Elisabeth Austin: Launches DiamondRunway.com

Elisabeth Austin

Elisabeth Austin

New York based Elisabeth Austin is a multi-faceted woman entrepreneur of diamond industry. She has founded DiamondRunway.com  the most visually stunning diamond marketplace  in the world. As Editor of the Premier Digital Media exposition of larger diamonds and design, Elisabeth is passionate that luxury consumers have access to see, in full detail, the phenomenal diamonds and great designers that she works with weekly. Utilizing state-of-the-art video capturing of both jewelry and investment diamonds, consumers are able to see more detail than they could ever see in regular store lighting.

On the product side, after 15 years communicating with jewelers the wealth of spectacular diamonds being cut and polished in New York City, Elisabeth has set out to bring back a disappearing category of jewelry that prioritizes true luxury and quality over economic constraints of mass manufacturing.

Elisabeth has an unparalleled access in the diamond industry to make great projects possible with diamonds and designers. Her understanding of how women wear their jewelry and the potential for the diamond as a woman’s signature piece of jewelry is current and visionary at the same time. G2J brings you here the success story of Elisabeth Austin. The excerpts:

What inspired you to start your own business?

E.A.: I am inspired to inspire other women with fresh choice in the larger diamond category. When a woman is involved in making an important purchase, such as a major piece of jewelry, she is highly motivated to find the right design to fit her style. It determines whether she wears it only rarely, or regularly. In the diamond industry, we can no longer discount the importance of highly desirable design that is also lifestyle relevant.  Women today are happily spoiled with differentiated design options in not only fashion and mid-level jewelry but also with colored gemstones jewelry from designers. However, when recognized retailers of better jewelry designers carry very little design in larger diamonds, then the diamond industry has a serious handicap.

DiamondRunway gathers before the global client what is possible. We showcase the diamonds and design in spectacular HD video and list where the client can pursue it. For the first time, diamond companies, in supporting design, now have global exposure for their diamonds and a network to serve the retailer as well as generating client interest online. Showcasing exciting designers together with larger diamonds is my mission and we are in the process of gathering even more exciting designers.

What experience did you have in jewellery field before launch of your venture? Are your parents in jewellery business?

E.A.: My father is a medical doctor who never purchased a diamond in his lifetime. Since my father did not value jewelry, my mother did not receive it. No amount of television commercials would change that.  The bright side is that our family enjoyed good health. Still, it was “the best day” when I was working with an exceptional three carat cushion cut diamond. Thinking of my mother, I made a telephone call to her and we both agreed that she should own it. Imagine, if you will, that moment. It was this type of moment I know many mothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends can enjoy.

As far as my own experience in fine jewelry, I started as a collector…. and did so at an early age because,  from what I had seen, waiting for romantic love or marriage was simply not going to bring me the jewelry I was destined to have (laughing). Creating my own jewelry collection has meant more work hours and fewer trivial purchases, but it is always worth it. The bonus is that since I selected everything myself, I am able to wear my pieces every day as I selected them as I do everything else I own.  I have a first-hand understanding of how jewelry works for a woman. Professionally, I arrived to the industry with advanced business degrees, and I immediately started working for the manufacturers of large and important diamonds.

I have to say that networking with lecturers at GIA during my G.G. program made that transition possible because I had no other connections to start.  In total, I have 16 years with sightholders and diamond manufacturers in sales and communications. My “digital rolodex” is quite large.  However, in the US we have well known humorous advice for when people follow their heart into a new venture…  “Don’t quit your day job”, and I haven’t disconnected from helping retailers find their diamonds. I now work for multiple distinguished diamond companies instead of one.  Expanding from there I am building relationships, creating partnerships between diamond companies, designers, retailers and the media.

What is your venture?

