Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Q&A With Rani Reambonanza: Owner of RMR Jewelry
By: Arlene Nagtalon
Rani Reambonanza poses with her Summer 2020 collection.
*Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
With the shutdown of various eateries, stores, outlets, and other big-name corporations during COVID-19, more and more people have turned to opening their own small businesses. Whether through the influences of friends and family, needing another source of income, finding something better to occupy your time, or simply wanting to share your passions with others, there are various reasons for doing so. Personally, it's inspiring to witness ordinary people from different backgrounds contributing to an economy that has already been through so much turmoil, hardship, and turbulence.
As the owner of a small Instagram thrift shop called The Thrifty Pikachu, it's been quite the journey to learn about business through trial-and-error without formal experience. Learning how to manage my finances and ship nationally is something one often has to learn from the internet. Not only do I have the opportunity to make money for my senior expenses and my future, but I also get to inspire others to buy secondhand for the sake of the environment and clear the clutter in my room. In regards to San Diego County, it seems like small businesses owned by women keep popping up wherever you turn. You have those making cakes, macaroons, and other sweets for locals to enjoy. Resin keychains, earrings, and other trinkets are becoming increasingly popular with a plethora of designs to choose from and customize yourself. Of course, I'm also not the only person who has opened a consignment store with the same goals as I to share the message of sustainability while cleaning out their closets. But is there a reason why it's women, specifically, who are mostly becoming small business owners?
To answer this question and gain more insight into the significance of business to her, I had the marvelous opportunity of interviewing Rani Reambonanza, the owner of RMR Jewelry! Since her emergence on December 18th, 2019, this nineteen-year-old college student has created and sold over two thousand pieces inspired by the elements of nature and culture. Rani has gone from locally sharing her handcrafted designs to shipping across the nation and the world! As a woman, person of color, and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, she truly is an inspiration to many who hope to open a jewelry business or delve into the business industry.
AN: Since when did you have a passion for designing jewelry?
RR: First, it started as a hobby because I was just bored one day. I had thought about making earrings last summer, so when I finally got the chance to, I began to like it more as I made new designs. Others had encouraged me to pursue it as a business, and everything else developed from there. I started to love it more as I made new creations that everyone seemed to enjoy.
AN: In the beginning, did you ever expect RMR Jewelry to become such a well-known brand?
RR: No, I did not expect my business to reach different audiences and go even beyond the San Diego community. Because initially, I just wanted to share it with my peers and people at school. However, when I had the chance to share it with other people, I didn't think it would reach as many as it did. Now, I'm overwhelmed by the masses that have engaged with my content, and it's so cool and empowering! I come from southeast San Diego, CA, where it's not as easy to have the resources and the opportunities to expand your business or your personal brand. I’ve definitely gone further than I ever imagined I would, and for that, I’m extremely grateful for the support and the positive feedback I’ve received.
AN: Where's the farthest you've shipped your jewelry?
RR: Europe mostly! I’ve sent orders to Germany, Sweden, the UK, and even Japan.
AN: Business is something that I'm interested in pursuing, but I like the whole notion of starting from nothing and building up your brand. What about you? Has business been something you've wanted to do?
RR: When I was filling out all my college applications, I was stuck on what major I wanted to pursue. At first, I wanted to do law, then communications. Honestly, I never thought about doing business at first. The idea just occurred to me because my family members and friends suggested that I go for it because they know that I have the skills and characteristics that it demands, so I just went for it. Now, RMR Jewelry is something I want to keep up with in the future and continue learning.
AN: What is your proudest accomplishment as a business owner?
RR: My external accomplishment, I would say, is starting a website. I think that's pretty huge considering I'm only a small business, and I've stepped up from there. Internally, I feel like my most significant achievement is growing as a person. I began to think more professionally and consider more of what other people like and dislike. I've become a lot more patient as a person, so my growth as an individual fills me with pride. All small businesses make mistakes, so it’s all about bettering yourself and your business simultaneously.
AN: How do you balance life as a college student and being a business owner?
RR: Right now, I'm not struggling because I'm on summer break. But I did have classes earlier this summer, so it was a bit difficult finding balance between the two. When I was in school for the fall and spring, I usually just set aside time for myself in the evenings to work on my jewelry, as well as on the weekends. It's just a matter of finding the time for both school and work. I'm more focused on my academics on the weekdays and mornings, and take time in the evenings and weekends for my business.
AN: How do you feel after going through so much personal growth and development to get this far?
RR: It’s super rewarding because you feel accomplished and proud of yourself for even taking the small and big steps. You feel like you've grown a lot and developed yourself and your business to get thus far.
AN: How is business an empowering industry for women?
RR: Well, business is an empowering industry for women because you're your own boss. It's more than just selling a product or service. It's researching, developing, communicating, and it takes courage and discipline to do that on your own, especially as a woman. People can see us as vulnerable and submissive. Having more women involved in business breaks that stereotype and the barrier between the typical career paths people expect women to take. If they want to be their boss, they should do it in every way because we are strong, even when societal expectations always surround us.
AN: What personal messages or advice would you give to those starting their own business?
RR: Just go for it. If you fail, you'll learn from it. If you succeed, you also learn from that, and you'll grow more as an individual, so don't be scared of wanting to do your own thing because people are going to judge no matter what. So just be you and you'll be just fine! However, be responsible and wise about your decisions to succeed in every way you want to.
