LA FOI JEWELRY: Faith brings inclusivity to a new brand

LA FOI JEWELRY was founded in 2021 by Darden alum Liana Lei. Born and raised in a small city in China, Liana grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and learned at an early age that nothing worthwhile comes easy. Her Dad used to tell her in order to add value and impact society, there will be trials and errors but if you love what you do, it will pay off. She began her own entrepreneurial venture when LA FOI, meaning “faith” in French, was born. Although Liana has experienced challenges in her early entrepreneurial journey, she distilled the lessons learned from each pitfall and launched the mission-driven jewelry brand to empower women in various industries. She and the co-founders, Eko Liu and Annie Shen, decided it was time to create a jewelry brand with a better meaning and a deeper level of inclusivity.

Unlike other jewelry brands, LA FOI focuses on affordability and sustainability. The rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and hair accessories are constructed of brass, copper, and crystals. These products are adjustable from sizes 6-10, which aligns with their zero-waste policy, and are priced under $60. The brand goes far beyond fit and price. Liana endeavorsto support fellow women by donating 10% of profit to  different women-focused foundations,including Stem for Her, Global Fund for Women, Anita B, Mental Health America, Fund for Homeless, and African Women’s Development Fund. In a saturated market, Liana’s goal is to show young professionals that you can look stylish and radiate confidence while supporting fellow women. Liana says, “I want to make charitable actions more accessible to everyone and educate people on their unleashed power of simply being mindful of what to buy.

Liana has spent her summer with the UVA i. Lab incubator growing her skills and expanding her business. She admits being self-accountable can be difficult at times, but the program has driven her to do more. By week 3 of the program, Liana had a third of the inventory accounted for and introduced a retail omnichannel with cross-social platforms (Pinterest, Facebook store, and Instagram store) to drive online traffic to LA FOI Jewelry's official website and expand to local stores for offline presence and increased brand awarenes. She engaged with the Shopify Logistics team and Pinterest Marketing Managers to learn best practice. With the help of Craig Honick, mentor assigned by Jason Brewster, Director of iLab Incubator program, Liana sharpened her storytelling skills and conveyed a more convincing message with her updated website, including adding specific chats with the jewelry designers behind the scene and revealing the importance of each women foundation and why LA FOI chose them.

Liana says “being an entrepreneur is about staying on your toes and pivoting directions when needed.” Having those in the program with the same mindset helped her climb hurdles and achieve progress organizationally. Throughout the 10-week incubator program, Liana  scaled the business than initially anticipated. She hosted two successful pop-up shops with an additional $700+ in revenue and secured a long-term partnership with a local boutique to boost LA FOI’s offline presence. With help of the summer cohort, Emily Ashtiani and Wynston Archer modeled for this summer's best-selling collection. By week 6, Liana was able to bootstrap a high-quality photo shoot with over 200 edited photos to upgrade the current official Instagram account and launch their very own Pinterest board. LA FOI sold its first lab-grown diamond and by the end of the summer, the LAFOI_Jewelry Instagram account  reached over 1000 followers, which is a great milestone for such a startup in a crowded market.

Looking forward, LA FOI plans to continue to grow organically by adding a new collection to the current six: The Rainbow, Vintage, Grande, Eclat, Essential, and Together collection. She is currently working closely with the designers and women supporting foundations in preparation for the next collection to be revealed in Q1 2023.  She hopes to have her consumers personally choose the next foundation to give back to in the near future and increase the engagement between female jewelry designers, women foundations, and caring customers.