#12 Ikaika

Three-year growth 349%

Tristen Ikaika knows the exact date. It was December 3, 2017, when he sold his first ring. He had been making jewelry out of spoons since he was 12, and now he was circling around the idea of making money. Weeks later, he formed an LLC. Three years later, he was on Shark Tank striking a deal for the brand he had built on suspense and scarcity with “drops” that sell out in minutes. Tristen Ikaika is a ringer. Weeks ago, he rebranded to simply Ikaika. “I like that it has three letters twice.” Patterns and circles certainly have a ring to it. 

My first big milestone was when I sent out customized boxes of rings complete with a dry ice effect to friends and influencers nationwide. The project was a beast and took me a year and a half, but seeing it come to life exactly how I dreamed gave me more fulfillment than I could’ve imagined. 

I haven’t scaled as fast as I should have because I have been so focused on drops. The new rings would sell out right away, and it was like — “Sweet, let’s gear up for the next one.” The sweet spot of selling out but maximizing profit is a very hard spot to find. In the beginning, we just got 100 of each size. Things are more calculated now with spreadsheets and sizes. Now we know 7 is our most popular size, so we order accordingly. For our drops now, we order somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 rings. 

I’m proud of how we’ve incorporated emotion. For example, when I’m going to release a ring with a mountain design, I start asking people a week or two beforehand to send me pics of them in the mountains. I want them to tell me their stories of sacred times in the mountains. 

By the time we’re ready to show people the product, they are already emotionally tied to it. They’ve been thinking about how when they are sad, they take a drive to the mountains. We’ve built a community around emotions and experiences — and we tie it all into ring designs. 

We don’t want to lose the hype of the drop. I like to think of it like a balloon. If people aren’t able to buy the drop before it sells out, they get pissed and might go buy somewhere else. We’re letting some of the air out of the balloon by creating lines that are evergreen and always in stock. These pieces are great introductions to the brand. But the drops are for special pieces. The drops get people to the site and it builds the talk around the brand. 

We spray every ring we sell with a fragrance. I’ve had thousands of people ask me what we use. But if I told you what the fragrance was, I’d have to kill you. It’s always been a secret. I began realizing that I don’t want to send people searching to buy the fragrance from another brand. I want that money to stay with us. So we’re in touch with the top fragrance houses to create our signature scent that we can market with the rings and also on its own. We’re also stoked that we’ve entered the apparel market. We want to be a street wear, lifestyle brand. I don’t want to be just about rings that an influencer sells. 

I’ve been working on a rebrand since March. I had always just thrown stuff up and it had stuck. But I never created a foundation that everything is built off of. I paid a graphic designer to rebrand Tristen Ikaika. Three weeks later, I called back and told him I wanted to rebrand to just Ikaika. I had been studying other brands and realizing Christian Dior is known as just Dior. Donatella Versace is known as Versace. I decided to drop my first name. 

I had been needing a separation between the brand and the person. It was mentally taxing to have the line so blurred. When things were going good, it felt good. But when things weren’t going as good, it felt like it wasn’t just a business thing. It was like I had personally failed. It got to be too much for me. 

I obsessively focused on the rebrand for five months while still running the business the way it was. That was a tricky headspace to be in, but I love how it’s turning out. It’s the same business people have known, but it feels so much fresher. The foundation is solid. It’s cleaned up. It’s tight. This is it. I’ve got a lot of runway ahead of me. 

By the time we are ready to show people the product, they are already emotionally tied to it.