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Meet Jessica Phan of Hathorway in San Francisco Bay Area

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Phan.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2015, I traveled to Vietnam to reconnect with my roots and visit my extended family. It was there when I discovered products made of buffalo horns — from chopsticks and spoons to hair combs and jewelry. And I began to fall in love with material as I learned about more about the sustainable aspect of it. While I loved the material as jewelry, I found many of styles distasteful. I decided to buy a few of them and started to reconstruct them to suit my own style. As I wore them, I received several compliments from my friends and family. People wanted to buy them from me, so I started selling them on Etsy. This became a hobby. By day I was leading the design team as head of design for a tech startup in Palo Alto. By night and on weekends, I would make horn earrings and necklaces to sell to her friends and family.

In February 2018, I left her career in tech to build out Hathorway. This gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my Vietnamese culture while allowing me to pursue my childhood dream in fashion.

Today I run Hathorway from my home office in Redwood City, California, doing everything from design, product development, and marketing to e-commerce experiences. With my background in graphic design, many of my inspiration comes from the clean lines and edgy silhouettes of geometric shapes — designed for the metropolitan woman.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Like starting any business, it’s never a smooth road. While I started and building Hathorway quite slowly and steadily, I’ve still had some ups and downs.

One struggle that I remember specifically was with sourcing and shipping in my first few months of starting Hathorway. With all my gold-plated metals from South Korea, I decided to ship all my metals directly to Vietnam to have the artisans help me assemble my jewelry together. The metals ended up getting stuck in customs for two months because authorities thought it was real gold and wanted me to pay a high customs fee. After months of waiting, I finally received the items, however because it was openly sitting in the hot and humid weather for months, all the gold-plate started to fade. In the end, I had to recycle all of the metals, purchase a new order and had rethink logistics.

The second struggle is happening right now. At the moment, with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, many of the events and tradeshows I have lined up for the year have been canceled until further noticed, thus sales has been going down tremendously and growth is just stagnant. While I still have my online shop running (www.hathorway.com), the majority of our revenue comes from events.

Hathorway – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Hathorway is a sustainable fashion accessories brand focused on quality, sustainability, and women’s empowerment. We are advocates of sustainable and zero-waste fashion, and we handcraft all of our pieces with up-cycled buffalo horns from Northern Vietnam. Buffalo horns are organic materials, a byproduct of waste, and created through a chemical-free process. While these horns are sourced in Vietnam, each one-of-a-kind piece is designed and assembled in California to ensure the highest quality.

Along with our commitment to sustainable fashion, we are a women-owned and women-run business. We donate 10% of our profits to organizations that help women through education, science, justice, and other advancements of women’s empowerment.

One thing that I am most proud of as a company is how we are preserving 400-year-old Vietnamese craftsmanship and elevating it with a modern touch that is loved by many people and cultures around the world. Today, you can find Hathorway items in various museums, resort stores, and boutique stores all over; and I couldn’t be more proud to share my culture with others.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
To me, success is when my yearly goals are met. Every year, I set goals for Hathorway; and if we are able to crossed off every one of them, then I would define that as a successful year. A few examples of my goals would be:

– Sales: Increase average order value by X%
– Marketing: Increase Instagram followers by X%
– Product: Launch X amount of new products or categories

Of course, success is never ending for me because there will always be new goals to accomplish every year, every month, and every day.

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