In a variation on the adage that you are the average of the people you spend the most time with, Baby Gold cofounder and CEO Helen Ashikian counts certain people she’s known well as major influences on her career and life today.
To begin with, there’s her 90-year-old grandmother, who has always put on jewelry first thing in the morning. It’s Armenian tradition for family members to give one another jewelry for every major occasion, Ashikian says, so her grandmother’s jewelry and stories about each piece are part of her heritage.
Ashikian also cites the type A boss she had when she was a high school student in Burbank, Calif. Ashikian opened the salon every Saturday at 6:30 a.m., and the job also required her to manage appointments, merchandise orders, and demanding clients—skills she now uses on a daily basis.
Another major influence in Ashikian’s working life has been Richard Shapiro, an interior designer and antiques dealer, whom Ashikian says is a visionary. When she handled public relations and marketing for Shapiro’s firm, he taught her about design and showed her how to bring beauty into every place.
“My biggest takeaway from that experience was: The people you work with and the environment you work in are sometimes more important at driving your own personal success than the actual work at hand,” Ashikian says.
So how did she transition from working in communications to jewelry? Through love, of course. Around the time Ashikian left Shapiro’s studio, her soon-to-be husband, Michael—they were engaged and planning their “big fat Armenian wedding,” she says—asked her to join his family’s jewelry manufacturing business.
“At the time, the recession had hit and gold prices had skyrocketed. All the major manufacturers were trying to cash out and leave the business,” Ashikian says. “This was of no interest to the Ashikians, but we had to figure out a way to stay afloat and sustain jobs for 80 loyal employees.”
The couple married in 2010, and together they diversified the business to include celebrity-led costume jewelry brands as well as fine jewelry. Today, Ashikian Jewelry Group is one of the largest private-label jewelry manufacturing houses in the country, Ashikian says.
“Working with so many different brands at once, I realized a very distinct void in the marketplace,” Ashikian says. “If you wanted a customizable piece of jewelry for you or your baby, you have two options. One is a mom-and-pop store where they cut the name on gold plate or hand-engrave a name on an ID bar. Or you can go to a mall kiosk and get a similar process done.
“Millennial moms and women didn’t have anywhere to go to get personalized jewelry that fit our aesthetic and lifestyle. That’s when I had the idea to start Baby Gold.”
Before it was a brand name, Baby Gold was the nickname Ashikian’s clients called her daughter Olivia Eva when she brought her to work with her. Since its debut in 2018, the brand has sold more than 8,000 of its custom name necklace, its bestselling item, Ashikian says. All Baby Gold pieces are made in the company’s Los Angeles factory, and many are based on Ashikian’s personal jewelry collection.
She made the decision to start her own brand fast, but knows it was the right move. “Looking back, I never really knew what I was doing until I actually did it,” Ashikian says. “I’m definitely not an overthinker, and I take action very quickly. For better or for worse I have learned how to use this skill to my advantage. Picking a spouse, launching a business, having kids, picking a career, buying a home—these are big decisions to make, but sometimes overthinking these decisions causes missed opportunities.
“My husband and I have been able to create a brand we are very proud of. Our staff and employees are truly like family to us, and we believe in valuing people first above all,” Ashikian adds. “We love that our vision gets to become the driving force and livelihood for so many people in our community.”
Top: Helen Ashikian started the company Baby Gold to create personalized pieces for millennial moms like herself who want to mark important moments with jewelry. (Photos courtesy of Baby Gold)@jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine