In 2015, Mayer Kamkhatchi (BBA, ’19) was a freshman at Baruch College, balancing schoolwork, a part-time job, and an unpaid side hustle helping his older sister Adina sell her homemade jewelry online.
By 2018, from just $1,000 in seed money, Adina’s Jewels had become a multimillion-dollar company, worn by celebrities from Billie Eilish to Ariana Grande to Cardi B. In late 2021, its success landed the siblings on the 2022 Forbes “30 Under 30” list in the retail and e-commerce category.
Zicklin News spoke to Mayer, today the CEO of Adina’s Jewels, about his business and his Zicklin experience.
Zicklin News: Adina’s Jewels has come a long way in just a few years. To what do you attribute your rapid rise?
Mayer Kamkhatchi: Adina and I put every ounce of our energy into this business, which we were running out of our parents’ house in Brooklyn at the time, so our expenses were minimal. Whatever I learned at the Zicklin School during the day — management, marketing, and so forth — I would go home and apply immediately. Combine that with the influencer boom we saw beginning in about 2017 and we were in the right place at the right time. We were reaching out to influencers on Instagram before Instagram was being used for marketing.
ZN: Who was the first influencer to wear Adina’s Jewels?
MK: Our first celebrity influencer was the singer Madison Beer. She wore our jewelry to a concert and posted about it a few days later. That was a real turning point in the business.
ZN: Could you talk about the experience of juggling your schoolwork with helping your sister run the business?
MK: Like a lot of Zicklin students, I saw working while attending classes as normal, not a struggle. It was an amazing experience because my professors became my mentors and business consultants. I’d ask them for advice, and they helped me get through bumps in the process. I didn’t forget anything I learned because I applied it right away. I was very fortunate.
ZN: Why did you choose the Zicklin School for your BBA?
MK: It was really a natural fit. Several of my high school friends went here so I was integrated socially. The flexible schedule let me work and go to school at the same time. Also, my parents are immigrants — my father is Syrian and my mother is Israeli — and we couldn’t afford high tuition costs. Being able to graduate debt free was awesome.
ZN: Which classes at Zicklin were the most helpful for your business?
MK: My retail marketing class taught me the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. I learned how to brand my company and how to manage a retail fashion business. I also learned a lot from my business management professor. My biggest takeaway from him was “focus on your strengths.” Today I manage over 50 employees and we have to allocate our strengths to maximize efficiency. No one is good at every aspect of running a business, so I focus on what I’m good at and delegate my weak areas to people who are good at them. That way everyone excels.
ZN: What’s your favorite memory of the Zicklin School?
MK: I was really intrigued by all the diversity — so many students from so many cultures, all hustling, all trying to find a way to make money, to make something work. I thought that was one of the most beautiful things about Zicklin — such an array of students all working to make something change. That helps me today with managing people. I have employees of all ages, races, religions, and cultures, and having already been immersed in that diverse environment at Zicklin, I use that skill with both my employees and the people I deal with daily.
ZN: What’s next for you and Adina’s Jewels?
MK: Our plan is to expand internationally. We’re already available in major department stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus, and we have two brick-and-mortar stores of our own, one in Soho and one in the Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island. We want to be sold in mom-and-pop stores across the nation as well as international department stores like Harrods in London and Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
ZN: Do you have any advice for Zicklin students on how to turn a side hustle into a successful business?
MK: A lot of students try to dabble in many realms — a little crypto here, a little day trading there — and I don’t think that’s very efficient. I recommend they write down their vision for their core business, stick to it, and not get distracted. It’s very important to home in on one thing and begin to pivot from there.