For Business

Merchant spotlight: Bling Jewelry

Elena Castaneda embraced ecommerce more than 25 years ago despite internet doubters - today she has a thriving online jewelry business.

Image of woman next to Bling Jewelry

Elena Castaneda was born an entrepreneur. It’s in her blood. She grew up watching her savvy father run a business in the clothing industry, taking it all in at a young age and even helping as a buyer while in high school. Her mother wanted to be a career woman but instead focused on raising her six children and encouraging them to pursue careers and start businesses.

As a youth, Elena didn’t think much of this influence that her parents had over her and her siblings. But today, Elena sees that influence clearly: She’s a thriving entrepreneur and career woman as the founder and CEO of Bling Jewelry, successfully carrying on the family tradition of entrepreneurship.

Selling before ecommerce was ecommerce

The success didn’t happen instantly, though. As a young, female entrepreneur trying to find her place in the business world, Elena tried her hand at a number of endeavors, working out of a small one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan “trying to reinvent myself,” she says.

Over the years, she dabbled in fashion and baked goods before finally landing in the jewelry industry—specifically selling high-quality sterling silver, cubic zirconia, and other jewelry on her ecommerce site BlingJewelry.com. Although Bling Jewelry is her bread and butter today, it was in the bakery biz in the late ’90s that she truly discovered the power of ecommerce, selling gingerbread houses online with no overhead and only a penny per click for Google advertising.

“A true entrepreneur has three careers, so I joke that I needed the internet to be invented before I could find my third career,” Elena reminisces. “I sold $50,000 worth of gingerbread houses in six weeks, so I was like ‘This internet thing is amazing!’”

Although she faced her fair share of internet doubters at the time, Elena saw the potential in ecommerce and embraced it with all her might. With family connections in fashion, her own experience in buying, and a digital camera, she started building out a jewelry catalog online.

“Even the vendors would dismiss me back then,” she recalls. “I would go to suppliers to take pictures to post online, and they would ask me ‘Where’s your store?’ I would tell them, ‘I don’t have a store—I’m selling on the internet.’ They would tell me the internet was a fad. They just didn’t get it.”

As that “fad” caught on around the world, however, Elena grew her customer base and continued to expand her product catalog and build a reputable brand.

In 2008, Elena snagged a spot in Amazon.com’s jewelry category and quickly became a high-volume seller, expanding internationally as Amazon opened distribution in more regions. Today, Bling Jewelry has distribution in nearly all countries where Amazon has a presence and offers 12,000 SKUs across more than 40 platforms. Most recently, Elena added Buy with Prime to her ecommerce site to direct more of her Amazon business back there—back where it all started 25 years ago.

Owning the brand story

Elena has participated in a lot of Amazon beta programs with Bling Jewelry as a leading seller in the jewelry category on Amazon.com, but what motivated her to learn more about Buy with Prime was an inspiring presentation by Bossy Cosmetics founder Aishetu Fatima Dozie at Amazon Accelerate in September 2022. She heard about the success BossyBeauty.com was having with Buy with Prime, and saw even more potential with BlingJewelry.com’s vast product catalog.

Like Aishetu, Elena is a driven female entrepreneur who has worked hard to build her brand in a saturated industry. Bling Jewelry has been an ecommerce business with its own site from day one, where Elena has been sharing her brand narrative over the past 25 years. With Buy with Prime, Elena can maintain her brand story and keep shoppers on her site while continuing to offer an extensive collection to Prime members beyond Amazon.com.

Image of a Bling Jewelry ring

She reflects on the early days of selling on Amazon: “If customers landed on a product of yours, they didn’t really get the full feeling of your brand. On our website, we could represent ourselves differently. We actually saw Amazon as another way to bring shoppers to our website and to our brand.”

Today, Buy with Prime does just that. It helps bring Prime members to her site where they get the full Bling Jewelry brand experience and the Prime shopping experience, including a seamless checkout, free 1-2 day shipping, and easy returns.

“On our own site we can run different promotions, we can collect customer data, and we can connect with specific customers through email and other marketing,” Elena explains. “It all reinforces our brand.”

Building confidence across the board

A consistent, familiar brand experience helps Bling Jewelry increase brand awareness and build shopper trust. Buy with Prime helps build trust further by offering Prime members a shopping experience they love directly on BlingJewelry.com. When shoppers see the Buy with Prime badge on product detail pages, they can buy with confidence knowing that Amazon will fulfill their orders and handle free returns on eligible items.

“There’s definitely a legitimacy that Buy with Prime brings to the site, especially if shoppers don’t know your site,” Elena says. “If it’s a choice between this product or that one, and I see that this one offers Buy with Prime, I know that it will be shipped in 1-2 days and I don’t have to pay for shipping. It can help shoppers make that decision.”

For Bling Jewelry, Buy with Prime also gives Elena and her team peace of mind knowing that when a Prime member places an order, Amazon’s fulfillment services handle the payment processing, storage, packing, and fast shipping. She adds, “It’s having the confidence that I’m able to maintain the strong reputation of my own site.”

Although Bling Jewelry has a complete logistics system out of its own 15,000-square-foot space in New Jersey, it couldn’t guarantee two-day shipping for its ecommerce site orders. It also couldn’t offer one- or two-day shipping at a competitive price—let alone free. For standard orders, Bling Jewelry depends on USPS First-Class Mail, which has varied from two days to five days or more, explains Elena. “When shoppers on our ecommerce site check out using Buy with Prime, they know that their order is shipped in 1-2 days. The fact that shoppers know that’s what they can expect with Buy with Prime, that’s the factor that did it for me. Even if I could offer 1-2 day shipping, I couldn’t offer it at that price point.”

Increasing conversions and order value

Of Bling Jewelry’s 12,000 total SKUs, 700 offer the option to check out using Buy with Prime. These products, like the Freshwater Pearl Clip On Ball Stud Earrings and Lucky Las Vegas Gambler Ace Of Spade Ring, are specifically selected for the brand’s Buy with Prime product catalog because they have a minimum price that maintains profit margins and a minimum stock number needed for Amazon’s fulfillment services. Many of these 700 products are showcased on a dedicated Buy with Prime collection page on BlingJewelry.com.

Image of 3 pairs of Bling earrings

Since adding Buy with Prime to the site, Elena says that 10% of total sales of those 700 products now come from Buy with Prime orders and that average order value has increased in line with higher price points across the Buy with Prime collection. “We’d love to have a bigger selection offering Buy with Prime because I think we’d do even better,” she admits. “But even with a smaller selection, we’re really happy with the results so far—10% is substantial for not having Buy with Prime on our full catalog.”

Her team is also working with a Buy with Prime agency partner on a display advertising initiative to help drive more traffic to her site and Buy with Prime product detail pages.

Although it’s early days for the initiative—and even early for Buy with Prime on her site—Elena is excited about the potential. She thrives in the growing and learning that comes with change and recognizes that change is constant in entrepreneurship.

“It’s a living, moving thing that just keeps going and you have to keep up—that’s what keeps me going,” she says, pointing to the change and growth that’s also constant with Amazon. “There’s always a new feature or a new program, like Buy with Prime. It’s exhilarating to keep up with.”

Check out Bling Jewelry’s collection of earrings, rings, bracelets, and more offering Buy with Prime.

And make sure to read the other inspiring stories of women entrepreneurs in the spotlight for Women’s History Month, including Mitzi Rivas and Afshan Abbas.

Lindsay Holloway