BaubleBar co-founders Amy Jain and Daniella Yacobovsky were friends first before they ever went into business together, designing fast-fashion jewelry. The duo first met while working in investment banking in New York. And when they got their MBA’s at Harvard Business School together, they came up with the idea that would become their hugely popular online jewelry retailer.
Their mission was to be an invaluable source for fashionable and affordable accessories and impeccable customer service. In 2011, committed to turning their vision into a reality, they bootstrapped the company, and soon attracted investors like Accel and Greycroft Partners.
In the five years since their launch, the company now handles more than 1,500 orders a day, the site receives 1 million visitors a month and as recently as January of this year, the New York-based business raised $20 million in a series C funding round. The company's reach has expanded offline as well, thanks to partnerships with big name stores like Anthropologie, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Target.
We caught up with the pair to talk about asking for help and paying it forward, building a brand that lasts, meeting the customer where they are, and assembling a team that will both challenge you and embrace your vision.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were first starting out?
Amy Jain: I wish I had paused and worked at a fashion-retail company. My background was 100 percent in finance, so my learning curve was extremely steep. New people who join our team often joke about how we internally use a lot of lingo in lieu of commonly used retail jargon. I made up a lot of words along the way.
Daniella Yacobovsky: We would have been more proactive asking for advice and guidance from other entrepreneurs and founders.
Q: What do you think would have happened had you known this back then?
AJ: We would have built this company in a third of the time. I would have understood from day one the right steps to take to accomplish our goals. We hired our first merchant two and half years into launching the company. I didn’t even know what a merchant did when I was interviewing our now VP of Merchandising. In hindsight, I have no idea how we survived that long without her and her team.
DY: So much of entrepreneurship is going out on a limb, making educated guesses and tweaking your approach based on what you learn. Truthfully, there is a massive network of fellow entrepreneurs out there who have extraordinarily wide-ranging experiences and are genuinely excited to share what they’ve learned to help other entrepreneurs. There is a real sense of camaraderie and community. The help is there and easily accessible, you just have to tap into it.
Q: How do you think young entrepreneurs might benefit from this lesson?
AJ: If you told me 5 years ago that I would be selling fashion jewelry, I would have laughed! But I have always had an entrepreneurial bug and a strong interest in building lasting consumer brands. If I had taken a few years to work at a consumer company, or even if in a different industry or vertical, I would have gained the foundation I needed to build BaubleBar smarter and faster.
DY: Starting something is so overwhelming and sometimes you are so mired in your own to-do list, you don’t want to burden someone else with questions. We remember when we were first starting out, we didn’t want to bother anyone with our questions, or take up too much time. It was really inspiring to see how eager more seasoned entrepreneurs were to give us advice, share some of their past experiences, make a useful introduction or even just provide a word of encouragement.
Q: What are you glad you didn’t know then that you know now?
AJ: I don’t think I fully understood the extent of what my responsibilities would become if our “idea” worked. At the beginning, my biggest worry was if I was going to have a job tomorrow. Today, I am responsible for delivering an outstanding experience to our customers, taking care of our 150-person team and producing strong results for our investors. I love what we are building at BaubleBar so much, however, today these responsibilities don’t scare me; they motivate me.
DY: How emotionally taxing this job really is. It’s immensely challenging but truly rewarding. You think you’re prepared for what it will take, but you won’t truly understand until you experience it for yourself. And that’s probably for the best. Understanding and accepting that challenge has to come along with the excitement of owning, building, and growing something yourself.
Q: What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
AJ: Always think about the customer and give her what she wants. Put yourself in her shoes and look at every touch point she has with your brand and product. Loyal customers are ones who feel like you are listening to them.DY: Surround yourself with incredible people who will teach you, challenge you, and aren’t afraid to give you their honest feedback. This applies to everything from a close network of advisors to your colleagues, to your partners and investors.