Three years ago Maya Portorreal was a retail assistant for luxury apparel brand Pierre Hardy in New York City, making $45,000 a year.
Portorreal told CNBC’s Make It while working there, she grew frustrated most trendy jewelry was either way out of her price range or made with cheap materials that gave her rashes.
“I have very sensitive skin,” she told CNBC. “I can’t wear brass … I can’t really wear too much copper.”
Portorreal decided to solve the issue by herself launching the boutique brand Kitten Co. Jewelry, which makes affordable jewelry from skin-friendly materials. Kitten makes rings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets out of 92.5% sterling silver plated with rhodium, a metal coating the silver for “extra protection and shine.”.
The female entrepreneur started the business with less than $2,000 putting Kitten’s label on existing designs. Eventually, she started making her own designs and now Kitten features more than 150 different products.
She was able to grow the brand by reaching out to suppliers and manufacturers directly and leveraging social media and influencers to wear the jewelry in their posts.
Today, Portorreal’s business is a resounding success generating more than $30,000 a month in revenue and several high profile celebrities to wear her jewelry designs including the rapper Saweetie wore Kitten Co. Jewelry’s Maiko butterfly necklace in her music video for the single “Best Friend,” with fellow rapper Doja Cat.
Portorreal said she’s been pleasantly surprised by the success of her business and how fast it became popular.
“I never [predicted] making as much as I do now,” she said. “I never thought it would happen this quickly.”
It took several months for Portorreal to get Kitten off the ground but social media helped immensely as she was able to directly contact influencers and found some who wanted to work with her. Using their fanbases, the jewelry maker was able to reach people across different interests and localities to grow her brand.