Grills, fronts, golds—whatever you call them, the dental bling industry is worth millions of dollars. Nevertheless, they can be quite hard to get in this region, and this lack in supply is what drove Hanya Seah and her partner to establish Chez G, a jewellery brand that makes grills and other accessories with precious metals.
“We started the company because we wanted to have grills of our own. We realised they weren’t readily available in Southeast Asia, so through research and trial and error, we taught ourselves how to make them,” she says.
“We’re known for creating personalised grills and jewellery, including rings, earrings and necklaces. We’ve also been taking on bridal jewellery projects and are looking to expand in that direction.”
Previously a marketer with a sneaker retailer, the 25-year-old now runs the brand full-time and does design and craft work. She also manages its social media accounts.
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The tough stuff
“The majority of our production process is done by hand,” says Hanya.“First, we have to come up with the design. Then, we have to draw it out and study the technicalities required to create the end product. After deciding on the best method for crafting the piece, we execute production. This includes melting metals, hand-fabrication, setting stones and polishing.”
She doesn’t mind the hard work. But it doesn’t help that the amount of effort she puts into her work is often underestimated.
“People don’t see how dirty it gets when crafting jewellery—how metal stains mess up our hands and our space. They also don’t know the actual amount of time it takes to craft a piece,” she says. “Teeth grills take about two weeks to make, while other types of customised pieces take at least a month.”
On top of this, running a business isn’t easy. “I don’t have a boss overseeing everything. I have to keep myself in check. Maintaining time management, self- discipline and patience can be quite challenging,” she says.
“Also, jewellery-making involves multiple processes that are far from consistent, and unexpected production issues often arise. So I have to be calm and patient in order to overcome these problems.”
And then there’s juggling finances. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars on experimentation and buying the right equipment. If anyone wants to do business, they shouldn’t be afraid of parting with money,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean they should spend frivolously, of course.”
Hanya’s advice for starting your own business:
“When you’re investing in your business, you’re also investing in yourself, so don’t be afraid to part with your money. Also, it helps tremendously to get opinions from experienced people, so don’t be afraid to ask even strangers for advice along the way.”
“I love the personal relationships forged with each customer— from listening to their ideas and understanding their preferences to delivering a piece that they feel is uniquely theirs.”
Hanya also enjoys the flexibility this job gives her, particularly since it allows her to work from home.
“I usually wake up at 8am and head out for eggs and kopi at a nearby coffee shop before heading home to do work,” she shares. “I can arrange a meet-up, squeeze in a workout session, or head out at any time.”
“But it can be tricky as I have to stick to timelines and sometimes meet unexpected deadlines, like in the case of last-minute orders. I work until 9 to 10pm on weekdays and sometimes work on weekends as well.”