‘Yay! It’s 11am and we have some really good news. We went to the drawing board with Chantal Janzen to design a very pretty pinky ring. We ourselves are big fans of this design, and of course Chantal is too. We are excited to hear what you think of it. And if you want to order it: quickly go to our website!”
In a vlog on YouTube, from December 2020, identical twin sisters Esther and Anne Vedder (33), from the jewelery line Vedder & Vedder, talk about their – at the time – latest jewellery. This is one of the ways they do business: on social media and in collaboration with famous people.
To influencer marketing is now ubiquitous. In recent years, it has become the way to advertise. But when the sisters started it in 2016 – also with Chantal Janzen – they had never heard of it. “We just sent Chantal a gold necklace with the first word from her son James, ‘mama’. Then she posted it on Instagram with our name on it,” says Anne from their office and studio in Amsterdam East. “Wow, it worked well. The followers and requests poured in.”
Six years later, Vedder & Vedder, which sells personal jewelery by, among other things, engraving names, handwriting and fingerprints into jewellery, has grown into a company with a million turnover (9 million euros in 2020, in their own words “more) than 10 million” in 2022). The women have 60 employees. Within a few days of Chantal Janzen’s Instagram post, Carice van Houten was at the door: if she could also pick up a piece of jewelry. “We thought we were being tricked,” says Esther. “But suddenly she was in our office, between the boxes.”
The two were only recently at their former office, also in Amsterdam East, and “small”. They had just finished their studies in Communication Sciences at the Free University of Amsterdam (Do they do many things alike? Both with a resounding: “Yes.”) and had decided to turn their informal jewelry business into a real business.
Jewelery making workshops
They had already started doing this during their studies: when they were still children, their mother held jewelry workshops, and they often accompanied her. From the age of 15, the sisters started holding workshops themselves. Practical when they moved from Nijkerk to Amsterdam to study: instead of sitting behind the cash register, they sold home-made jewelery to fellow students.
After graduation, both received a gold necklace from their mother. Esther: “So we thought: how nice would it be if her handwriting was on it?” She has such beautiful handwriting, even a note on the table saying ’empty the dishwasher’ looks beautiful.” Engraving a handwriting was not so easy, so they decided to learn it themselves – also with a view to selling. This is how the idea for a jewelry line with only personal products was born.
The sisters founded Vedder & Vedder with their own money – it wasn’t much: the last student grant they got. “We had to send our intern away because we couldn’t even afford her lunch.” Financial help came from a family friend who bought in a sum of 10,000 euros for 10 percent of the shares. The sisters have had those shares in their own hands again since July. It was not without a fight: they initially did not agree with the family friend on the buyout price. A good lesson, says Esther now, which she is happy to pass on to other young entrepreneurs. “You don’t expect it to be a multi-million dollar business. It’s good to consider that possibility as well. Ask for expert advice when it comes to contracts.”
In the beginning, there were no lawyers in team Vedder: there were only two of them. Anne built the website – “it took some time tutorials” – and Esther took care of the jewellery. She could already design, but she had to learn to engrave. “I hung over such a device for hours during courses.” They couldn’t pay the staff. But the strategic collaborations with celebrities did their job. They now work with greats such as the singer Rita Ora, the top model Romee Strijd and soon also the top model Chrissy Teigen.
They met the latter in April this year in Los Angeles, where they launched a festival collection at the Coachella music festival. Anne: “Our manager was in contact with Chrissy. We didn’t expect much from it, but she was an instant fan. Suddenly an email came: would it be nice if we came by, if we had any dietary requirements? Then suddenly we’ll be there as two girls from Nijkerk.”
The two still design themselves, with the support of a design team. No more engraving. Esther: “I recently tried to help with engraving because it was very busy. I was almost fired by my own team.” Beneath the office in Amsterdam East is the studio, where the goldsmiths, etchers and polishers (without exception young women – “it’s not a policy, but men don’t apply”) bend over gold, silver and gilded jewellery.
Esther and Anne believe in “visualizing dreams and goals”. “When we started the book The secret one thing,” says Esther.
Anne, to Esther: “Yes, you started reading it then and took me along.”
Esther: “It has truly become our religion: manifesting to achieve your greatest dreams.”
Anne: “You have to be willing to work eighty hours and give it your all.”
Vedder & Vedder is for sale in several European countries, including Germany, Belgium and England. The US is their next target, there are even plans to temporarily relocate. “It’s good to sit there for a while and talk to the right people.” There is no concrete date yet, but it is already on theirs vision board. “How specific do you want it to be?”