Jennifer Meng ’13: Founder of Ready-Made Jewelry
by Victoria Ho '24
Wellesley alumna Jennifer Meng ’13 founded Ready-Made Jewelry in 2018 with a goal of establishing a jewelry brand that could be both high quality and affordable. Her jewelry stands out for its emphasis on sustainability and nontraditional — that is, waterproof and safe-for-skin — materials, which are used to create bold yet minimalistic designs. Jennifer spoke with us about her path to creating Ready-Made Jewelry, what inspires her designs, and the future of her brand.
VH: Why did you want to start a jewelry brand?
JM: I’ve always loved jewelry, from the plastic pieces I saved up for from the quarter machines when I was young to the faceted gemstone beads in the markets in Taipei where I grew up to small pieces my mom gifted to me for milestones. I’m really drawn to the sentimentality of jewelry, and how it can tell a story. I’m also really drawn to its size. From a practical business point of view, jewelry is much easier to package and ship and store. I think most of all, though, is I noticed that, unlike other products, jewelry in itself is like an end-product; branding for a jewelry brand relies almost entirely on its value or its perceived luxury. Once a consumer receives a piece of jewelry, that’s kind of it. I just wanted something more fun, a jewelry brand with merch, a jewelry brand with stickers and a pen and other goodies. A website with an interactive component. I wanted to create a lifestyle jewelry brand instead of just designing jewelry.
VH: Can you describe how you started your jewelry business?
JM: The trickiest part of launching Ready-Made was figuring out how to prioritize the brand messaging. We launched with a nostalgic collection that was 90s inspired and I had to figure out how to balance the design with the brand ethos of being a different category of affordable jewelry. I was already familiar with manufacturing having founded two previous jewelry brands (a vintage brand and an earlier one that never went to market), so after completing the manufacturing cycle, I printed packaging and other assets, had the website made, created an Instagram, cold emailed a bunch of press, and just went from there. The first collection wasn’t successful. It was about eight months later when we launched our minimal, everyday pieces when Ready-Made took off.
VH: For me, one thing that is so unique about your brand is the material that you use. How did you decide on the materials of your jewelry? How did you discover them, especially considering that the materials are extremely nontraditional for a jewelry brand?
JM: Thank you so much! Materials are a priority at Ready-Made. The jewelry industry hasn’t really changed or had much innovation beyond going direct to consumer. Materials and pricing are also opaque and very tricky to navigate, both for the consumer and the seller. Value and the perception of value are also a headache. I started thinking about the idea of “high quality.” What does high quality mean? To me, it meant jewelry that is sturdy and well made, waterproof, safe to skin, and sustainable. I also wanted our pieces to be affordable after hitting all those points. Because traditional manufacturing processes like gold plating were not environmentally friendly, not to mention that gold is mined and relies on a market value, I had to look beyond at other industries that put their materials through a lot but are also very safe for human use, namely the aerospace and medical manufacturing industries. What are surgical instruments or surgical implants made out of? What kind of coatings do rocket parts have?
"What does high quality mean? To me, it meant jewelry that is sturdy and well made, waterproof, safe to skin, and sustainable."
VH: Can you describe what a day in your life looks like?
JM: I wake up at 6 to read and write (I just started a graduate writing program this Fall). Around 8:30, I check emails and go over the schedule for the day. 9 am is when the workday officially starts, so the whole team Slacks a “Good Morning!” to each other, which I always look forward to. Due to COVID, we go into the office on separate days so if it’s my day to go in, I’ll try to be in by 11 am depending on if I need to have a Zoom meeting before I leave. I’m probably on my third cup of coffee by now. What I do in the afternoon really depends on the priorities for the week, ranging from photography to outreach to brainstorming sessions to designing. I have two more cups of coffee. The workday officially ends at 5 pm, so we say bye to each other. I’ll probably stay at the office to around 10 pm just because I can’t be in daily and I’ll be sure to clean the office (yes, I am in charge of this, too!). Pre-Covid, I’d leave around 6 pm and do any remaining work at home. The nighttime is when I’m checking in with our manufacturers overseas and doing more planning.
VH: What has been your favorite part of running Ready-Made? Do you have any memorable events or experiences that stand out?
JM: My favorite part has been watching Ready-Made grow and becoming more sure of myself and the decisions I make. It’s a lot of trial and error, so to see a little positivity means the world. I’ve really enjoyed everyone we’ve worked with — hairstylists, makeup artists, models. The two campaign photoshoots we did in the early stage of the business were extraordinary fun. I’m also very lucky to have had great interns who still keep in touch. My current team is also amazing, and they’ve been with Ready-Made since the very beginning, one currently started as an intern.
VH: What inspires your jewelry designs? Do you make your designs for your target audience specifically, and if so, who is the target audience for Ready-Made?
JM: My aesthetic is bold-minimal, but our designs are also really informed by our materials and technology. It just happens that my aesthetic fits our process. We could get really intricate if we wanted to, but that requires more time than traditional jewelry manufacturing, and I think our target audience doesn’t want to wait. Our target audience is women between the ages of 18 to 36. Our reach is split right down the middle, exactly half our customers are within 18-24, and the other half within 25-36.
VH: As a Wellesley alumna, how did your time at Wellesley shape your career and path?
JM: In every way possible! Wellesley really defined ambition for me and, more importantly, what ambition requires. The people I met at Wellesley showed me that dreaming big is totally okay, but being practical is, too. I also was much more ready to disregard societal pressures of being a woman, especially having grown up in Asia. I’m more inclined to take risks simply because I want to.
VH: Currently, Ready-Made is exclusively online. Would you ever want to move to brick and mortar retail, or even implement a pop-up shop as part of your plans for the future of the brand?
JM: Brick and mortar is a tough, contractual game, and I’d love to look into that once Ready-Made reaches a certain milestone (maybe wide domestic brand recognition). We’d definitely start with a pop-up shop first. The physical experience is really fitting because Ready-Made is about the experience. How fun would it be if there were photo ops (especially since we have an outer space, otherworldly theme) and stickers and enamel pins that customers could have access to immediately. I love the idea. I guess I’ll be brainstorming tonight.
To follow Ready-Made Jewelry, head over to their website and social media pages:
Photo of Jennifer Meng courtesy of Okay, but what do you do? All other photos courtesy of Ready-Made Jewelry.