.
Our mission is to provide consumers jewellery of superior quality to the high-end brands at considerably lower prices and delivered the same working day with world-class service.
How have you been able to fund the company so far?
The company was initially funded by me with earnings from previous businesses. From there, it has been funded with retained profits which have been reinvested into the business for further growth.
What advice can you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise investments for their start-ups especially in the UK?
Ensure there is significant market size and that your plans are ambitious enough and the chosen business model is scalable. Then it just boils down to execution. Execution relies on human talent and who the key people can work together to achieve collective success.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
Very excited, hard to describe it in words, and best of all I remain as excited as the first day. The secret to success is to be passionate and love what you do, if you love what you do then you’re already successful.
How did you initially get traction?
Through the Amazon marketplace. I used this to get the brand there and test the market before launching our own website.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow it?
We recently updated our site and optimised the platform for tablets and mobiles. This has increased our sales by 23% on mobiles and 70% on tablets, allowing our customers a better experience wherever they shop from.
Overall the most important thing for me from the beginning was customer service. We offer our customers a world-class experience. We offer guidance and impartial advice to anyone looking to buy diamond jewellery through the guidance centre on our website or consumers can call up and speak to one of our diamond experts for unbiased information when doing their research.
As well as fantastic customer service we also offer free next day delivery, free engraving on plain wedding bands and a lifetime warranty which include ring resizing and cleaning. All of this generates loyal customers and has resulted in us receiving over 700 5 star reviews on the Review Centre and becoming the top jewellery shop in the independent review website.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
To become part of people’s most special occasions in their life, be this a proposal, wedding or anniversary. It’s extremely rewarding to know that every piece of jewellery we hand-make ends up bringing a smile to someone’s face.
What should we be expecting from Diamond Manufacturers in the coming months?
We are looking at a lot of exciting initiatives at the moment. In the next few months we will be launching a site in Ireland and Germany.
We will also continue to focus on providing customers with the best possible online shopping experience by ensuring that we continually evolve our functionality and capitalising on the mobile explosion. Offline we are growing our Customer Services team to continually excel in offering the best account management.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
• Persistence pays off – If I hadn’t persisted with visiting offices when I first started out, then Diamond Manufacturers probably wouldn’t exist.
• Learn from your mistakes – I have been fortunate enough to change every threat into an opportunity. If you don’t get things wrong, how can you know when you are doing things right?
• Great Customer Service is vital to any growing business – impeccable service gains your customers trust, especially when selling online. If you have to cut spend, ensure customer services is at the end of the list, even after marketing.