While some people watch Netflix to decompress, others indulge in a fancy meal or a prized tipple. Trixie Khong, the millennial founder of jewellery brand By Invite Only, still thinks of entrepreneurship when winding down, but on behalf of others.
Several years ago, when she set up her website, she included a mention about being a freelance e-commerce consultant and mentor. Since then, this side hustle had fallen by the wayside as she focused on growing her cult label that’s known for its sensitive skin-friendly bling. Today, it is one of Singapore’s best-known independent jewellery shops, and even recorded a seven-figure revenue during the pandemic. Last year, she also acquired The Mindful Company, another local brand offering personalised pieces.
She still receives messages from young entrepreneurs who hope to learn from her wisdom. So, when she has the time, she responds to questions and participates in discussions on Clubhouse, the social audio app, to share her insights.
“I appreciate them contacting me as it shows they trust my advice,” says Khong.
“It is rewarding because it forces you to assess the questions from a different perspective. Plus, it takes my mind away from everyday work.”
It is also a way for Khong, who started By Invite Only in 2009 while she was an undergraduate to earn pocket money, to give back to the community. “By Invite Only was not planned. As a student, I had little money. I received advice or support every step of the way. Otherwise, I would not have even been able to begin. So this is paying it forward.” For instance, the owner of the crafting store where she used to buy supplies taught her how to make jewellery, and a friend sat her down one day to design a logo.
“I would never have thought I would be opening retail stores or selling jewellery to people around the world,” says Khong. By Invite Only has five retail stores in Singapore and an e-commerce site, which ships internationally. When restrictions ease, she plans to launch retail stores in the region, including Hong Kong, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Khong believes that expanding the brand’s physical presence will enable it to cement its position as the go-to jewellery brand in the region. She speaks of the brand’s success locally, stating, “Since opening stores in Singapore over the last few years, we have gained more momentum than when we were just digital for the first eight years.”
Listening to feedback is another strategy she has employed. By Invite Only pieces have evolved from statement jewellery with large baubles to today’s more minimalist, everyday pieces that women can wear 24 hours a day.
Since many of the pieces are suitable for sensitive skin, her team tries the pieces before launching them to ensure they are irritation-free.
The in-store experience has also been tweaked based on feedback. During the pandemic, for example, Khong implemented fuss-free returns so customers would not have to visit the store.
Listening is one of the key pieces of advice she likes to give to budding entrepreneurs. “Many aren’t quite ready to launch their product yet. I always tell them to launch it first because they might receive feedback that will enable them to progress to second or third versions of their prototype,” she says.
“It is true that you don’t know what you don’t know. You can only discover this by talking to others and finding out what the market wants.”