A Founder’s Journey Includes Chasing More Than Money With Jordan Cullen

A Founder’s Journey Includes Chasing More Than Money With Jordan Cullen

VENTEUR spoke with Jordan Cullen, Founder and Director of Cullen Jewellery, Australia’s fastest-growing jeweler. Cullen Jewellery specializes in timeless and bespoke lab-grown diamond and moissanite engagement rings.

Under Cullen’s leadership, Cullen Jewellery has become a leading ethical and accessible brand for premium engagement rings. By being digital-first and exclusively using lab-grown gemstones, Cullen Jewellery has disrupted an established mined diamond industry known for its intimidating nature and high social and environmental costs.

Cullen founded Cullen Jewellery at age 23 in 2018 to offer moissanite engagement rings to conscious consumers. He initially faced long odds with overcoming a rural, albeit peaceful, upbringing on a dairy farm. Now, he has guided Cullen Jewellery to become an innovative 8-figure small business that invests significantly in new technology and its people. Cullen Jewellery also gives back to communities in need.

Jordan Cullen, Founder and Director of Cullen Jewellery

The Journey

The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?

The importance of humility. Humble leaders can take good ideas from those around them and admit when they have made a mistake. They consult others before making decisions, can focus more on their business goals rather than their ego, and do not feel the need to protect their reputation imprudently. As a result, humility is an essential quality for any entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs start with humility, but it can be lost along the way as success starts to come. 

The danger here is that for many business owners, their success is based on luck to a large extent. If we are honest with ourselves, even though we have made many good decisions, there is this element of being in the right place at the right time. Where pride can be such a downfall is when entrepreneurs think that they know it all because they have done something well, which then facilitates decisions based on the underestimation of failure. 

A humble leader can take criticism well, learn from others around them, and be grateful for their success. In today’s world, where it seems like everyone is trying to one-up each other, humility can be a breath of fresh air.

The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur? 

Being an entrepreneur is undoubtedly a unique experience and one that can sometimes be lonely. After all, only a few people can understand the stress of uncertainty that comes with running a business or the excitement of overcoming challenges. However, in many other industries, people have similar experiences and can find common ground in ways I can’t, given my responsibilities. 

On the one hand, you are your boss and in control of your destiny. But on the other hand, you don’t have the built-in support system that comes with working for a company. 

This can be isolating, but it also can have its advantages. People are generally very interested in what you do and want to know how it works. This can be great for networking and building relationships. But these are not usually conversations that can go deep and get into the details. That’s why it’s so important to have friends who are also entrepreneurs. These people understand your unique challenges and can offer support on a deeper level. Having these kinds of friends is essential for maintaining your mental health and keeping your business on track.

The Psychological Warfare 

Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur? 

As anyone who has ever started a business knows, being an entrepreneur requires tremendous work. In addition to the long hours, there is also the constant stress of trying to keep everything moving forward. 

As the director, I am responsible for all the decisions that are made in the business and for the job security of my staff (some of which are my own family and friends), which can sometimes be quite stressful and time-consuming. 

My faith has played a prominent role in eliminating this stress and has taught me to be patient, persevere through difficult times, and always be grateful for what I have. I have also found that focusing on my business’ positive aspects is valuable to overcoming these challenges. Reminding myself of why I started my company in the first place and keeping my eye on the goal helps me to push through the tough times. 

I also make sure to take time for myself outside of work. Spending time with family and friends, exercising, and pursuing hobbies helps me to stay balanced and focused on what is truly important.

What is the most unrelatable part of being an entrepreneur, how does this impact your mental health, and why?

For me, money is the most unrelatable part of my entrepreneurial experience. Business success is often measured by the amount of profit the business generates. Given that, as the director, this is one of my main focuses, it can be hard to celebrate successes with friends and family as the topic is often touchy and taboo. In addition, it can cause tensions between family and friends and come across as condescending or rude to talk in this sense. This makes communicating success and hardship challenging within your close circles and can be isolating. 

It can also cause division, jealousy, competitiveness, insincerity, and expectations—all things that are hard to juggle when trying to cultivate strong relationships. However, because I am not motivated by wealth (beyond my job as the director to improve the business’ profitability), it is much easier for me to keep strong relationships. 

Interestingly, my values often contradict society’s pressure to chase money. It’s a challenging balance to maintain, but I think it’s essential to be honest about the trade-offs we make to pursue our goals. Otherwise, we risk losing sight of what truly matters to us.

Another Perspective

Video response provided by Isa de Burgh, CEO at The Social Tale

The Mistakes

What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid them?

First, it’s vital to be wholeheartedly committed to your business. However, this doesn’t mean you should try to do everything yourself. For example, when I started my business, I quickly realized that I couldn’t handle all the tasks alone. Not only was I spread too thin, but I also couldn’t give any task my full attention. As a result, things started to slip through the cracks, and my business began to suffer. I’ve since learned that it’s better to focus on a few key tasks and delegate the rest.

