When Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui started their company in 2014, they were working full time.
Kahn was working at Marc Jacobs after a stint at The Boston Consulting Group, and Ezzahraoui was an interest rate volatility trader at Goldman Sachs. They had met in 2009 as Princeton graduate students, two of only a handful of women pursuing finance degrees.
Inspired by the name-brand gold ring turning Kahn’s finger green, the friends decided to start AUrate New York, a jewelry company that would provide affordable, ethically sourced, high-quality gold.
The duo spent 2014 setting up the company, taking classes at New York’s Parsons School of Design and laying the groundwork for their business, then used 2015 as their test year. Would people buy their jewelry? Could they run a successful pop-up shop? “We’re very rational,” Kahn previously told Business Insider. “It has to work.”
Kahn left her day job in February 2016, and Ezzahraoui worked on the company as a side job until leaving Goldman in March 2017. A few months later, AUrate raised $2.63 million in a seed funding round. The cofounders work out of a 15-person office in Soho, Manhattan, and plan to open more retail stores and ramp up their hiring in the near future.
Speaking with Business Insider, they explained how their corporate jobs helped them in their entrepreneurial venture.
“BCG gave me a tool kit to apply to everyday work life,” said Kahn. “Whether that’s creating pitch decks, building Excel models, establishing workflow – essentially just making sure stuff gets done and looks good and is well thought-through.” She says her experience also taught her to manage a team. At Marc Jacobs, she added to those skills with more retail-specific knowledge. “The first job was tool kit, and the second was industry knowledge.”
Ezzahraoui went straight to Goldman Sachs after business school, and says her six years as a trader taught her discipline, and to be comfortable evaluating and taking risks. In fact, her finance background led to a business-building strategy she and Kahn have adopted: preparing for the worst-case scenario.
“You meet founders who are obsessed with their product and sure it’s going to work,” Ezzahraoui said. “But something we’re doing really well is being prepared for the worst case – those black swans.”
Ezzahraoui also finds that her finance background equipped her to be comfortable with strong negotiation. “I play the bad cop,” she said.