Tristen Ikaika, who has been on Shark Tank, didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life four years ago.
He had just finished high school at the time, so it’s not too surprising, but it’s still a big deal that the first thing he tried turned into a jewelry business worth more than $1.6 million.
Ikaika thinks back on his life and tells me, “When I was 19, I was young, naive, and broke.” “I had to get money.” Even though he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally, he knew that the influencers and bloggers he liked had strong personal brands. He wanted to get more people to follow him on Instagram so that everything he did would be more valuable.
Someone asked, “Does anyone know where Tristen gets his rings?” on one of my Instagram photos. One day, everything made sense. I had been making spoon rings for myself since I was 12 years old. “Maybe I could do this hobby with other people and make rings for people who ask.”
With about 20,000 followers, he had a chance to make money from the 25-cent spoons he had been stealing from his parents’ kitchen, but the reality was much better than he thought.
I thought I might sell rings once, but I didn’t think I’d start a business that makes seven figures!”
People were more interested when he said he would sell a small number of hand-made rings that looked like his. so much so that the collection was gone in minutes.
“It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “The first drop was the hardest because I had to figure out how to use a website and print a shipping label, and everything felt so strange.
I said on Instagram that I was going to launch at 6 p.m., but I spent the whole day running around town taking pictures and videos. ” At 6 o’clock, I was still uploading the products to my website from our kitchen table. I had no idea that there would be so many SKUs and that it would take so long.
“It’s 6:05, and I’m working as fast as I can to finish all of these.” When I changed tabs and refreshed my email, I saw a flood of emails that said, “You have a new order!” “It blew my mind completely.”
He made $4,000 with one click.
In all my life, I’d never seen so much money.” I couldn’t believe how many people wanted to buy rings from me. I thought I was dreaming.
Even though the goals were low at first, the stress of making and delivering the product quickly took away the fun.
Ikaika had to measure, cut, grind, and bend more than 200 spoons and forks into rings that were just the right size. They hadn’t yet figured out how to collect sizes on the website, so they had to email each customer individually.
There was no order to it,” he says. “There were pieces in this puzzle that I had no idea were there.”
Still, throwing him into the deep end was good for him. He liked the “scrappy hustle” so much that he started setting up systems that helped him work faster, better, and more creatively.
Tristen Ikaika became his full-time job and a big enough brand in just a few months for him to hire other people.
In February 2016, my dad had a heart attack and open-heart surgery. This was partly because he was going through big changes in his personal life at the same time. He says, “A few months later, my mom found out she had breast cancer.”
“I don’t want to go back to that sad and hard time in my life, but I am so grateful for what I learned from it.” I don’t think my view of life would be the same if my family hadn’t gone through what they did. It helped me learn things about life that I might not have learned any other way.
“I knew I had to work hard to get where I wanted to go.”
Ikaika spent the next two years traveling all over the world to find spoons and forks to make into rings. He did this because he knew it would add to the uniqueness of his collections.
“Bending tens of thousands of rings has given me bruises and blisters on my hands,” he says, but he will make $2.1 million by 2021.
As the business grew from selling hundreds to thousands of rings per month, Ikaika re-invested profits where he needed them most: in manufacturing (changing from hand-made to machine-made rings) and marketing (sending samples to influencers in dry ice-filled packaging, which was great for social media promotion).
And for his own piece of the pie, he wanted a stake in the people who had put the most money into him.
“I knew my parents’ finances were bad because they had a lot of medical bills and my dad got a disability check. I was hurt. I knew that if I were ever in a position to do so, I would pay off their house.
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