Tucked away in a small village on the outskirts of the city of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, Lee Little creates hand crafted jewellery in silver and gold. However, thanks to the internet he sells to a global market; with enough business to support his family in comfort while having time to enjoy his rural lifestyle. Lee is a perfect illustration of the new paradigm of modern e-tailing.Fourteen years ago, Lee settled in the village where his wife was born to raise a family. He was fortunate to meet a local silversmith who was willing to teach him his craft in exchange for English lessons. Lee caught on quickly, becoming a skilled metalsmith himself. Being near to the Myanmar border town of Mae Sai gave him access to gemstones to set into his jewellery. To increase his knowledge of coloured gemstones he took online courses in gemmology, becoming a competent gemmologist. Being in close proximity to the gem sources he was able to hone his skills and develop a good eye for gems.
Without a market for selling his goods, the skills and knowledge are meaningless. Lee could have made regular trips to the US to sell at shows but he really wanted to stay in Thailand to enjoy his family life; so he turned to the internet. He began selling on Ebay with modest results at first. As his positive feedback grew, so did his business. He soon built his own website and also started selling on Etsy.com, a site dedicated to handcrafted products and art.
To develop name recognition Lee began to participate in online jewellery forums, both B2C and B2B. The B2C forums have certainly helped his sales, but it was the B2B forums that gave him a standing as an expert in the fields of jewellery and gemmology. His open, honest and friendly approach to the discussions built his reputation to the point that other experts sought him out for advice and guidance.
Fluent in Thai language, he escorts members of the trade to the gem markets in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia to help them negotiate the best deals on gemstones. The list of names of gemmologists and coloured gemstone traders that have actually visited Lee in his humble home reads like a Who’s-Who of the industry, including world renowned authors, researchers and dealers. His reputation and his sales span the globe… all from a small remote village.
Lee is a shining example that you do not have to be located in a large metropolis or have a huge enterprise to be successful in a global jewellery business. He lives life on his own terms, balancing his business with plenty of time for his family. Lee proves that all you need is an internet connection, a post office, and most importantly—a passion for gemstones.