Welcome to Trading Places, a small-business series that takes a look at entrepreneurs who have successfully transitioned from working in the corporate world to founding their own business. If you have such a story you'd like to share, please email me.
Ten years ago, Tina Tang was living the life of six-figure bliss. But the equities trading job at
, which provided her ample salary, was just that: a job and nothing more. It wasn't something she loved, it wasn't something she hated and it wasn't something she thought about outside her place of work.
"Everyone enjoys the money and works hard," she says. "It's always challenging working on Wall Street, but I would say out of the group of 70 people in the department, only two traders I knew absolutely loved what they did."
Tang says she came to a point where she looked around her department and realized everyone, including her, had on corporate handcuffs. "I wanted to feel connected to my job," she recalls. "I wanted to be creative and work with my hands."
A short while later, Tang uncuffed herself, quit her job and went in search of a career that would give her something more than money could buy: satisfaction.
: International equities trader
: Jewelry designer and founder and owner of
Tina Tang Studio.
: "The first year was extremely difficult," Tang says. "For a lot of people the money situation is hard, but I think the harder part is trying to create something out of nothing." In the corporate world, your job or role already exists, "but when you're starting on your own, you're building it from scratch, trying to make inroads in whatever industry you're in," she explains.
: "The thing with jewelry is that it doesn't have to
be too costly to get started," Tang says. "If you start working in diamonds and gold then yes, it's definitely pricier, but doing semiprecious
stones and silver, you don't need a lot. The start-up costs will affect you most when you open up a store." When she first started just her Web site, she invested $5,000 into her company, but about two years later when she opened up her first store, it cost Tang $50,000.
Her company's edge
: When she started her line, Tang says there was either trendy, cheap jewelry or pricey picks from stores like Cartier and
. "I didn't feel like there was that much in between," she says. "I wanted to create something that would actually not fall apart after a week or two, something that was still fashionable and something that was reasonably priced. I think that's our niche."
What she wishes she knew before
: "I wish I knew accounting better," Tang laughs. "Even though I worked on Wall Street, numbers is just something you'd rather not deal with. You learn it just so you're familiar with it, but I wish I knew it."
: In terms of age, Tang says her customers range between women in their late 20s to those in their late 30s. "Usually they are women who have their own jobs and are buying for themselves," she says. "They are definitely looking for something nice, but don't want to blow all their money. They want something that they can wear to work and out at night, something that is fashionable and durable."
Jennifer Garner and Tyra Banks have a few of her pieces, Tang says. Uma Thurman has also bought some selections for her daughter's birthday parties' goody bags.
Some product favorites
: "Our most popular necklace is the
hammered crescent necklace because it's very different, but not so wacky that it makes people feel uncomfortable," Tang says. "It's definitely a statement." Another product favorite is the
releaf necklace, of which 100% of the profits go to
American Forests, a charity battling global warming.
: Persistence is key, Tang says. For example, for someone who's starting a business in fashion, it's important to get print editorial in a fashion magazine, she says. This not only lends to your credibility, but it also makes customers feel like you're established. "It took a year of us calling once or twice a month and sending images to
it ever featured anything," Tang says. "You can either give up or you can keep on trying. It's just physics: the more effort you put into it, eventually something comes out."