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A touching business venture: Turning grief into gratitude

After the loss of his wife to breast cancer, Sergio Andrés Mendoza sought to inspire women the same way they inspired him

Summary

Sergio Andrés Mendoza’s wife lost her battle with breast cancer, but her strength and hope stays with Mendoza to this day. He strives to make every woman feel as beautiful and powerful as the women in his life. With the help of credit cards, Mendoza is on a mission to inspire every woman – one ring at a time.

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Sergio Andrés Mendoza

Sergio Andrés Mendoza

Florida resident Sergio Andrés Mendoza went from software designer to designing jewelry. An interesting switch, to say the least, but it wasn’t without cause.

Mendoza’s wife, Sarah, was battling breast cancer at the time, which put life in perspective for the young designer.

“Mortality has a way of crystallizing what is important,” says Mendoza. “I asked myself, ’What should be my personal mission? How can I be my best self? What should my legacy be?’ Then I realized that I expected more of myself and believed I was capable of more.”

And so, in Sarah’s honor, Mendoza founded Pharaoun Cocktail Rings. Through this business, he expresses his love and respect to those he adores.

“I find that in the chaos of every day, women forget themselves, their strength, their beauty, and their independence,” says Mendoza. “My hope is that each of my rings inspires the woman wearing it to be the best version of herself. A cocktail ring is not like other jewelry. It’s beautiful, yes, but more importantly, a cocktail ring should be personal. The best symbolizes your relationship with yourself.”

Sadly, Sarah passed away in 2017. In response, Mendoza gifted rings to hundreds of women the following year. An unconventional business move, perhaps, but the gesture made him happy.

Mendoza was able to translate his grief into gratitude as he developed his unique and thriving jewelry enterprise. Here’s how credit cards have allowed him to keep his clients’ fingers bejeweled and their hearts full.

See related: Business credit cards and the sweet smell of success

What was your beginning like?

Changing your life and creating something from a dream is hard but not impossible. I have been surprised how relevant the lessons of the startup software world have been as I apply them to jewelry. I dive deep into problems, structure everything as a test and measure what matters.

How did you finance the business?

With no experience in the jewelry industry, almost all my costs have been a surprise. I had some savings from my previous career that I used, but credit cards have been an essential part of building Pharaoun. Without them, I would not have been able to move forward as quickly as I have. If I had to wait for cash flow at every step, it would take me much longer to achieve my goals. I’m cash efficient, but I use credit cards to make the purchases.

Which credit cards do you have and how are you putting them to work?

Pharaoun Cocktail Rings

I have an American Express Green Card and a Citi Simplicity Card. They’re personal cards, but I also use them for the business. When I first started out, I charged a lot of jewelry books, as well as Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction catalogs, so I could study the classics. I didn’t have a background in jewelry design, so I had to learn everything myself.

I knew I wanted to design my own rings, which is a huge investment. I had to develop relationships, buy many things and open a workshop.

Now, I also use the credit cards to do things like buy airline tickets so I can be present in the factory. It’s just a really expensive business because there are so many specialized steps in the production of handcrafted jewelry. I have to be there. Quality is the number one priority. Each step needs to be executed perfectly or the piece is irretrievably damaged – and when that happens, I am not able to recover the value from that ring.

Inventory management is my most challenging cash problem. The production of my jewelry requires a long lead time and a lot of money. I try to stay ahead of my inventory needs, but I need to sell rings to pay for the next production run. Easy access to money from my credit cards is a fantastic way to make sure I can meet my business goals.

See related: The Amex Green Card is 61: Is a refresh coming?

Are you usually leveraged or do you remain debt-free?

I try to put things on the cards that I know I can pay in a reasonable amount of time, which for me is before the interest starts up. If I can’t pay it off by then, I use savings. It’s easy to get into debt, but really difficult to get out of it. I’m able to stay in the clear because I buy based on what I sell.

What are the future plans for the business?

I am just getting started with Pharaoun Cocktail Rings. My goal is to make women feel stronger, more beautiful and more independent when they wear my rings – to be a better version of themselves. There are about 1,000 women with my rings today, and I am excited to share them with many more.

I believe I will always focus on cocktail rings. I’m also involved in charity auctions where I donate my rings. I designed a ring where 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It’s one way I can help fight cancer. It’s for my wife and my daughter. And I want to continue to do more of this in the future.

Any advice to people considering opening a business?

Figure out what you should be doing with your life and ask yourself if it’s time to change. It’s a really important question.

My decision came out of goal setting. What did I want to accomplish? For me, it was about honoring women by designing rings they would love.

You have to find the thing you really want to do and then seek out the opportunities that will help you get there. Yes, your goal should be to make money, but I believe a good business starts with knowing what is important to you. It needs to represent who you are.

As for borrowing money, it needs to be treated with as much consideration as every other aspect of your business. Just because it may be easy to access does not mean it should be a decision that is made lightly.

What’s up next?

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Published: July 1, 2019

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