Second, as an entrepreneur, I quickly learned that time is money. I was young and eager to grow my business, so I outsourced many tasks to employees in other countries. It was a mistake. Not only did I not value the monetary value of time, but I also didn’t consider the cultural differences that can come with working with someone from another country. It was a costly mistake that cost me both money and time. Indeed, by offshoring and outsourcing, it can take longer to go to market. By understanding the value of time and being mindful of cultural differences, entrepreneurs can avoid making the same mistake. 

Third, one of the worst mistakes you can make is centralizing strategy-making and siloing your staff. The former can be disempowering and unsustainable. Similarly, when you silo your staff, you create an environment where each team or department works in a vacuum without understanding or considering the goals and objectives of the other teams. This can lead to several problems, such as duplication of effort, lack of communication, and a loss of productivity. You must encourage collaboration and communication between yourself and all teams from the beginning to avoid these problems.

What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?

First, being an entrepreneur requires a lot of work and dedication. It would help if you were always learning and investigating new ways to improve your business. This is why it’s crucial never to undervalue the importance of continual improvement. There are always new things to learn, whether about your industry, target market, or product. By continually improving, you’ll be able to keep your business fresh and relevant. Not only will this help you attract new customers, but it will also keep your existing customers coming back for more. 

Second, a common pitfall for entrepreneurs is to avoid spending money. Often, this stems from a fear of incurring debt or overspending on unnecessary things. However, in many cases, it is essential to spend money to differentiate oneself from the competition. For example, let’s say you’re starting a new business in a crowded market. You may need to invest in better-quality materials, hire more experienced staff, or lease better office space to stand out. While cutting corners to save money may be tempting, doing so could ultimately hurt your business in the long run. 

Third, some entrepreneurs expect rapid results for low effort. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that there is no such thing as overnight success. It takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn lessons to achieve lasting success. This is especially true in the early stages of a business when there are often more challenges than successes. Expecting fast results for minimal effort can often lead to frustration and disillusionment. Instead, it is important to set realistic goals and be prepared to put in the long hours necessary to achieve them. 

Jordan Cullen, Founder and Director of Cullen Jewellery

The Successes

What are three seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?

First, establishing myself with no investment was a seemingly insurmountable obstacle when I started my business. I didn’t have the money to hire staff or buy significant inventory, so I had to get creative. I decided to specialize in one niche and do one product better than anyone else. I also turned to social media to help get my message out there. I began creating an online presence and used it to drive traffic to my website and generate leads. These efforts allowed me to overcome the initial challenges and get my business off the ground. 

Second, in the early days of my business, I needed more experience with technology. I was trying to start a company in the Internet era but didn’t know how to build a website or write code. This lack of technical knowledge was a huge obstacle because I had to outsource my company’s website development work. As a result, I went offshore and was quickly taken advantage of by incompetent professionals who took longer. Ultimately, I overcame this by learning to hire the right people no matter the cost. Now, we have launched a state-of-the-art website to much fanfare.

Third, as an entrepreneur, working with family and friends is one of the most difficult challenges. In many cases, these relationships are built on trust and mutual respect. However, when working together on a business venture, it can be all too easy for misunderstandings and disagreements to arise. This can put a strain on even the strongest of relationships. One way to overcome this obstacle is to set clear boundaries and expectations. By doing so, you can help to avoid conflict and ensure that everyone is on the same page. 

The Advice

What three key pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey more manageable, and why?

First, as anyone who has started their own business knows, there is a lot to learn. Successful entrepreneurs must wear many hats, from marketing and accounting to product development and human resources. And while it’s essential to have a general understanding of all these different facets of business, it’s just as important to have a deep understanding of one or two key areas. 

Second, I was so focused on getting my business off the ground that I delayed hiring qualified staff. However, this can be a costly mistake. Without adequate support, companies can quickly become overwhelmed and begin to falter. By hiring qualified staff early on, entrepreneurs can take advantage of the knowledge and skill sets of others. This can free up time to focus on other aspects of the business, such as marketing and product development. Additionally, qualified staff can help to provide an objective perspective, which can be invaluable when making decisions about the future of the business.

Finally, in the early stages of a startup, it’s easy to get caught up in the need to create a flashy website or produce eye-catching marketing materials. However, this superficial focus can be costly and ultimately detrimental to the company’s growth. Instead, it’s far more critical to focus on developing a solid product, which would have made my entrepreneurial journey easier. Once you have a product that meets a real need and provides value to customers, marketing will become much more manageable. Customers will spread the word about your company, and you’ll have a much stronger foundation to build your brand.

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