Founder + Owner / The Dark Horse Jewellery
It’s people like Aleen, who don’t accept the status quo blindly, that inspire this site. Those women who have a dream, and work relentlessly in pursuit of that dream. At only 23 years of age Aleen Apanian founded The Dark Horse Jewellery, an eCommerce store for trend setters, focusing on coveted designer and hard to find artisan jewellery from around the globe.
Individuality and effortlessness sums up this game changing entrepreneur – and just like any good #fangirl moment, we were gobsmacked when Aleen agreed to let us tell her #careerstory.
Growing up in a supportive Armenian community in Sydney, Aleen was encouraged to flourish in the arts at high school, and remembers her time fondly. Like so many gifted babes, Aleen found the transition from Year 12 to further study somewhat difficult, but quickly found her stride and relished life at The Whitehouse Institute of Design.
In today’s #careerstory we will take you through a day in the life of this young entrepreneur, one that seems to be navigating the eComm world with ease. Her website is an exciting curation of some of the world’s most esteemed & up-coming jewellers and Aleen’s individual style. After reading this interview we dare you to head on over to her site and take a look. But please… clear you study timetable first, because The Dark Horse experience is enveloping… trust us.
Please meet the gorgeous Aleen Apanian.
Before we start Aleen, we need to tell you that we are obsessed with your jewellery, LOVE IT! Now, can you tell us a bit about where you grew up What was that experience like for you?
I grew up in the suburbs of Sydney, going to a small Armenian school from kindy to Year 12 (you could say I knew the same people since the age of 4, as I also went to an Armenian friendly pre-school)! I have always loved art, it was pretty much one of the few classes I paid attention in, and since I was young, always found myself drawing (and even writing). When I was younger, I loved fashion design, I used to showcase clothing collections to my parents, and try and make my own clothing. That eventually lead to jewellery and through a couple e-commerce positions, I found myself wanting to start my own.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to the same school from kindergarten to Year 12 and it was very very small (from memory, I only had 30-ish people in my whole year). Being in a small class helped me connect to my roots, and enabled me to speak my mother tongue and also understand and love my background. Some of my closest friends are still my Armenian friends from school. I didn’t have a bad experience in high school, but I definitely wish I had a stronger self esteem. I was very creative and sensitive, occasionally withdrawn. I was creative enough to flourish in classes like English and Art, but struggled with logical subjects like maths and science. My school was small, so teachers noticed your personality enough to help you flourish, that was a great advantage for me.
We love this, your school sounded truly encouraging, did your teachers guide and help you choose your further education and future career?
Since the school was small at the time, if there was anything you wanted to do, there would have been a teacher to help you. I had to do art through distance education and that was able to happen because I was in a very supportive environment. I wasn’t someone who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I was in high school, I just knew I loved to be creative and the school helped me explore that.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I tried out a few different paths with internships while in high school. I interned at a fashion house and also The Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children. Both very different yet now looking back in hindsight, two strong aspects of my personality. I love fashion and everything to do with it, but my passion also is with people and understanding them.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
I studied styling at Whitehouse Institute of Design. I chose that particular school because I felt the degree had a range of experiences I could learn from, and was a broader study then just fashion design. I was fresh out of school and 17 years old when I went to the college. In hindsight I think I should have given myself a year break at high school, but I have always been an all or nothing type person. Personally, purely because of coming out of a very small school and my age, the experience at first was very very overwhelming and I struggled to make friends or even keep up. Eventually I figured it out, just like everything else sometimes you just need time.
That is such a great lesson for all girls about to or who have ended their final year of high school, sometimes it takes time to adjust and settle in. So Aleen, tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and dive deeper into any highlights?
I had a array of casual jobs throughout school and high school, my first “proper” job was at a costume jewellery store at my local shopping centre and then at a designer dress hire online shop (one of the first for the time!). I found from a young age that I was always given a fair amount of responsibility, and it was a mix of quick maturity and also quick learning. I ended up working for a couple other e-commerce stores before I decided to start my own at 23. It’s called The Dark Horse, a name that I had loved for a long time.
23!!! Wow, started your own e-commerce at 23! That is awesome. How did you do it?
I was always a sponge for learning, I would literally watch how my boss’s spoke with others or even how they ended their emails. I learnt from everyone, from warehouse to the marketing team and my bosses. I was young in the workforce and found myself working with people older than me, I needed to be able to not come off like I was too young for the job, or didn’t have enough experience. I also took everything I did quite seriously, even my customer service positions. Through learning, and blind sighted naivety, I wanted to try it myself, so I did.
Owning your own e-commerce store would have it’s challenges, What is the hardest part of your current job?
Getting over your mistakes. It’s like anything in life, it’s enviable… you will make mistakes and there is no one to cover you if you do. You’ve got to learn to not be so hard on yourself and just move on, it’s never the end of the world!
So true, it’s never the end of the world. What does a day a typical business day look like for you?
At The Dark Horse, I have a couple of essential hours in the day, which is mainly my mornings and late afternoons. I usually start my working hours with emails, aiming to get through the very important ones, and then moving to orders and customer service. When my interns arrive, it allows me to either get back into my emails or help pack. Creative fun is left to the end of the day, where my mind just wants to be free. Add social media, marketing, scheduling, working with stockists – some days I find myself only helping customers and others I am given the time to work on our own designs – it’s always busy, interesting and fun.
Do you have a mentor? Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
This is a really hard question to answer. I don’t take inspiration from one place or one person. To me, inspiration is endless. But I am heavily influenced by business guru Marie Forleo, and my marketing team guru Claire Deane. I am usually inspired by women constantly striving for more. Anyone who is just trying to ensure their mark in the world somehow helps another.
We love that Aleen, that is why The Cool Career exists at the end of the day. What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career, in either jewellery design, or even in e-commerce?
Learn, and never stop learning, and never stop trying. Nothing is the be all and end all, sometimes it takes mistakes or annoying small jobs for us to work out what we want.. and sometimes when we do think we’ve worked it out, it can change! Try it all and only say no if it truly does not align with you – never say no because you’re afraid, because everyone has started somewhere.
Aleen, can you please list your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Blogs or Websites: Marie Forleo, Gabby Bernstein both are very influential business women who give great advice (even if you do not have a business, it’s great life advice!). The Little Sage – I love their weekly forecasts!
- Name an Instagram Account or Snapchat that you can’t go a day without checking: I don’t think I have one I always check, I find myself watching The YCL Jewels Snapchats which I love, then there are a few comedians, bloggers – every day is different with who I follow for that day.
- Books: The Alchemist – life changing book! The Slap – I loved this book, not an easy read but I love books that make you questions your usual way of thinking. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite – Paul Arden – Just a great quick read every now and then for a massive dose of motivation.
- People: Husband ; Family – My husband is my sounding board a lot of the time, he may not know the answers but he is a great listener.