Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in jewelry but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Danielle Castaneda, Owner of Aquaria Gems, located in Hemet, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Aquaria Gems is a fine jewelry company that specializes in pieces inspired by the animals and plants of the freshwater aquarium hobby. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings are all uniquely designed to capture the elegance of the aquarium subjects never before seen in the jewelry industry.

All pieces are made from 925 sterling silver with 18k gold plating, natural obsidian stone eyes for the fish, semi-precious stones and high-quality CZ, natural cow-hide leather, and in the future more designs will be made with stonework inlay featuring mother of pearl, abalone, red jasper, and turquoise. Aquaria Gems customers are primarily those who are in or familiar with the freshwater aquarium hobby and all the joys it brings.

However, Aquaria Gems Jewelry is not exclusively for the aquarium hobbyist but for everyone who loves stunning, high-quality, and affordable fine jewelry that is as unique and beautiful as they are. Through this new company, I wanted to give back to the freshwater aquarium hobby community that has given me so much joy. Aquaria Gems will give 5% of proceeds to Betta Fish Rescue, an organization that rehabilitates and rehomes betta fish and educates the public on their proper care.

Tell us about yourself

The idea of Aquaria Gems began when I was working for Amazon and picking customer orders for jewelry. I noticed there was quite a lot of fine jewelry inspired by ocean sea life, but no fine jewelry of betta fish, which I had recently developed a great love for. At the time, my mother, who has since passed from cancer, would always tell me, “Dani, you are so creative! You should use that creativity and start your own business!” It was then that the idea hit me. There were no examples of fine jewelry with the theme of freshwater aquarium animals and plants. I had found my niche!

My own unique idea spawned pages and pages of design ideas inspired by many different kinds of fish, snails, and plants! My mother was there to see my designs sketched out but unfortunately couldn't make it to see them come to life. What motivates me each day to keep going is the dream my mother had to see this become a lasting legacy for my and my family’s future. I do it for my mother, my future, and for my love of the freshwater aquarium hobby.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is fairly simple. It would have to be the fact that I started my own business from nothing, starting from scratch.

From losing my teaching job at the beginning of the pandemic to working at Amazon to starting my own business was an achievement in never giving up and persevering. With a college degree in Art Education and not any degree or training related to business or entrepreneurship, the amount of work and research to get this far was intense, and I am still learning constantly.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

As someone who has always struggled with mathematics, learning and gaining a better understanding of business accounting and finances has been the most challenging. However, the strength of determination to see the business succeed has driven me to do what it takes to conquer my struggles with numbers.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

The top 3 tips that I would love to pass on will start with patience. Throughout this journey, I have heard the first year is the slowest when starting a business, and to have the patience to allow your business to grow, keep spreading the word to help it grow, and it will.

A second tip is to accept there will be some rocky patches on the path to growth and success, but it will make you stronger once you get through them. You never stop learning, even after you have your grand opening, and all the bumps you hit in the road will contribute to your ultimate success story.

Tip number 3 would be to make sure you do what you love. Any business you choose to go into, make sure you have a passion and love and interest for it, or you risk unhappiness and burnout. Once you find or decide on that thing you love, try to find a way to make it into a unique business that hasn’t been seen before. Once you find your niche, you, along with your passion, can make it into something amazing and unlike anything the world has ever seen!

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Without at least a little risk, there is no reward. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You will have to in order to start a business. You will inevitability receive some negativity from others, but it is so few that it pales in comparison to all the good.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. All the greatest businesses started where you are right now. You got this!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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