How Vancouver’s Olive & Piper grew from a side hustle to an 8-figure jewelry brand

Tania Yan started her small business from her parents' house with $2,000 in personal savings.

Olive & Piper

Credit: Olive & Piper

Tania Yan started her small business from her parents’ house with $2,000 of personal savings

Tania Yan feels lucky to have supportive parents. But when she moved out of their home (and into one of her own a few blocks away), it took her half a year to tell them that she had quit her job and that she had moved her jewelry brand Olive & Piper from a side-hustle to a full-time profession.

“Because I’m an only child and we’re an Asian family, I knew that if I told them I just randomly quit my job, they would definitely freak out,” says Yan. “There were a couple of times where I would go outside and see their car across the street at a restaurant for lunch, and I’d run back into my house to hide.”

Born and raised in Vancouver, Yan was always interested in business. And even though she studied cell biology and genetics at UBC, she never actually ended up working in the field of science. Instead, she was drawn to digital marketing and the world of e-commerce, which seemed even more attractive to her than the idea of selling jewelry: “I always tell people I could have chosen socks or pins or something else.”

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Having worked at Aldo, Yan saw firsthand how jewelry could make or break an outfit. She bootstrapped her online business idea with $2,000 from her savings and started buying products from wholesalers—all from her “very pink room” in her parents’ house, which was slowly filling up with packing material and boxes of jewelry. (Picture colourful statement necklaces, earrings and chunky bracelets.) 

Olive & Piper stayed a very small business for a long time and didn’t have its own designs until a handful of years after its launch in 2012, when a designer came on board. “I wanted to be able to control the designs and the quality of the pieces that I sold,” says Yan, admitting that her business model until then was basically an extension of shopping. 

She had to learn everything from scratch. Starting a jewelry brand when you don’t have (any) experience designing or making it would be daunting for anyone, and Yan found it particularly hard to garner the courage to go full-throttle on her hobby. So much so that she kept it on the DL, didn’t put her face on the website and even added a careers page on the Olive & Piper website to make it seem bigger than a startup. 

Around 2018, she wondered if she should quit. By then she had left her full-time marketing gig, had her own bills to pay and didn’t have any luck finding another job. There were days when she was eating boiled cabbage to avoid spending on groceries. But the founder credits her business mentor for giving her the confidence to stick with it and find ways to scale Olive & Piper, and is also thankful for having parents who, after their initial concerns, came on board 100 percent—to the point where they would help pick up and drop off packages from the office every day.

“They grew up in a different generation, right? I think having a business back then, you had to have a lot of money to start it—it wasn’t like going online,” Yan reflects.

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The Vancouver-based jewelry brand just celebrated its 10-year anniversary this month. Yan counts when contestant Natalie Lee wore her earrings to Netflix’s Love is Blind 2 reunion among her biggest wins so far: “I was fangirling over that…I took pictures and shared it on our socials, and so many of our followers responded saying, I knew it! I knew she was wearing Olive & Piper!” 

The company is now an eight-figure business with a 3,500 square foot head office and 10 female staff. Its designs are inspired by “contemporary botanicals,” and it just released its Tenth Anniversary Collection featuring 10 bestsellers in mini sizes this month. During the anniversary party, Yan found herself in awe of the milestone she achieved: “I don’t think there’s a lot of things that I’ve done consistently for 10 years.”