“Make Sure You’re Pushy” 5 Startup Tips With Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, Founders of AUrate
“We’re grateful for founding this company together and helping each other when things get tough. We’re best friends, as well as business partners, so we lean on one each other throughout the ups and downs.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, founders of AUrate. AUrate is a direct-to-consumer fine jewelry company that sells real gold jewelry at honest prices. They are Princeton grads, who saw an opportunity to revolutionize the jewelry industry, by cutting out the middleman to make it more accessible. Everything is ethically sourced and handmade in NYC, and they give a book to a child in need for every piece they sell.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
We (Sophie & Bouchra) founded AUrate while working full time jobs, at Marc Jacobs and Goldman Sachs, respectively. We weren’t happy with the jewelry options out there — everybody who’s ever had green fingers knows what we’re talking about — or the prices.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Our first pop-up in Soho was a week long. We were just starting out and that plan was to offer “buy now, get later” (in other words, we had no stock on hand). But most of our customers wanted their pieces right away. Luckily, our “office”, which was really my apartment, was just across the street. So, we ended up running up the stairs in our walk up apartment in SoHo every time we made a sale. It was a crazy work out and our legs were sore for days, but we were happy we had a product people liked.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We go above and beyond for our customers, both in our business model (honest pricing, real gold, ethical sourcing, giving back) but also in our day to day service. During the holiday season, we started same-day NYC delivery but the demand was too high to accommodate everything via Uber-rush, so we ended up dropping off the pieces 1-by-1 ourselves.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
We’re grateful for founding this company together and helping each other when things get tough. We’re best friends, as well as business partners, so we lean on one each other throughout the ups and downs.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
For every piece we sell, we give a book to a child in need. We’ve already given more than 10.000 books to kids in the US. While visiting the schools, we’ve developed close relationships with some of these kids and try to mentor them and help them reach their full potential.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Sophie: A Dutch book called Spijt by Carry Slee (I grew up in The Netherlands). It was about bullying in school and how a boy committed suicide as a result. This left a lasting impression on me about how we should always be aware of our impact on the people around us. It taught me that you can always help. The boy from the book didn’t have anybody to talk to or rely on, and it could have been so easy for somebody to lend a helping hand. (note: see our blog article)
Bouchra: “Three Strong Women” by Marie Ndiaye, a French novel about survival and embracing life. The novel features three stories of three women with an unbelievable sense of self-worth who overcome fear, social injustice and their insecurities via patience and mental strength.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Cash is king. We learned this the hard way once, but now are crazy on top of this.
2. Team = everything
3. Make sure you’re pushy. It took us a long time to get our foot in the door.
4. Travel before you start. Once you get started, there’s no more time for that.
5. Find something that allows you to destress (yoga, meditation, whatever it is). You’ll need it ;-)
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Sophie: Sheryl Sandberg. Her book Lean In really helped me feel empowered to have a career and a baby, and not feel guilty about this (in fact, maybe even feel good about it). Having not seen many examples of this up close, it was very inspiring and really pushed me to just make it happen.