As a life-long artist, Becky Zeijdel-Paz has channeled her love of design and aesthetic expression into her luxury, handcrafted jewelry brand, BECK Jewels. Worn by celebrities like Lady Gaga, BECK Jewels‘ pieces are both beautiful and sustainable works of art. Each made-to-order product is crafted by hand with intention and care, putting positive energy into what she calls, “the most personal of adornments”. Zeijdel-Paz believes greatly in the power of positive, loving energy that an artist passes onto their artwork and her brand mission of creating jewelry that experiences life along with the wearer. It’s not easy to build a brand so dedicated to local craftsmanship and ecological stewardship. Listen as Zeijdel-Paz describes her process building this brand as an extension of herself and the unique challenges that come along with that.
Sam: [00:00:02] Becky Zeijdel-Paz joins us on today’s show. She’s the designer behind BECK Jewels; her jewelry line that captures her free spirited elegance and aesthetic. Becky grew up in Curaçao and combines the Dutch Caribbean influences of her childhood with her adult life in the cultural melting pot that is New York City. Each piece is handcrafted in Brooklyn, consistent with her focus on quality and sustainability. Becky, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show with us today.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:00:33] Thank you for having me.
Sam: [00:00:34] And if I could add, I really mean the free spirited elegance and aesthetic, because if people could see you here, you would absolutely know what I mean.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:00:41] Thank you
Sam: [00:00:42] So let’s jump right in. Tell us, what was the inspiration that started you down this path?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:00:50] Wow. I think from a very young age, I’ve always known that, you know, I wanted to pursue a career in art, but it’s not always very clear what that means. I studied I.B. Art. And so from a very young age, I knew this was something I took very seriously. But then once you get to college or university or your internships, you realize there’s so much to art and what that really entails. I was actually– where I was or I started with jewelry was I was at a market in Italy on vacation and I saw all these amazing gemstones. And I always had a passion for gemstones, for their properties. I started looking at them and I didn’t know how to work them. I hadn’t taken any design courses in jewelry. I asked a friend who was a designer and she showed me a few techniques. I started playing with them at home. I went back to Curaçao. I started playing with them and slowly created something. If I think about it now, they were probably terrible. But I created something that I felt I could show some of my mom’s friends–.
Sam: [00:02:00] Everybody has to start somewhere.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:02:02] Definitely. And I tell people this all the time: you need to start somewhere. You cannot start perfect. And it’s preferable to know that you can look back and know that you’ve grown. It would be terrible if it wasn’t that way.
Sam: [00:02:13] If it had been stagnant.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:02:14] Exactly. Yes. And that’s that’s how the jewelry started. But the art went, you know, far before that.
Sam: [00:02:23] So the global market for jewelry is projected to grow at four to five percent right over the next five years with an increasing number of online buyers and millennials with disposable income. And so, direct-to-consumer jewelry brands have very high potential. You’re in an atmosphere where you’re building a direct-to-consumer brand in a landscape where there are lots of other direct-to-consumer brands. But equally on the other side, there’s some very big, well-established, very well-marketed brands. Tell us a little bit about how you think about your company and sort of its place in that landscape and kind of how you look at it over the next few years.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:03:09] You know, right now we’re in a really, I find it to be exciting, some people find it to be terrifying. It’s a different market. It’s changing. Nobody really knows. There are no rules. You know, in the beginning, you had to be positioned in certain stores or you had to be, you know, for visibility sake. We, of course, we love being in— I feel like you have to be in certain stores to kind of put your brand positioning in place. But it is also super interesting with social media, with Instagram, having that kind of tribe, having your little community that rallies behind you and that understands who you really are. I think that I’m finding that to be more loyal than big brands. We are a sustainable brand, which means that we handcraft each piece to order. And people don’t really understand how major that is until you purchase a piece and know that that piece is made with you in mind. And it’s made in Brooklyn. We handcraft each piece. We have a small studio with two other girls, and the three of us are working to make your piece the most beautiful piece. But to also have the best energy. And I talk about energy a lot and a lot of people talk about, you know, sustainability. And these are concepts that are being thrown around a lot. But I do believe jewelry is something that is so personal. You know, an earring, you put it through your body, a necklace, you wear it close to your heart. These are things that really affect what kind of energy they hold. And to know that something could be made in, you know, somewhere very, you know, one of a thousand, one of a million. And you’re putting it on your body and you don’t know where it was made. I think that that’s why customers are now and the—especially younger customers are understanding the value that comes with something that is personable, something that is made for them. I think that that’s something that will only get stronger as we reach a new way of thinking as a society.
