My start-up: Maia Teler on her jewellery brand Lupin Lime
Hi Maia! What does Lupin Lime do?
Lupin Lime presents a limited edition of art jewelry designed and handcrafted by Latin American artists and goldsmiths, many of whom live in remote regions. Each piece is a result of ancient techniques mixed with contemporary trends.
Through our designer jewelry, we strive to create a bridge between Latin American culture, techniques, materials, and designs with the perspective of the 21st century. A mix of high-quality crafts and the experience and accessibility that our brand offers from our headquarters in Amsterdam.
What's your biggest strength?
Our biggest strength is our knowledge of the Latin American market which is very unknown outside the continent. We are a channel that brings high-quality crafts to Europe and the rest of the world and for this, we work with a network of artists across the continent. Some of these artists are located in remote places, and some don't even have internet access. Therefore, even though they create beautiful works of art, in many cases they don't have a way to reach other markets and they can only live from the tourists who pass by them when visiting these areas.
At Lupin Lime we are dedicated to exploring different regions where we find specialized designers and craftsmanship with individual techniques that are in disuse. As part of our work, we seek to revalue these techniques and materials, sharing unique contemporary designs to be worn every day.
What made you think there was money in this?
Unlike Europe, in some Latin American countries, a family can live with 200 euro per month. So even though there are communities with the experience to develop high-quality pieces of wearable art, the market volume to which they could sell is very small in their region. They have the know-how but not a market for their activity to survive over time. On the contrary, in Europe we can reach a larger volume of customers for these products and materials. This means we have room to grow and also to support the artists by becoming a new sales channel for them.
Today Lupin Lime works with an exclusive niche and offers a very particular product for people with a special perception and sensitivity for art. Our market is huge but also very competitive. The competition also has its audience, but of course, we cross paths with the different segments all the time. It always comes down to the user's choice, so it is our job to market our brand, find unique designs, and have the best customer experience for our clients in order to make a difference.
Where is the business today?
Today the business is in the development stage. Learning and adjusting our communication to expand the brand in a segment that is very competitive. Lupin Lime was born during the pandemic when the whole retail industry had to adjust and transition along with customer behavior. Accordingly, we are often adjusting our strategy and challenging ourselves to expand the product line, adding other accessories such as belts and, shortly, loom ruanas as well.
Soon we expect to start selling our jewelry in designer stores. And in the future, we would like to have a physical museum-type store where we sell jewelry and accessories but also share the Latin American story through paintings and other pieces of native art.
What is the secret to making the business work?
There are no magic solutions. Starting a business is a lot of work, perseverance, and dedication. But I can say that it is key to be very much aware of how the market responds, be attentive to comments, and have fluid communication with customers in order to understand how they perceive the brand and products. These are all part of my everyday challenge. In small structures, this is always more difficult, so startups require a serious commitment from the founders. As well, one might not reach the business goals on the first attempt, so the openness to find and accept mistakes and the flexibility to learn, adapt and try new approaches is fundamental.
How do you market the company?
Today our main channels are our e-commerce, marketplaces, and social networks (@lupinlime on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok). These are the platforms on which we also run ads to connect with our clients.
Moreover, differentiation in the user experience is essential for us and that is why we work on the development of packaging that ensures that every piece arrives in perfect condition, ready to be opened by our consumers anywhere in the world. Because there is nothing better than receiving what you ordered online.
What funding do you have? Is it enough?
Lupin Lime started without external financing. My mom and I, bootstrapping with the use of existing resources. Using personal savings, and working from home and from the Incubator at Nyenrode Business University, where I did an MBA in 2018. To date, most of the earnings are reinvested into the business in an effort to keep expanding the brand.
Tell us about the business model
On the product side, we are now working with more than 40 artists throughout Latin America to design and create the various pieces.
On the commercial side, Lupin Lime has still a very small structure. As co-owners, my mom and I handle practically everything and have associated services that add value to the company. Consequently, the break-even point at the moment is low and profits are used to advertise and expand brand awareness.
What is the future vision?
We see Lupin Lime becoming the international brand of crafted jewelry more relevant in the diffusion of Latin American art.
Also, we believe in being an active player in Latin American culture. And we are therefore committed to improving the lives of vulnerable people on the continent. Therefore, with every purchase we invest in advancing goldsmith skills in people from the poorest sectors, to instill knowledge that will allow them to move out of poverty and create a long-term positive trajectory of change in their lives. We provide them with professional goldsmith training, facilitate jobs within our supplier network, and pay their starting salaries as they strengthen their specialization to becoming skilled artisans in the job market. By doing this we strive to transform life stories into art while changing life stories with art.