Chi Mai is the founder and creative director of S-kin Studio Jewelry.
Originally from Hanoi, Vietnam where she lived for 18 years, she moved to Australia in 2014 to study Commerce but while completing her degree she realised that she was striving for a job (in Management Consulting) that would be stressful, require long hours and constant travel.
In the last few weeks of her Commerce degree she let go of everything she thought she had to become and immersed herself in nature, family and being still and decided she would follow her creative roots, over the corporate path and start a jewellery company.
Two and a half years later, S-kin Studio is a million-dollar business and Chi has never been happier. It was the best decision she ever made.
Founded in 2018, S-kin (pronounced skin) is a fine jewelry brand that focuses on high-quality everyday jewelry that does not hurt or irritate your skin. Inspired by country Victoria and natural Australian landscapes, S-kin’s designs are timeless and essential, simple yet sophisticated, and endearing yet bold in its ways.
Sustainability is a very strong part of S-kin. Chi started out wanting to be an alternative for those that have sensitive skin and are unable to find jewellery that suits them. As she evolved alongside the business, Chi realised sustainability is a big part of her life and this is something she really wanted to focus on as a business.
They plan to be carbon neutral by 2022 & SA 8000 certified as well as all of their Tier 1 suppliers being a part of Responsibility Jewellery Council.
Here’s our chat with Chi…
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN 3 WORDS…
Resilient, Focused, & Romantic
WAS THERE A SIGNIFICANT TURNING POINT WHEN YOU DECIDED TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Yes! While I was studying Commerce I realised that corporate life simply wasn’t for me. At the same time, my husband had bought me a necklace from an online Instagram retailer that I loved but after wearing it for a week it tarnished and gave me a rash. I have very sensitive skin and soon realised that the jewellery was plated and hence causing my skin to become irritated. It was at this time that I thought, there must be a way to make jewellery affordable while still being good quality. The answer was to use gold fill not gold plated materials – and so the idea for S-kin was born.
WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO IN BUSINESS? WHO INSPIRES YOU?
I look up to a number of entrepreneurs – namely Jo Horgan, Jane Lu and the Spell founders (Lizzy Abegg & Isabela Pennefather), for their unique creativity and constant innovation in the business world. They are true role models for younger women in the start-up space.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASPECT OF BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Being able to create a life that I want and a brand that is true to my ethos. I really enjoy the constant problem solving and challenges that come with the many hats that I need to wear being in a small business that is growing. Seeing it grow every day as a result of what I do is so fulfilling an entrepreneur.
WHAT’S A QUOTE YOU LIVE BY?
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
WHO IS THE WISEST WOMAN YOU KNOW AND WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM HER?
My mum. More than anyone in my life, she teaches me patience and how to be in the moment. She comes from a Buddhist background and has over the years transferred a lot of knowledge to me that I never could have learned on my own or through any entrepreneur journey I’ve experienced.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
Definitely myself – but also my family, my husband and of course my peers. They are a source of inspiration as well as encouragement for the tough going gig that is being a business owner.
WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING IN DIFFICULT TIMES?
To be honest, I’m such a downer when times are tough! I’ve been trying to improve my mental health and improve my emotional relationship with my business, however, I still find the key to getting over a trough in business is to find that one thing that made you start your business and hold onto it like your beacon of light. Oh and also, good chocolate.
WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN?
It’s not so much advice but my upbringing in a family that had very strong money values means that from the very start I was determined to create a profitable business. When starting out you always hear about the statistic ‘most businesses fail within the first few years’ – I was determined to be anything but that. So a strong financial foundation is probably the best advice I could pass on to any entrepreneur starting out.