When Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn noticed a void in the market for fairly priced, ethically made fine jewelry, they decided to fill it. Although the two had established careers in finance, Ezzahraoui as an interest rate volatility trader at Goldman Sachs and Kahn as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, they knew they'd always regret it if they didn't pursue this opportunity.
After taking classes at New York's Parsons School of Design, they co-founded AUrate New York, a luxury jewelry brand handcrafted in NYC dedicated to exclusively using ethically sourced materials, in 2015. In addition to going back to school, the two also juggled their day jobs while they laid the foundation for their burgeoning business. "One big challenge was to build AUrate while we kept our day jobs," they confessed to MyDomaine. "It took a lot of discipline, sweat, and tears to be able to do both—but it was worth it!"
In this installment of Second Life, we ask the women behind AUrate New York about leaving finance for fine jewelry, including how they balanced working their day jobs with pursuing their entrepreneurial endeavor, how making mistakes along the way ended up helping their success, and why they wouldn't change a thing about their unconventional career paths.
Tell us about your first career path.
SOPHIE KAHN: Our backgrounds are in finance and strategy. I worked in management consulting at The Boston Consulting Group and as the director of strategy at Marc Jacobs.
BOUCHRA EZZAHRAOUI: I worked as an interest rate volatility trader at Goldman Sachs.
How did you make the transition from your previous backgrounds to starting a fine jewelry brand? And can you tell us about that concept?
BE: We decided to start AUrate New York after realizing there was a void in the market for fairly priced contemporary high-quality jewelry. We spent most of 2014 laying the groundwork for the business and taking classes at New York's Parsons School of Design. Then 2015 was the year when we saw the business develop from a concept into a reality, and when we really noticed it was working and we were on to something. I left my corporate job early in 2016 to devote my time entirely to AUrate; then Bouchra joined the team full-time earlier this year.
Tell us about your current career path/business?
BE: AUrate is part technology, e-commerce, retail, strategy, finance, and advertising. I work mostly on the financial and operational aspects of the company, while Sophie focuses on the strategy and marketing. Our business is a direct-to-consumer fine jewelry startup. All of our jewelry is real gold, ethically sourced, and made in New York City, which allows us to keep a closer eye on the production process. We also have a giving back portion, our Book for Your Look program, which allows us to donate a book for every piece of jewelry purchased to an economically underprivileged child at a Mastery Charter School.
What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers and why?
One big challenge was to build AUrate while we kept our day jobs. It took a lot of discipline, sweat, and tears to be able to do both. But it was worth it!
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
We like to focus on making things happen and having a real impact, and with AUrate we feel this is really possible. It allows us to lead, be creative, take risks, build something from scratch, and see it grow. We have high-energy personalities, which is why this career is a good fit since we're essentially working 24/7.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
The importance of a great team and partner. It's sometimes overlooked, but having the right talent in place to make something amazing happen is just as important as the business idea itself.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
We took a chance because we couldn't help ourselves and would always regret it if we didn't try. You only live once and have to grab the moment when it's there. Also, we don't believe in the perfect plan or overanalysis. At some point, you just have to jump.
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
Hiring the wrong person for the job. While very painful at the time, it actually gives you a lot of insight into what qualities you really need for that position. In the end, it allowed us to build a great team that fits exactly with AUrate's needs.
What do you love most about your current role and why?
Seeing your creation, your "child," grow up every day. It's an amazing feeling.
When you look back and reflect on your previous career, do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
No regrets; that's also not our style. The only thing we may have done differently is to not take things so seriously at the beginning of our careers and to take the rat race with a grain of salt.
For more inspiring stories from successful women who've made major career changes, tune into MyDomaine's Second Life podcast.