AN: Do you often get recognized by your community for your creations?
RR: Yeah, I do get recognized sometimes! When I was at a party one time, people came up to me and said, "oh, I like your earrings," so I responded, "oh yeah, I have my own business!" Then they make the connection that I'm the owner of RMR Jewelry, and I feel proud of my accomplishments. Sometimes, I get the same praise from my peers and other mutuals.
AN: What is your favorite part of being a well-known small business owner?
RR: Designing my pieces would have to be my favorite part because you have the inspiration in front of you. But when it comes to the execution, it's gratifying because it displays your passion. It's one thing to have an idea in mind, but to follow through with it is another huge task that takes a lot more effort than having a thought. In short, the execution has to be my favorite part of owning a handcrafted jewelry business because this is the phase where customers have the chance of seeing my vision brought to life.
AN: Where do you see your brand in the next ten years? Do you hope to continue making earrings for sure, or what are your plans?
RR: Right now, I definitely want to expand my business. In the next ten years, I'm not sure it'll be big, but I hope that I can still maintain it in the future and reach more audiences than ever before. But who knows?
AN: Would you want to become as big of a brand as Alex & Ani or other well-known jewelry producers?
RR: It would be a dream, but I like the title of having a small business because it's something that more people could relate to. Especially if they are also striving to sell unique, handcrafted jewelry of their own, I’d want to be an example and show that it is possible to make it big coming from a small community. It would be cool if I got that far, but I would rather stay as a small business and have that loyal crowd alongside me since the very beginning and gain other supportive customers along the way.
AN: How do you feel about small businesses, especially during this time of COVID-19?
RR: I think it's a great idea because you can't go shopping for whatever at the store since it's riskier now than ever before. Doing your own thing at home shows these people's passions for what they want to do. It’s also great to see the community supporting one’s goals and working together towards a common goal of keeping the economy going. It’s a great idea to explore your interests and passions when we have so much time at home because people will turn to your products or services and support you in any way they can. People don’t have to buy from you to help since re-posting, liking a post, and commenting really goes further than one may think. In a small community, small businesses are essential.
AN: Out of the pieces you’ve made, do you have a favorite?
RR: I love my Feminine Physique collection, but out of that, my favorite would be Bare because I made this particular one with an intent behind it. Feminine Physique is also my way –– aside from promoting body positivity –– of coming out as bi. This piece in particular symbolizes the half of my face that is my "regular" self, and the other half represents my interest in girls. So, here you see my voice telling me, "oh no, you need to only like men," but when you have the ear traveling to where the heart is, I can't just ignore it, so I must accept it. All in all, Bare is a symbol of my face, so that's the true meaning of that piece.
AN: That's great to hear that you're an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community! Do you think that businesses often get discriminated against because the owners identify or ally with them?
RR: I haven't seen a lot of that discrimination against them locally in SD. Most of the businesses I associate with and hear of really get a lot of respect and great comments since San Diego is a friendly and welcoming community. But I'm sure some businesses receive hate, which is mean and disrespectful. It shouldn't be happening at all because you don't know the intent of others for opening small businesses. It could be because they need the funds, or it's something they genuinely want to do. Receiving that disrespect demeans and degrades them because they should be able to embrace themselves in every way. Having common decency for others should apply to those of the LGBTQIA+ community since we should all be there trying to support each other during these difficult times.
AN: I know you just mentioned that small business owners have different intentions of starting one, whether it be because of a passion or a way to raise money for something. Where do your profits go from RMR Jewelry?
RR: I donated to Black Lives Matter, various GoFundMe's, and other organizations that support causes I believe in and fight social injustices. I pay off my college tuition with my earnings, but I mostly put those funds towards my future.
AN: With all the hype your business has received, do you think it's a humbling experience to thank those who have supported you?
RR: Yes, it is! I know at times, I receive all this praise and tend to put myself on a pedestal. However, that's just because I truly am proud of myself since I have achieved so much, more than I could have ever imagined. Coming from southeast San Diego, it is a huge accomplishment because we are a small community. So receiving that love and support is fantastic coming from my peers, customers, and people I don't know from all over the world. It just makes me want to expand even more and continue my passion.
AN: Do you have any last comments or words of advice for anyone hoping to become a small business owner?
RR: If you want to start a small business, then go ahead and just do it. I know some people start one up because it's trendy. However, you'd be taking away the credibility of those who want to display their craft or service for bigger audiences. Make sure you're establishing a name for yourself for the right reasons. Have a purpose behind it, whether it be exploring your passions or sharing your skill with others, make sure you have the right intent. It does become a responsibility for yourself and your parents if this is something you choose to take on. Be smart and mindful about your choices, and I can guarantee that you'll make it far as long as you put in the hard work in the effort because it does pay off in the end.
Rani Reambonanza truly is an icon for being such an inspiration to young girls wanting to pursue entrepreneurship. Although she is only a college student, she has learned so much from her experiences as the owner of RMR Jewelry. Rani continues to impress with her marvelous wired creations and wishes for people wearing her jewelry to feel empowered, confident, and beautiful. She has successfully made a name for herself and has a bright future ahead of her.
Written by writer Arlene Nagtalon