YOU’VE probably seen Wanderlust + Co’s jewels around, taking social media by storm. The Malaysian jewellery brand has built a growing global fanbase of customers, influencers and Hollywood A-listers alike.
Founder and managing director Jenn Low is one of those formidable entrepreneurs who has a keen eye for style and fuelled by passion and grit, is laser focused on achieving her dreams.
“I actually came up with the idea of starting Wanderlust + Co in my early 20s, while I was living and working in the fashion retail industry in Australia,” Low reveals. “I realised then that there wasn’t a wearable accessories brand that was on-trend yet affordable, and I dreamt of bridging that gap.
“I was really passionate about creating beautiful and elegant jewellery pieces at an affordable price point. This passion pushed me to design pieces based on intuition and individuality. I was keen to build a community embracing jewellery trends with greater accessibility and creating experiences where people could celebrate their individuality and personal sense of style through their accessories.”
Contrary to what you might imagine, Low doesn’t come from a long line of jewellery makers. In fact, she had never dealt with jewellery production before founding Wanderlust + Co (WCO).
“I started from scratch,” she shares. “At that time, the e-commerce world as we know it today – with apps like Shopify and Instagram and payment gateways like Stripe - didn’t exist. We only had PayPal. And the entire website was built on Blogspot and WordPress!”
In those early days, one of the brand’s ambitions was to grow from a small local business into building a strong global presence. Over the years the brand has seen tremendous commercial success, with its pieces being spotted on a long list of trend setters and top celebrities including Kendall Jenner, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, jumpstarting its rise to fame.
Low shares that WCO has come a long way as a brand since it started in 2012. “As we approach our 12th year anniversary this year, I am grateful for our wonderful community of brand friends, whom we fondly call our #WCOgirlgang.”
Intuition, individuality, sustainability
“Brands of the future,” Low explains, are much more than numbers and bottom lines - they are about customers and their values, identities and journeys.
“Our mission has always been to inspire and empower our customers with thoughtfully created pieces. It’s not just about looking good on the outside, we also want to design pieces that speak to our peoples’ values and aspirations. Today, we consciously create jewellery that is kind to your skin and the planet, aligned with the sustainability mission we began six years ago, along with our ethos of celebrating intuition and individuality.”
Low says it is the brand’s commitment to sustainability and its ethos that have been the differentiator to customers. She shares that even in the competitive e-commerce space, she is confident in the strength of the #WCOgirlgang community.
“We’ve had so much lovely feedback from our customers over the years who inspire us to rise up to the challenge of creating thoughtfully designed pieces that inspire joy while being kind to our planet.”
Currently, WCO plans to continue improving its manufacturing process in a mindful and sustainably-conscious manner. Low says: “We believe that beauty lies not only in the ‘end product’, but also in the journey of making it. We work with our factories to reduce wastage and recycle wherever possible. We hope that with the ongoing efforts and improved sustainable practices, we can make a difference.
“Socially-conscious customers are seeking authenticity and sustainable fashion wearables now, more than ever. We want to be able to create meaningful and well-loved products that they will enjoy for many years to come.”
WCO also works with suppliers and artisans who share their vision on committing to sustainable and renewable practices, transparency and global ethical trade standards. Its factories are SA 8000 and ISO14001 certified, supporting fair treatment and wages of employees, and each jewel piece is manufactured with recycled brass and low emission processes.
According to Low, pieces that hold meaningful stories behind them resonate most with WCO customers. “Our latest ‘Breathe Mantra Necklace’ and ‘Give It Time Necklace’, featuring uplifting mantras, have been our community’s favourite styles.”
One of the things that Low is especially proud of is the fact that WCO is a female-led company with a nearly 100% female team. As a strong advocate for female empowerment in the workplace, Low is committed to mentoring and coaching her team members to nurture their professional development.
“Developing and growing your team is not limited to particular moments or time periods” she shares. “Rather, it is creating and encouraging honest conversations and healthy challenges and collaboration. I strive to create an environment where my team is able to do their best work, whilst feeling supported and fulfilled. Being a compassionate leader is what matters most.”
Low believes that the future is female and hopes that young women find empowerment and belief within, so they can continue to be their best true selves and grow wherever they are in their journey.
The past two years have been pretty surreal having to navigate through the many uncertainties and changes we faced both as a business and as people throughout the pandemic, Low reveals.
“We had to pivot parts of our overall business strategy and day-to-day operations to optimise for more sustainable and flexible business practices,” she shares, adding that the pandemic also provided time to be introspective and reflective. “We’ve made it a priority to stay digitally connected with our global audience through Instagram Live sessions and Q&As.”
Some of the strategies WCO implemented focused on the wellbeing of its community, with forums and content on self-care and mental health, prioritising people and encouraging dialogue within its #WCOgirlgang community. Initiatives included a four-week series of Instagram Live sessions to support conversations around wellness, positivity and all things that sparked joy during the global lockdown.
“We’ve always believed in having a strong digital presence as the foundation of our brand strategy. We have focused on continually growing our awareness through innovative social media strategies and digital advertising. We are truly blessed to be living in a digital world, which gives us access to many great opportunities at our fingertips.
“As a digitally native brand with an omni-channel business that ships worldwide, we are also thankful to our stockists around the world, such as Revolve (US), John Lewis (Britain) and the Iconic (Australia), for helping us grow our global presence. We currently also have our pop-up store in Bangsar Village 2, in Kuala Lumpur,” Low says.
Recently, the growing WCO team of almost 30 strong moved into a brand new office, a zen-inspired space they fondly call WCO HQ 2.0. “Having been in our previous space for over eight years, the team and I are super excited to settle into our new home and can’t wait to see what the new chapter brings,” she added.
Making sense of the numbers
When it comes to handling the accounts, WCO has an in-house finance team of two, who work with their external financial advisors. Given the need to collaborate and share information, they needed a system that would help keep the business data organised, up to date and easily accessible.
“I was on the search for an accounting solution that was agile and easy-to-use,” Low says. That’s how Xero’s cloud accounting platform came into the picture. The WCO team has been using Xero now for about six years.
“At that time, we were migrating from Excel spreadsheets to the cloud. There was a lot of manual paperwork, which was time-consuming for the team. For me, Xero was an obvious choice when we were comparing systems. The beauty of Xero is the flexibility it provides to run the business from anywhere, be it work, home, or on the go. With Xero, we have been able to work remotely and manage our workflows more efficiently with sales, inventory and financial data syncing seamlessly from app to app fully integrated within our accounting platform. We also love how user-friendly it is, along with the strong customer support it offers.”
Low adds that Xero’s financial reporting functions make it easy to check on the business progress at a snapshot. Its multi-currency function also comes in super handy, making it easy to convert currency quickly – “at the snap of our fingers!”
This functionality makes the whole process very convenient with conversions done and updated automatically according to the daily currency rate. “This,” says Jenn, “is incredibly helpful especially since we deal with a variety of currencies as a cross-border brand. Being able to receive and send invoices and quotes in different currencies has really helped us with our efficiency.
“With Xero’s multi-currency conversion feature, it is easy to create reports or view all sales transactions in a specific currency of our choice. By seeing multiple currencies converted side by side, it gives us a real-time view of our foreign currency exposure.”
Low adds that through Xero, she can also track and manage fixed assets by setting up a register to record and depreciate them. “It doesn’t sound very sexy, but as a business, it’s incredibly important to understand your profit and loss (P&L) statement and balance sheet. With Xero, I can have a clear financial view of the business at any time.”
Brimming with charisma, compassion and creativity, along with the right digital tools and systems for them to grow and thrive, Wanderlust + Co is set to continue shining on a global stage.