Sam: [00:05:18] That’s super interesting. I mean, there’s so much in there that you just said that I want to sort of unpack a little bit. So you kind of learn some techniques from your friend that you talked about and it gets you started sort of on this path. Then did you kind of learn by doing? Did you have some more training?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:05:39] I learned by doing. Yes. And honestly, I wish— if I could give somebody a lesson, it would be to maybe take a few apprenticeships or to maybe study under somebody. I didn’t. I have always been very independent. I’ve always been very trial and error. And I love the way I did it, but it was maybe a little bit harder than it needs to be. But really, I just started figuring out. I’ve never taken a jewelry course, which maybe I should at this point, but I just love creating. I love putting things together myself, figuring it out. Knowing, and as well, as I said, having a community. I had a very beautiful community in Curaçao. That also understood when I made a mistake and that gave me a second chance to start again. I don’t know if I would have had that in a big city like New York. But I do love creating things, figuring out what gemstones can work with things. And then everything is figureoutable. And I think this from Marie Forleo, like she always said that. I remember when I was young, always listening to her and I figured out how to make these pieces, but also how to make them in a state of happiness. And I think that’s really key. I’ve always, you know, made sure that our studio is full of music and flowers and energy. I think all of that translates to a happy business.
Sam: [00:06:54] That makes a big difference.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:06:55] And I think customers can feel that, honestly. I think it does make a difference. It’s been key for us.
Sam: [00:07:02] It’s so interesting because we’ve had, you know, other people on the show who have sort of learned the same way, in this kind of apprenticeship based way. You know, we had Norah al-Fasial, who is from Saudi, who built her brand the same way. She learned in these workshops in France. You’ve now built your workshop in Brooklyn and you have a couple of people working with you, as you said. Is it hard to find— was it hard to find those people? Have they been with you a long time? Did you end up teaching them, you know, kind of what they know or did they come in with some base of knowledge? How did you manage that?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:07:39] d I always say that the hardest part is knowing when to have your first hire. That is the most challenging, at least it was for me. In the beginning.
Sam: [00:07:54] That’s such a good point, by the way.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:07:55] It is so difficult to understand. My opinion is, if you are thinking about it, you should have already done it, because once you finally do it, you’re going to say, ‘how did I live without this?’ And how it started for me is I, you know, in the beginning I took on all the roles. I was my photographer, I made my own website. I did everything because I wanted to keep things very tight. Then I started outsourcing.
Sam: [00:08:22] And that’s also a necessity. Right, because you have to understand all these elements to then be able to direct someone else to do them.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:08:29] Exactly. Exactly. And I wanted to be on top of everything. I wanted to understand. I wanted my vision to be exactly the exact way. Then I later decided to outsource, when I could, a few things. And then when I realized it was time for someone to come, she already was in my life. And she came at the perfect time. Which was really, it was incredible. And then we– but we were still making all the pieces. I taught her and she was a very artistic person. So it was easy for her to catch on and to learn as well. Then we were still struggling and then we found someone as well to compliment us. She had a little bit of knowledge on a different type of jewelry making, and so I was able to teach her my own techniques because when you don’t learn, you figured out your own way. So that was also quite difficult to explain it to someone. And now we have such a nice balance that it also correlates to everything. Well, I feel like if you’re open to it will come your way. But you need to be very open to it. And these ladies have blessed me with their talents. But I think that whenever you’re open to something, it will find its way to you.
Sam: [00:09:48] That’s that’s so true. We absolutely agree. So you started your company or you started to sort of play around with this concept that then became BECK Jewels while you were still living in Curaçao. Then you moved to New York City. Very different environment. Your initial customers have all been in Curaçao up until that point. Tell us a little bit about how you found your first customers here in the US and how did you navigate that?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:10:17] You know, it’s very different for me. My customers in the States, a lot of them are very abstract. In Curaçao, I know them. I know their faces.
Sam: [00:10:29] What do you mean by abstract?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:10:30] I don’t know who they are. I mean, they are– they shop in the stores that we’re carried in. We sell to them online. But in Curaçao, I have relationships with my clients, I know them. I know, you know, what they feel. I know who they are. I know their family, so I know their lifestyle. So that has helped me in so many ways. But now with this bigger market and now we’re also selling in Europe and in Asia, like it becomes more of a fantasy. And when I, when my muses are people that I kind of I think that these are my women. I think these are who they are, but I’m not really sure who they are.
Sam: [00:11:09] Anymore.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:11:10] Yes. So now I’m very intrigued and I want to– we’re actually starting a new Internet Web shop. And in there, I want to try to have more of a dialog with them. Having a blog or something like this to understand who they are, what their fears are. I really would like to get to know them on a deeper level here in the States. But it really started with having press in America, receiving some great press and then from there getting to know more of the buyers, the stores. So that’s how I’ve started to understand the consumer a little bit better. But I’m still learning. So it’s still a– I’m in that process.
Sam: [00:11:52] Early days still.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:11:53] Yes, yes.
Sam: [00:11:57] Are there— as you look back on this period of moving the company to the U.S. and then going it from there, are there any critical junctures or milestones where, you know, something happened? It might have been a chance meeting, it might have been that someone wore your jewelry. Like what were the sort of milestones that really changed the trajectory of the company or how you thought about it?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: You know, honestly, when I think back, I don’t even know how I maintained the company, because there were so many times where, you know, like you come to the States, you’ve lost a little bit of that community that you had in the beginning. You’re here in this big city. It’s quite competitive. But I don’t know how this happened. And I spoke to you about it, and I still don’t know. We were in with a PR agency. And, you know, at the time, I wasn’t sure if this was, you know, what I wanted to continue doing. But I had this vision. So I kept my drive, kept going. And then four Marches ago, right before the Oscars, Lady Gaga wore our earrings. And I I still don’t know how it happened. I’m so blessed. It was such a crazy moment.
