"How Vietnamese Immigrant Johnny Dang..."| by Heather R Morgan

Check Out the Full Article on 'Forbes'

As quoted from the Article...

How did a Vietnamese immigrant in Texas become the top diamond jewelry supplier for America’s biggest hip hop stars and entertainers?

Even if you aren’t a fan of diamonds, gold chains or hip hop, the story of how Johnny Dang went from repairing jewelry in a flea market to creating his own designer jewelry empire is the embodiment of the American dream, and inspiring for anyone with entrepreneurial dreams.

Johnny Dang in music and popular culture 

Just search “Johnny Dang” on Genius’ lyrics database, and you’ll see his name mentioned in dozens of popular rap songs, from award winning artists like Migos, Gucci Mane, Lil Pump, Keith Ape, Chief Keef, and many more. Dang is said to be the inspiration behind Nelly’s 2006 hit song, “Grillz,” which was the top song on the Billboard charts in 2006. You can actually see Dang dancing around in the background of the video if you watch closely.  

The Instagram page of Dang’s business, Johnny Dang & Co, is an endless stream of famous entertainers wearing Dang’s jewelry, hugging him like family, and showing off giant smiles of diamond encrusted grills as they visit his 16,000 square foot shop resembling a small palace.  Kanye West, Jay Z, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Cardi B, Rick Ross, and dozens (if not hundreds) of other big names are all loyal clients of Dang. Some fans have even tattooed illustrations of Dang on their body.

But Dang wasn’t always known as the king of bling, with his golden palace of fine jewelry.

In 1996, Dang, his mother and siblings moved from Vietnam to reunite with his father, who they had been separated from for nine years. Dang’s father was a soldier in the Vietnam war, and escaped by boat, later opening a small jewelry repair shop in Texas.  

“The jewelry in America is much larger, especially for hip hop. The amount of gold karats used in jewelry here is also much more than in Asia,” says Dang.

According to Dang, much of the fine jewelry in Vietnam and Asia is often handcrafted, with jewelers setting stones manually, whereas jewelry production in the United States is much more automated and software driven, requiring strong technical skills. After arriving in America, Dang quickly taught himself how to use these new tools. Even now, he makes a point to ensure that he and his team are always aware of the latest advances in technology and processes—not just for scalability, but to maintain the highest quality of work. 

Never stop innovating

While repairing jewelry in the flea market, Dang met rapper and entrepreneur, Paul Wall. Wall was impressed by Dang’s ability to make grills which didn’t require the filing of teeth, which was the common practice at the time, and Wall had the connections and insight in the industry that helped Dang break into the hip hop scene. And so their partnership began, and continues to this day.

Dang asserts that his unique ideas for grill styles and trends are what catapulted their popularity, as grills became much more prevalent in hip hop culture about two years after he started making them with Wall. Even early on, Dang tried to make things unique for each of his rapper clients, using things like round diamonds, different colored diamonds, and various embellishments that would make them look one-of-a-kind.  These rappers served as powerful brand ambassadors for Dang and his craft in the early days, and they still continue to help expand his jewelry empire, both offline and online. 

Even with 50 jewelers in-house at Johnny Dang & Co, Dang is still constantly coming up with new creative ideas for jewelry, such as his famed “invisible baguettes” that he did for Migos rapper, Quavo. (“Baguette” refers to rectangular diamonds, and an “invisible set” involves a prong underneath the diamond, making it appear invisible.) 

Dang also just made Quavo a pair of the world’s first emerald-cut grills, which Quavo is proudly sporting on his Instagram page in a recent video post

Like with any business, you have to keep giving customers something new and special to keep them coming back. Nobody buys two of the same thing. If you buy two rings, you don’t want them to be identical (unless they’re a matching set). The same for grills. I try a lot of different looks for jewelry, especially grills. Some of them are successful, but I keep testing to see what the market wants. But this constantly trying new things, especially highly technical ones, is what keeps my competition from successfully copying me,” says Dang. 

Treat every customer like a celebrity, and don’t try to rip celebrities off!

While Dang may have a long list of celebrity clientele, he trains all his staff at Johnny Dang & Co to treat all their customers with deep respect, as if they were all celebrities.  He contributes this level of service, quality, and his constant innovation to his repeat customers, many of which have been with him for over 15 years now. 

Dang also adds that it’s important to “treat celebrities like everyone else.” Meaning, “don’t try to rip them off.” While it may be tempting for businesses to jack up prices for customers with deep pockets, Dang says he charges the same prices for everyone. Obviously celebrities might have a bigger budget for a bigger chain or adding more diamonds, but Dang isn’t trying to cheat people to make an extra buck.

Dang’s final advice to entrepreneurs and aspiring artists:

  1. “If I can do it, everyone can. Especially people born in the United States because there are so many opportunities here.”
  2. “Keep working hard and love what you do.”
  3. “Don’t try to cut corners to make fast money,” as that will sabotage you in the future. Dang loves the saying, “If you do a short cut, you will cut your life short.”
  4. “Never get too comfortable. Success doesn’t always last, especially if you’re complacent. This is true for entrepreneurs and rappers with hit songs; you have to keep working hard if you don’t want to just be a one hit wonder.”
  5. “Don’t forget to give back.”

In addition to hosting charity giveaways for kids in Texas, Dang also tries to help children in his native country of Vietnam under Johnny Dang Charities. 

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