How She’s Managing: IO Collective Founder Jenifer Thai

Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’ll be checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt glean shareable tips and tricks for a better and more productive quarantine (and for some, reopening).

Today we hear from Jenifer Thai, founder of Los Angeles–based IO Collective, who is sheltered in place with her new baby girl, who was born on March 9.

JCK: L.A. is still under stay-at-home guidelines—who are you quarantined with?

Jenifer Thai: I’m working in my home office sheltering in place with my husband, daughter, two dogs, and my brother-in-law. It’s not a bad deal!

Congrats on the new baby! How has it been having a new baby and being sheltered in place? 

I think this happened at a perfect time for me, as shelter in place [mirrors] a newborn’s lifestyle. However, it’s been quite a challenge trying to get work done with a newborn and no help!

Jenifer Thai baby
Jenifer Thai’s 2-month-old daughter making cuteness look effortless

Describe the work you’ve been doing since the lockdown: Are you designing? Are you able to cast pieces? 

For the first month, I wasn’t working much, only planning and answering emails here and there. But since COVID-19 we shut down the office [based in downtown Los Angeles], and I’ve been working two to three mornings a week in my home office. I’m only able to design and gem source at the moment. Things were too rushed, and I wasn’t able to set up a proper workbench at home. I have a handful of items that can be shipped, so I’ve been actively updating the website with current inventory.

How has the pandemic changed the way you’re working?

The pandemic has changed my work a lot. For instance, I’m being a lot more creative online and spending less on marketing—I’m doing it myself. Also, since I have more time to work on customer service, I’ve been much more attentive to my clients and their needs.

Jenifer Thai IO Collective
Above and top: Jenifer Thai, founder of IO Collective, with her daughter at home in Los Angeles
Jenifer Thai work space
Thai’s home work space 

What are your biggest challenges right now with your company?

The biggest challenge at the moment is being able to fill orders, as our vendors are also shut down.

Have there been silver linings to being quarantined for your working or personal life?

Yes, it’s helped me focus and move my company in a more manageable direction, especially with a newborn! [It’s been] a reminder for me to slow down and tackle all the tasks that I’ve wanted to do and make changes in the company.

How do you think COVID-19 will change the jewelry industry?

The industry is moving toward online spaces—e-commerce and social media. Right now is a great time to connect with clients and sell on social media.

How do you think consumers will be changed by the pandemic?

I think consumers are more conservative with their purchases, and also they’ll be buying more meaningful pieces as they seek good quality and craftsmanship. Also, lower price point items [will] sell well online.

Have any good books, movies, or TV shows to recommend?

I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama to my 2-month-old. I also just finished watching the Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere, and I have to say it is a must!

(All photos courtesy of Jenifer Thai/IO Collective)

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JCK Magazine Editor