Sam: [00:13:17] Was it a stylist?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:13:19] It was a stylist. And I think she knew my jewelry through somebody. I’m still not really sure how it happened. I started receiving all these tags on Instagram. I thought it was a joke. I went back, I zoomed in on her picture and it was indeed one of my earrings and I couldn’t believe it: she was wearing it on the red carpet of a pre-Oscars event. And after that I said, you know, my husband, we both said, ‘okay, we have to–’, that’s when I got serious and said, ‘this is something’.
Sam: [00:13:49] That’s amazing.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:13:50] Yeah. And then after that, it was no stopping. It was, we– that fall we presented our first collection with— and I think this part is key. We figured out who– there’s so many showrooms. There’s so many people willing to represent you. No one is better or worse, but only a few understand you and understand who you are, what your business practices are, who you are as a person. I found an incredible showroom. At the time it was called CREO, now it’s called SEE. And they understood me immediately, they understood who I was.
Sam: [00:14:26] And that must have been mostly about people and relationships and fit.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:14:30] That is exactly what it is. Once you find someone that you identify with, that they identify with you, that they understand your values. Immediately everything just, it was…it sparked. That same fall, we showed our first collection in New York Fashion Week, and we were picked up by Barney’s. So it was just a roller coaster of a year, but it all happened because of that big, you know, star who was just a beautiful human like and taking it up– and them taking, also into account, smaller designers, because these are people who could wear whatever they want. And that means a lot. Like when somebody is willing to take a chance on a small designer, it changes their life, you know, and it did for me as well.
Sam: [00:15:15] That’s amazing. I love that story. As you think about your company, are there competitors? I mean, it’s a very unique line and a very unique product. But who do you view as your competitors or who do you even view as brands that have done things well that you’ve learned from? And, you know, you might even aspire to some of that.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:15:39] And that, to me, is key. I don’t see anyone as my competitors. I see the people in the jewelry business as my peers. I look up to them. I strive to either accomplish certain things that I’ve seen, you know, few of them do. But I also look a lot into lifestyle brands that complement my brand. So a lot of the time, whether it be jewelry or anything else, I love seeing other young, especially female entrepreneurs creating things. Whether, you know, I have a friend who is a bag designer or a friend who’s a clothing designer. I see them and I see what they’ve created. And if, or even, if it’s an interior decorator, you know, like, I love seeing what people can create. As an entrepreneur, anything is possible. So I love seeing more of that and less what other people are doing in terms of a competition. So the only thing I have noticed in the jewelry world is that and I’m sure it’s happening in many places, a bit of the copying. That’s something that’s not very– I don’t know, I don’t see it as very powerful, but I do understand and I feel like that’s just a place to start. And then, you know, each designer finds their own way. So I think that it’s very interesting, just a lot of— when there’s a lot of saturation in the market. It’s interesting how things evolve. But I do believe that eventually all ideas evolve into their own ideas. So it’s very interesting to see and watch.
Sam: [00:17:13] Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:17:16] Yeah, I think so. But I also think that it’s exciting when you see new things. I love when I see a new designer coming up with a completely different way of making an earring and then you’re just blown away. So that to me is very exciting. I love seeing that. And I do believe that when an industry gets very compact, something really wonderful is going to come out of it. So I’m just kind of waiting to see and hopefully we can create something as well that’s interesting.
Sam: [00:17:44] Amazing. Are there people or books or– what are the sort of major influences in your life that you kind of go back to in difficult moments or moments when you’re looking for some inspiration?
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:18:01] My gosh. I mean, I think the city of New York is endless inspiration. You know, there’s so many museums and galleries to see. I know that when I was in Curaçao and this is why I prefer talking about something like that, because there are a lot of people who don’t have the accessibility to a city like this. I remember finding a lot of inspiration in online communities. So like I had spoken about before, I had like Marie Forleo. If you don’t have, you know, if you don’t have someone to look up to in your city or a mentor, you can find it online. And there’s so many interesting women entrepreneurs that are spreading a really interesting message that I find to be something that a lot of people can easily find access to. So I think there’s so much online right now that, you know, even Pinterest. I mean, you can find so much out there, rare, you know, images that, you know, that are sometimes even hard to find here. You can find them online. So I think that right now, almost anyone can find really good information there.
Sam: [00:19:01] Fabulous. Branded jewelry is about 20 percent of the overall jewelry market today, but its share has doubled since 2003 and experts believe it will continue to grow. Thanks to PitchBook and Mackenzie for the data cited in this episode. Becky, we love that you’re creating and sourcing your products locally and with authenticity and with an emphasis on design and sustainability. Thanks a lot for being here with us today.
Becky Zeijdel-Paz: [00:19:27] Thank you.
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