Montreal, Canada – How An Orthodx Online Jewelry Seller Grew Into a Multi-Million Dollar House

    31

    Pinny Gniwisch, director of motivation at online jewelery store ice.com. Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The GazetteMontreal, Canada – “What was the best gift you ever gave your mother?” the rabbi asks a bemused member of Three Six Mafia.

    “A house,” the tough gangsta rapper answers. “But mama didn’t want to move away from the ‘hood.”

    No, that’s not a Mother’s Day joke. It’s a cheeky video interview from Pinny Gniwisch, director of motivation at ice.com – an international online jewellery business based in Montreal.

    With his two brothers, the Internet marketing dynamo has used YouTube and other social media in creative and unconventional ways in the past 10 years to develop a family business with 71 employees and more than $50 million in annual sales.

    “We have a YouTube channel called Pinny’s World. We use Twitter, Facebook and our blogs are the talk of the corporate world,” said Gniwisch, 38.

    In addition, the father of six serves as a board member of the National Retail Federation, spends his summers as chaplain for the Boy Scouts and was recently hired by McGill University to teach a graduate course in electronic marketplaces.

    “I want to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs,” Gniwisch said.

    How does he do it all?

    “I have ADD” – attention deficit disorder, he said. “But I’ve managed to turn it to positive use. When I was growing up, I was continuously thrown out of class. They thought I was a wild child.”

    The “wild child” left home as a teenager to pursue rabbinical studies overseas, where he practised as a rabbi in Hawaii and Hong Kong. A computer buff, Gniwisch returned home and saw the Internet’s potential to sell products made by Delmar, his parents’ jewellery company.

    “We were early adopters of technology and in the forefront of websites in 1999,” he said. “We also had a source of product we could tap into, so it was no-brainer to start.”

    An early challenge was the reluctance of consumers to provide credit card details for online purchases of marked-down rings, pendants, bracelets and other jewellery items. Gniwisch responded with a giveaway campaign.

    “We offered a pearl necklace for $4.95 to cover shipping and handling. The psychology was that people got a gift for just a small amount of money to cover costs. That clicked. We sold 175,000 pieces in three days and established a customer base of people willing to trust us with increasingly more expensive credit card purchases.”

    That trust is enhanced by the company’s longstanding commitment to ethical responsibility. For example, ice.com openly supports the United

    Nations’ certification scheme to ensure diamond trading does not finance armed conflict. “It’s a gesture appreciated by our customers,” Gniwisch said. “When the movie Blood Diamond came out, we had a bunch of calls, especially from people in California.”

    Gniwisch says his religious background has also enabled his business to survive and rebuild after economic disasters like the dot.com bubble in 2000 and the current recession.

    “Rabbinical studies teach you to look at issues from many different angles and to think out of the box. Jewish history has shown me how we have persevered over thousands of years and come back stronger every time we were knocked down.”

    This concern for the well-being of humanity has influenced Gniwisch’s view of modern marketing, which he sees as too impersonal.

    “Marketing today is expressed in terms such as target, direct hit, strategy. It’s as if they were talking about warfare. That has to change. I believe a company has to humanize the transaction again if it wants to succeed.”

    And here is where he sees an important role for technology and social media to improve human interaction in marketing.

    “You can chat to us live with one click on our website. We have blogs where people say what they think. We have reviews where our customers comment on our sales. Even if the comments are negative, we keep them up there, because we feel this humanity has to be brought back to business.”

    Follow VosIzNeias For Breaking News Updates



    Entertaining Videos and Delicious Recipes on Kosher.com



    31 COMMENTS

    1. The guy that has a big part in the success of this business is my friend Berry!!
      I personally watched this business grow rapidly! i remember the business in 2001-2002 was fairly small, On a good day they had about 15-30 orders/day to ship out it took almost all day to process it. almost by the day thinks got faster and bigger until at 1 point in 2003 the company shipped out on a regular day 1,000-1,500 orders per day, at the height of the holiday season there was over 3,000 packages a day! my friend Berry stayed up for almost 72 hours to make sure everything goes out on time! the other great people at the top were Sam K. and Ezzy S.
      Great Article by The Montreal Gazette!

        • When attending a bris dont you wish the zeide “du zolst hubben feel nachas”… and wish the father zulst huben feel nachas…
          The Rebbe to Lubavs are like a father and they therefore wish he should have a lot of nachas from the Chassidim (talmidim = bunim)

        • Why is that garbage? To you, perhaps. To me, not at all.

          It’s a free country. Just don’t break the laws of Judaism, my friend. Watch your words.

          p.s. How would you feel if I would say it’s “garbage” to give one of the gedolim nachas? or your parents’ nachas? G-d forbid.

    2. Pinny Gniwisch well done. May it be a inspirational story for others to achieve success despite their not being great students, despite their ‘differences’. etc. Kol Toov from Sydney Hershel Tuvel

      • The web site can be open 7 days. So long as most of the customers are not yidden, they don’t target any advertising to yidden that day, and nobody does any work on Shabbos, what’s the problem? A computer is allowed to work on Shabbos.

      • Like the other person said im not a rabbi but if you have a businesss like that which needs to be “open” 24/7 there are heterim to leave them open and give all profits to a non jew. However a rabbi must be consulted as this is complicated and involves many halachos and has to be done right otherwise you will be breaking shabbos

        That beign said, i know the Gniwishes and Pinny personally and they would never profit from anything sold on shabbos. They are wondeful people who are baalei chesed and baalei tzedaka. May Hashem continue to bless them!

        • It’s not that complicated. The simple formula is you sell 17.5% of the business to a goy and he makes that much profit. That would include the YomTov Days that don’t fall on Shabbos. (Rabbi tested and approved.)

    3. Pinny is a teffific man. I used to be a fundraiser and he was one of the only people that literally ran to give me money $1K for my cause. This was before his rich days and he made me feel as if I was doing him a favor. I will always remember that. I am delighted to read about you.

    4. According to the website, one can call in for personal assistance on Shabbos & Yom Tov. In today’s world, being a big baal chesed is in it self not an attestation as to a person’s business & religious ethics. Do not make assumptions. Be certain of the facts! Contrary to what a local Rabbi recently said. ” the end does not justify the means”.

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here