E.A.: Diamond Runway, produced by Powerhouse Fine Jewel Communications, is the groundbreaking,   economically intelligent, digital video marketing platform for the luxury diamond industry. The diamond industry needs a finely tooled, integrative platform to account for the smallish re-sale margins specific to diamonds that are one carat and larger. We leverage a vertically integrated cooperative of participating diamond companies, designers, retailers, photographers, models and media. One of the few rules is that the quality must be high….only certified diamonds and the gold is 18k or higher. With that said, you can meet everybody under one roof.  Get it done. Get seen.  Spectacular jewels in HD Video may potentially go viral with social sharing. Starting with our video production company, we have created an online platform to showcase all the possibilities with larger diamonds and where to buy them. Each video deploys one diamond in one design into infinite exposure through digital retailer partnerships, fashion media and most importantly “social sharing”.  The platform is not only the home for all of the design, but it disperses videos through media, social media and the subscribed retailer network.

Narrate your struggle period before you reached the present professional and business status?

E.A.: Many things started clicking when I entered the diamond industry.  Then, as a diamond professional, the industry’s struggles became my struggles.  We are all familiar with the  dysfunction when the client shows up for similar diamond presentations at three different stores only to then buy online or at a fourth jeweler. Lack of design differentiation in the marketplace has led us to these economically challenging phenomena in this new era when resale margins no longer support this store-hopping phenomenon. I want to again have that enjoyable experience with jewelers and diamond clients who are inspired to pursue exclusive, distinctive design that can’t be shopped at every store in town.

Which were the landmark achievements of your professional and business career?

E.A.: While I think others might point to specific large or prestigious diamond accounts I have handled, those portions of business can always come and go depending on the economy and the shifting priorities of retailers. I am positive that the most major achievements of my career are happening right now.  Establishing the first global luxury web platform with designers and diamonds, some of which are more than $2 million dollars, is an accomplishment. My strength has always been effective communications to larger audiences in a resource friendly manner. In the midst of great difficulties in the diamond industry we need this more than ever.  Design + Digital communications is the recipe for a better future for all of us.  Everything in my past, including my ever-present eye on “what’s next”,  has led to this enterprise, spearheading the most advanced and effective digital communications in the industry.

Elisabeth with her client

Elisabeth with her client

Who is the motivational force behind you? Which are the key elements responsible for your success?  E.A.: My motivators alternate between a general fears and the need to acquire a wonderful piece of jewelry. Usually a fear.   Like many of us, I foresee working steadily through my seventies and possibly into my eighties.  I am aggressive about staying ahead of the curve with advancements in marketing communications, because everything else being equal … the competition for rewarding work is fierce.   Possibly an element contributing toward success is how I continually assess the business landscape.  I invested in a Master’s Degree in Business (MBA) and spent time in a PhD program teaching Marketing at the University level while learning more about business analysis and strategy.  More currently I must give credit and gratitude to the start-up community both in New York City and worldwide.  Today’s entrepreneurs are the most sharing, honest and supportive community I have ever experienced.  I’m never going to tell anyone this journey was easy or getting to this point was particularly fun.  Yet, I 200% believe in it. I absolutely see diamonds becoming symbolic for a woman’s high level of style and achievements ….not to mention “resilience”, whether she makes the decision with a partner or makes that declaration with herself.

What is the unique selling proposition of your business?

E.A.: In a day when the global clients are typically conducting their pre-shopping online, my platform exponentially reduces the expense of “being seen”.  Prior to Diamond Runway, a diamond company or a designer had to decide in which jeweler’s case their high value jewel would rest….then to wait for enough appropriate clients to make a specific trip to the jewelry store. Or, if a jeweler had invested to offer a designer diamond piece, how would you know, unless you walked into the store? Now the designs are is in a centralized global case, viewable in the comfort of home, and the video showcase is truly spectacular.  Videos are unenhanced and yet …better than the naked eye.  Diamonds + Video are the match made in heaven.  The tiny downside is that as much as we generate desire, we’ll be breaking a few hearts ….as beautiful things tend to do.

