Combining Augmented Reality and 3D printing, a new female-founded Chicago startup is taking a dive to compete against popular jewelry stores like Pandora with it’s faster, more accurate and personal virtual experience thanks to these disruptive technologies.
It’s not just an app and it’s not just another piece of jewelry. It’s an app with patented digital sizing API that can measure your ring size with 99% accuracy, and it’s metal jewelry that’s 3D printed. This startup was launched right here in Chicago’s 1871 incubator by two sisters who dropped out of law school to carry out what they realized will be the future of jewelry.
This new Chicago startup, De Rigueur Designs creates a personal virtual experience using the company’s BEZEL app, the first-ever augmented reality e-commerce platform.
“BEZEL revolutionizes the way the world buys rings,” said Casey Melvin, one of the founders, “This is just the beginning. We see the BEZEL platform growing into the idealized e-commerce marketplace where jewelry makers can showcase and sell their own designs.”
Wincy City Cosmo attended their beautiful launch party in Lincoln Park and sat down with one of the founders, Casey Melvin to learn more about this innovative approach to jewelry shopping and being a female entrepreneur.
The Melvin sisters were both in law school, but Casey Melvin recalled, “We saw this as an opportunity to lean in.”
After seeing the future of jewelry and coming up with this startup idea in February 2017, the sisters applied to a few incubators to develop their idea. Ultimately, they accepted a space at 1871 in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. Starting in June, they used 1871’s resources to guide them through their startup journey. They launched their company this fall.
“You have to be numb to asking people for help. It’s better than doing something poorly,” Casey Melvin said, “I applied to the 1871 incubator and it’s been a God Send. They do SEO, look at pitch deck, and numbers. They have mentors that pro bono volunteer their time.”
Using their personal network, the sisters also did cold emailing and reached out to their alumnus at Brown and Princeton.
“We said, ‘Hey, will you meet with me in Chicago.’ I met with 10. All of them had advice. One guy was 3D Printing diamonds – we were both in the startup stage. He was further along in the fundraising,” Casey Melvin explained.
After gaining insight into running a business, the sisters also had to learn about the technology and jewelry industry.
There are a few significant changes that 3D printing and AR brings to the table.
“Augmented Reality is a really cool place to be right now. AR is like a Snapchat feature. There’s a hand tracking algorithm that sees your hand [for sizing],” Casey Melvin explained.
Not only is this technology impacting the ability to scale, but also the quality of jewelry.
“Stainless steel is still durable and doesn’t oxidize or look cheap,” said Casey Melvin.
Usually, jewelry stores carry ring sizes 6,7, and 8. They have sizes 3 to 14.
“We invested in 3D models. We own 27 models per ring,” Casey Melvin added.
Casey Melvin described this cloud of doubt she felt being a new female entrepreneur, but attributes her success to listening to podcasts, reaching out to her network and joining the 1871 incubator in Chicago.
“There was this guy I met on LinkedIn,” Casey Melvin recalls about her outreach, “He was like, ‘3D Printing isn’t ready for jewelry.'”
“I don’t think he was mean, but they’ve never done it this way before,” she added.
With all of their outreach, the sisters used a few tools to make their messaging manageable. Some of those tools include Mailchimp, WordPress, and a virtual assistant to send email marketing for fundraising.
This year, the female founders have raised $100,000 through friends and alumni at their alma maters.
As for the future of this innovative jewelry company, Casey Melvin said, “We would love to open a store in Chicago. We’re not there yet.”