Today we’d like to introduce you to Maxine Bishko.
Hi Maxine, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am born and bred in one of the smallest countries in the world, Singapore. And thanks to my animal-loving family, there was never a time I lived without family pets — from dogs to cats and even quails, we raised them all as part of our family. One day, 14 years ago, before the boom of e-commerce, a friend asked me, “What if you delivered pet food like pizza delivery to all the many households who have pets?” I was only 20 years old, juggling a part-time job and full-time Bachelor’s degree in college, but that idea excited me. I love pushing my boundaries and exploring new ideas. And so I raised capital from friends and family, and began 8 years of e-commerce retail as a pioneer of the pet industry at that time, which grew into distributing pet supplies from all over the world into Singapore’s pet retail stores.
Over the decade, competition increased and profit margins became slimmer in brick-and-mortar retail, so I started tinkering with designing modular pet housing to create furniture for both humans AND pets. I knew nothing about designing, or furniture, but I had a team. We started from scratch — market research, designing, raising capital, working out shipping logistics and planning our launch. It was to be a Kickstarter launch, but we only raised 10% of our total goal. Our Kickstarter had failed. And the pandemic had just hit. It was a bad year.
I had always loved threading bracelets; I was threading kid bracelets at age 3. It was therapy for me, and over the years I had made many crystal bracelets for myself. I started gravitating towards making bracelets again — it was soothing for me. I also started beefing up my crystal collection again and that’s when I found a community of women who shared the same interests as I did. But more than that, I realised that in a globally gloomy time, the love of crystals brought strength and positivity to a lot of lives. I decided that I needed to empower people in a dark time such as this — by building my Lattice Gems Tribe. So I started Lattice Gems — without e-commerce, nor did I raise any funding — I only had a quest to empower more lives. Lattice Gems was born on Instagram @latticegems and within a year we have grown exponentially — friendships forged and bonds created all over the world — and yes we have a website now. 😉
Lattice Gems is my unique business baby. Not only did it start in a chaotic world as a beacon in the darkness, I was also closing a gap in my personal life. I was in a 5 year long-distance relationship spanning from Singapore to Russia, then China, Japan and Hawaii. Finally, we were married, but since starting Lattice Gems, I was also in the midst of migrating to where my partner was, and still is — the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii. I had never lived anywhere else in the world despite traveling extensively; and moving to the middle of the ocean was exciting yet scary. I was sad to leave my friends, family and the life I knew behind, but I was starting a new adventure.
This propelled me into throwing myself into completing the entire migration process as quickly as possible while building my Lattice Gems community around people who lived in the United States. Finally, with two of my pet bunnies in tow, I flew from Singapore to Hawaii, where I began my life as a new military spouse; and brought Lattice Gems halfway across the world.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Because of my move from Singapore to Hawaii, I had to maneuver bringing about a hundred kilos of crystals from Singapore to Hawaii. And as you know, Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean, so I had to have them shipped batch by batch by air, which increased my cost for them, which I had to absorb.
Scaling a start-up is fun but also challenging. Resources are never enough when there are so many ideas and ways to scale. I am constantly finding the best way to both market your products and brand, while also allocating resources to e-commerce optimization or inventory, to bring in unique, high-quality crystals for the ever-growing crystal community. Time is also money, and since I am very hands-on in every aspect of my business, I have to be very stringent about what I do every day. I often have to-do lists with different goals for each day; since I have to manage both the business and the household.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Lattice Gems is an e-commerce brand of crystals and crystal jewelry. We started out selling on Instagram (@latticegems), where I created stories for each and every crystal based on how I see them. They often have quirky names and descriptions – such as Baloo for crystal bears – or Body Parts (if the crystal resembles body parts). And that, I believe, is what sets us apart from other crystal stores, because I do not focus solely on the scientific or metaphysical properties of the crystal, but also with creative copywriting, I have allowed crystal lovers to see crystals in a way they might not have realized (once you see it, you can’t unsee it). Or perhaps, because of the name of the crystal, it has reminded them of a beloved pet, a person they admire or something they like.
I also encourage my community to only purchase a crystal if it really calls to them; to be discerning and collect with taste. As such, I never sell any crystal that I myself would not buy. The great thing about crystals is that each and every one of them is unique, and never are two crystals exactly the same. I also do not do live sales often on Instagram, because I would like each customer to really muse about the details of the crystal and decide if they want it; and not buy on impulse.
My story of moving halfway across the world during the pandemic and selling crystals is also fascinating and I am blessed to have been featured in many different press so far. We are constantly growing – from Instagram to now having a website and e-commerce store (latticegems.com). This helps us become omni-channel, and also facilitates easy searching for crystals by type, instead of scrolling on Instagram. From our webstore, I am also building a blog where people can learn more about crystals, spiritual learnings such as full moon teachings, or how to enhance their spirituality. We also went from just selling crystals to now selling crystal jewelry as well, handmade by myself. I was threading crystal bracelets since age 3 and I believe this is truly my calling. 🙂
What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
My husband was born in Redlands, Socal, and we had just visited two weeks ago! It was my second time there and we went to Temecula, La Jolla, Long Beach, Orange County, Oceanside, San Bernadino, San Diego, Los Angeles, Ontario and Vista. We have so many friends there and had a blast! I would say my favorite part about SoCal has to be Oceanside. I LOVE the ocean, being just by the beach here in Hawaii, but Oceanside is my favorite not just because of the vibe, but because my favorite show, The Animal Kingdom, was based there. 🙂 I do not like LA at all, it is saturated and I guess I am not much of a city girl.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: latticegems.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/latticegems
- Facebook: facebook.com/latticegemsatelier