We had the good fortune of connecting with Brenda Rivera and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brenda, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Our story, like many entrepreneurial ones, began when both unexpectedly found ourselves unemployed a few years ago. Holding on to our faith, we decided to embrace our situation as an opportunity for a new beginning. We discussed the things we were passionate about and discovered that we both have a lot in common. We both have been married for more than 20 years. We both have two kids, a boy and a girl, and in that order. And as fate would have it, it turns out that about a decade prior, we both had pursued jewelry design in our own ways. While I had bought books and sketched various designs, Iliana Delgado had completed jewelry design studies in New York. There is a common thread in the things we like. We are inspired by all things lovely: faith, family, friends, and fashion. We call our brand Val & Tina Siabella® because at the top of our inspiring list of lovelies are our daughters Valeria “Val” and Cristina “Tina”. Both of our sweet girls like classic jewelry that is minimalistic, but when layered or paired with other pieces is a new kind of bold. It is simply lovely. Our goal is to provide women of all ages, a beautiful selection of high-quality, affordable jewelry. Most of our jewelry collection is made with sterling silver (925 Silver) that is plated with rhodium, black rhodium, or 14k/18k gold. To ensure durability, we plate with 0.25 to 2.5 microns of gold (the latter identified as “vermeil”), depending on the item. We also carry a great selection of gold-filled jewelry, which holds the many desirable qualities of solid gold, but at a fraction of the price. To achieve the perfect collection, we curate lovely pieces from high-quality, ethical sources and also manufacture our very own designs in Los Angeles, California, and in other ethically sourced jewelry factories around the world. Although we are a young, small business, we want to ensure that our business serves a higher purpose than our own. That’s why, inspired by our Christian faith, we launched our Light & Salt collection as a reminder that we are called to make a difference in the world (Matthew 5:13-14). We donate 10% of the profits of each item in this collection to organizations dedicated to saving girls from human and sex trafficking, such as Saving Innocence.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Having a passion for jewelry and turning it into a business are two very different things. Passion doesn’t mean that things will be easier. It just means that when you stumble you don’t stop. We have definitely faced some challenges along the way. We dreamt of having everything made in the USA, but that hasn’t always been feasible. It is very expensive to produce domestically and pricing accordingly puts you outside of the competition. So, we make what we can domestically, but have had to source other factories overseas. We make sure we only use factories that follow ethical labor practices. We dreamt of only selling our own designs, but production timelines and costs were such that we would only be able to introduce one or two collections a year. So, we decided to curate from designers in Austin, TX, and others, with similar styles as our own, while we build on our own designed collections. Some of our own designs include Dragonfly, Lion of Judah, Turquoise Crosses, Black Crosses, and Statement Necklaces Charlotte, Victoria, Christie, and Amanda, among others. We are currently working on introducing some Medallions of Faith and other faith-based items. We like using silver for jewelry. Silver is a precious metal that is valuable, more hypoallergenic, and can also be restored to its original beauty when compared to brass and other fashion base metals. With proper care, silver jewelry is a better investment for women who like to keep their jewelry for a long time and pass it along. However, many famous jewelry brands use brass and other fashion base metals and sell their jewelry at a very high premium. Educating our audience about the differences between these metals and silver, so that they can be better informed when buying jewelry, became important for our business. Lastly, we are too small and too young to afford brick-and-mortar locations. Having an online store comes with its own challenges such as finding ways of driving traffic to the site, purchasing the right mix of online advertising, finding the right audience, learning how to make the most with social media when we are both camera shy, evaluating other selling channels, to name a few.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Many of our friends love baseball. If they visit during baseball season, an Astros home game is a must. Then, we would take them for a stroll around the Museum District and a tour of NASA Johnson Space Center. Since Houston is home to the best Tex-Mex, we would eat at Lupe Tortillas or Pappasitos. We would also take them to Taste of Texas or Rudy’s BBQ, because you shouldn’t leave Texas without eating a good steak or brisket. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There have been many people we have encountered along the way that has helped or inspired us during our journey. First and foremost, we owe every bit of our success to Almighty God who has opened opportunities and placed the right people in our path. We are also thankful for the support and encouragement we have received from our families and friends. When you first start a business, your friends become your sounding board and even your first clients. We wouldn’t be here today without the support of our girlfriends who love jewelry as much as we do and have become ambassadors of our brand.
Heather McCutcheon Photograpy Betty Luis