The selling propositions are compelling. 1) The Diamond Manufacturer doesn’t compete against 100 other diamond companies when an exclusive item is requested.  As partners in the cooperative, they are no longer blind to knowing what the customer wants and with which jeweler the client is working.  Because most items are “just-in-time” manufacture, when one item sells, another is made to replace it. Custom orders may result from the one finished piece in central inventory should the client wish to try it on.  The one piece in stock is memoed out just like a diamond. 2) The subscribed jeweler has a complete library of videos with Diamond Runway to email to their global clients as part of their exclusive offerings. Each video e-mailed by the sales associate can be a welcome opportunity to start a jewelry conversation. Sometimes it’s not a diamond they sell, but a jewelry need they uncover.  In the long run diamonds are promoted and the jeweler serves their client.   If a jeweler is enthusiastic enough to purchase the design for stock they are listed on Diamond Runway as the owner of the piece and they can sell in-store or from the web because PFJC can provide the video for the jewelers website. 3)  The Jewelry designer has a stand out diamond item for among their offerings and at the same time has a new global following because the designers website is listed with the diamond design.  This is the diamond industry supporting designers.  4)  The media gets fresh diamond design they can be excited to write about instead of the same pave / halo designs from an industry that serves up an almost indistinguishable look between players.  Cooperative advertising means that the designers and diamond companies are able to buy into more ad pages for less money.  Our company provides the photographer, the models and the graphic artists as well as the advertising opportunities.

Your expansion plans…

E.A.: I plan to expand the diamond industry itself, returning it back to it’s potential. All we are missing is “visibility” in the discriminating luxury market. Very simply we are providing the platform and relationships.  In terms of mini-expansions, which is each designer and diamond company we bring onboard to be seen and broadcast digitally.  Each additional designer is most rewarding because so many of them have the mindset that “I don’t work with larger diamonds”. This is because the resale margins combined with the carrying cost don’t make sense. We have to work with that reality.  We are here to show them that “You CAN work with a larger diamond.” And then “because of your design with this larger diamond, the world will see it…. and everything else your mind has created” by sharing the designer website. Diamond Runway is where you find the larger diamond pieces.  Meanwhile, the many established audiences of these designers will see the diamond from a whole new perspective.

Your message to the aspiring women entrepreneurs…

E.A.: “If it’s easy to build, it’s easy to copy”.  1) You must find a niche where you have an advantage(s)   or develop a superior offering, not just a different one. Invest in your business if you have unique, difficult to copy advantages, because unfortunately, the diamond and fine jewelry business has too many well financed copy-cats and not enough determined innovators. 2) Build your business education, especially marketing management. Continue your business education beyond your formal schooling by reading online business stories in entrepreneurialism. There is so much real life educational content on the internet. In the end, your business study will lead you to this….”It’s not what you love to produce, it’s what your target client base needs or wants”.  And then, “How you are going to reach your client” should be as much part of your business design as your product.

Rapid Fire:

Which jewellery designer do you admire the most?

E.A.: Well I admire and own quite a few, but I don’t own anything yet from Paul Morelli. They have impressed me over the years has with so many distinctive collections….all different, but each collection with such a refined, judicious eye for the balance of gemstones (diamonds) and other components. For any designer, it is such a fine talent to incorporate the right number of elements and achieve perfection in balance.  The eye delights. For the items I own, I get great pleasure and compliments from my vintage Pomellato (circa 1999-2001) and my high karat gold pieces hand-crafted in India. Both India and Italy heavily influence my personal style and that of my favorite designers.  What a woman wears will speak both to her history and her ambitions.

Ethics at the cost of business or business at the cost of ethics?

E.A.: When it comes to honesty, it is always ethics first….at the cost of business. Contribute vigilance where you can possibly do so, but there is a limit to what we can influence in the short term.  In the long term we can build businesses that will eventually influence what may be out of our reach presently.

Describe yourself in two-three words…

E.A.: Enthusiast, driven, big-picture.

One dis-quality of yours….

E.A.: I can privately entertain un-founded fears. I think that’s too common and I am always working on that.

How do you like to be remembered?

E.A.: I like to be remembered as someone in a good mood, great at solving problems, who gives more than she gets.

Presented by Suresh Chotai