Two names that abruptly come to mind when discussing top-notch celebrity jewelers are Johnny Dang, also known as “TV Johnny,” and Koreatown’s very own Ben Baller. Not only do they share an affinity for providing high-grade gems in extremely rare forms, both bling connoisseurs are of Asian descent. LA-based jewelry designer Ken Jen is meticulously molding and polishing his own diamonds to shine bright in the industry, just like his OGs from the Far East.
The 24-year-old entrepreneur’s come up is nothing short of spectacular. Born in Taiwan, Ken moved with his family to Shanghai at the age of seven. After receiving a green card eight years later, Jen and his brother (sans parents) flew to the states---Austin, Texas to be exact. “I was not a big fan of living in Texas,” Ken admits. “The culture is way different from China, but it wasn’t what I expected. I was pretty young at the time so no complaints. I was really there for school and to learn english.”
Although he disliked the new setting, Jen managed to graduate High School with honors. As a matter of fact, his studious ways helped him gain a full scholarship to the University of Texas. During his freshman year, Ken was presented with the opportunity to work in the retail/wholesale industry by an Instagram buddy, which prompted him to immediately drop out of school and move to the West Coast in 2013.
The city of Angels served as fertile ground that enabled Ken’s wildest dreams to bloom. He became the COO of his comrade’s retail company in just two years. In 2015, Jen’s interest in the jewelry industry blossomed and Ben Baller himself eventually gave him a shot to work under his wings. Fast forward to now, the former apprentice is flying high all by himself as owner of his three months old custom jewelry company Fenom & Co.
I recently sat down with the young CEO to further discuss his rise in the jewelry industry, celebrity clients, favorite pieces and fashion industry past. Check out our conversation below:
FRENDY: Where did you and your older brother crash when y’all moved to Austin?
KEN JEN: We moved there in 2008 and stayed with my dad’s friends, who were our guardians at the time.
FRENDY: What was so off putting about living in Texas?
KEN JEN: I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I moved to Texas mainly to learn English. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing after.
FRENDY: I came to the United States when I was seven years old from Haiti so I know all about the culture shock that you felt. What HS did you attend in Austin? Were you able to make a lot of new friends?
KEN JEN: I went to Crockett High School in Austin. I didn’t make many friends my first year and a half because of the language barrier. Eventually, I made some.
FRENDY: How long did you know the person from Instagram that blessed you with the opportunity of working in wholesale?
KEN JEN: Instagram is great for our generation to link with people. We were friends for about 6 months before he offered me the job.
FRENDY: There are tons of catfishes online, what made you trust in him so much?
KEN JEN: The Internet is a dope place --- it brings a lot of dope people together. You just have to trust it. We just had similar interests in certain things like fashion, music etc, and he was in the business I wanted to be in. It was a win-win situation for both of us to work together.