Nazlia Yunus never expected to become an entrepreneur. She always planned to pursue a career in medicine.
But life had other plans, and the Houston resident is now running a one-woman jewelry business called Chvker (pronounced “choker”), a juggernaut that took off after she promoted her gold-plated and gold-filled chokers to Instagram influencers.
The home-based business has brought in $600,000 in revenue this year, and is on track to hit $1 million, she says.
“It happened by accident,” says Yunus, 22.
Yunus says she’s always been “crafty” and made jewelry as a girl. “If I got stuck, I would watch YouTube videos,” she says.
Yunus returned to that interest with a passion when she moved to College Station, Texas to attend Blinn College and study psychology, with a minor in biology.
It was a lonely time for Yunus, a first-generation American whose family immigrated from Uzbekistan. “I had a hard time fitting in,” she says—but she was determined to find a positive way to cope. A $20 purchase of jewelry supplies at Michael’s got her started on her business.
“I said, ‘I’m going to channel this energy and do something with it,’” she says.
Then 18-years-old, Yunus began making chokers to sell on Etsy, the giant crafts marketplace. “I’ve always loved chokers since I was a little girl,” she says.
After college, she returned to living with her mother in Houston, working as a restaurant hostess and in the office of an apartment complex to pay her bills. With more time to devote to the business, she was able to grow it more rapidly and, as sales picked up, opened a store on Shopify, where she sold necklaces and earrings. As she brought in revenue, she invested in Facebook and Instagram ads.
Gradually, Yunus began to reach out to Instagram influencers, asking if they would like to wear a few pieces. Some of them shared pictures of her work with their followers. Influencers such as Cierra Ramirez, Rebecca Black, Gabby Epstein, and Sierra Furtado have worn her jewelry, she says.
“If an influencer posted, I would see growth,” she says. “It was very slow and steady.”
Last year, by using this strategy, Yunus brought in $260,000 and turned a profit. “I’m learning this as I go along,” she says.
Currently, Yunus produces all of the jewelry herself, working from the afternoon to the evening to make her designs and packing and dropping orders off at the Post Office in the morning. Throughout the day she posts picutres of her designs on Instagram.
“I hope to, in the future, hire people to produce the jewelry and package it,” she says. “Hopefully, I’ll move to manufacturing. The possibilities are endless.”
Yunus says her biggest mistake so far has been not asking for help. “I’d always try to figure things out on my own,” she says. She has gradually learned to turn to friends for advice on unfamiliar tasks, like forming an LLC.
After graduating, Yunus gave herself a year to see if the business would succeed. Now there’s no doubt about that.
“I feel like it’s growing at a very good rate,” she says. “I hope to keep on growing it.”