I am the brand - Kristine Wong
Does putting yourself out there—name, face and reputation—come naturally for the millennial entrepreneur? And is running a business any easier if you’re a famous face or come from a prominent family? Jolene Khor hears what Kristine Wong has to say about running her namesake label.
It is uncommon to meet someone you would describe as genuinely nice, much less a budding entrepreneur who has had all the wonderful things in life most can only dream of. Kristine Wong, the face and name behind—or rather in front of—Kristine Wong Fine Jewels smiles, expresses her gratitude and graciously returns the compliment. “So are you,” she says without a hint of sarcasm.
Her father, Alfred Wong, is the managing director of Noel Gifts International, a successful business that has afforded Kristine a life of luxury. But just as money never defined her family, she aspires to the same humility. “My parents know what it means to have it hard,” she shares. “It didn’t matter though; my mum still kept lunch money in my bag for emergencies—in case I forgot mine or if my friends didn’t have enough.”
As helpful as her father’s success has been to the growth of her own five-year-old label, the real perk is not the financial and moral support from investor connections, she explains. It’s not the quilted bags or the diamond earrings either. “I’ve been so fortunate,” she gushes of her true blessings. “Not only have my parents given me everything, and I mean everything, but both their friends and mine have also been nothing short of supportive.”
For an eponymous online brand of bespoke jewellery that specialises in engagement rings, wedding bands, rare diamonds and gemstones, the last thing Kristine wants is to appear snobbish or narcissistic. Her worries dissipated when she thought of the names she admired. “There’s no shame in small beginnings. My favourite brands Harry Winston, Cartier and labels with Asian roots like Alexander Wang and Jimmy Choo remind me that we all have to start somewhere.” If anything, Kristine feels that using her name puts her brand at more at risk of criticism because the expectation is higher, but she thrives on it. “Without criticism, we don’t grow and we don’t learn. As long as my values stay with me and I’m as sincere as my brand is trustworthy, there is no reason why my name can’t be as big as theirs.”