How this Jamaican woman built a wildly successful jewelry business with help from Michelle Obama

Abu Mubarik September 01, 2021
Chari Cuthbert. Photo: @ByChari|Twitter

The jewelry business is one of the most lucrative businesses worldwide. The boom in the industry has been attributed to the ease with which customers can sit at the comfort of their homes and access the type and design they want via the internet.

One of the jewelry brands that is making waves is ByChari, which was founded by Chari Cuthbert in 2012. The Jamaica-born woman started her company while in Hawaii to follow a love interest.

Making jewelry for Cuthbert has always been her passion. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Cuthbert was inspired to venture into the jewelry business by her grandmother who was a jewelry lover. “I would always dress up in my grandmother’s jewelry, so I think that’s maybe where it began,” she said.

While in Hawaii, she taught herself jewelry design and how to run a business after starting ByChari. She subsequently moved her business to Los Angeles in 2016 as part of her moves to expand the business.

With no connections, powerful personal networks, and a safety net to fall on in America, Cuthbert felt incredible pressure to succeed. “I quickly learned that connections are what helped a lot of jewelry designers succeed. Plus, the industry in Los Angeles was dominated by men,” she said.

According to her, there were so many times she wanted to give up but she somehow, always, found the will to stick to her original vision. Just around the time, Instagram was increasingly becoming one of the most powerful social media platforms globally. Cuthbert took the strategic decision to jump on it and leverage the platform to showcase her designs.

After having started her business with just $100, Cuthbert successfully grew her business to more than $2 million a year in sales. Her firm also has a sizeable following, with celebrities like former First Lady Michelle Obama, Kate Hudson and Rosie Huntington Whiteley as fans.

Her company shot to fame in 2020 when Michelle Obama wore Cuthbert’s 14-karat gold “Vote” necklace in her speech during the Democratic National Convention. According to Cuthbert, she custom-made the necklace within the hour of receiving a request from Michelle Obama’s stylist, Meredith Koop.

“The necklace captured the attention of people watching the speech, and soon after, I was receiving a massive influx of online exposure and sales,” she said. “The pride that I felt in that moment, watching Mrs. Obama champion democracy and getting out the vote, wearing my design was beyond anything I can describe.”

“To have made it this far as a Black businesswoman with few connections or resources felt like a success for all Black business owners, and to be a part of an effort to get Americans to use their voice via voting was the honor of a lifetime,” she added.

Cuthbert said she and her team added the option to buy the ‘vote’ necklace on the firm’s website after Obama’s speech. “We had doubled our revenue for the day — within 30 minutes of the speech,” she told CNBC Made It. “It was just insane to see that kind of response.” She sold over 5,000 units of the ‘vote’ necklace, which starts at $295.

Cuthbert attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where she studied photography. After school, she had numerous jobs from production assistant on “The Ultimate Fighter” television show on Spike Television to executive assistant for Dana White, the President, and Owner of the UFC, Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 1, 2021


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