Browsing in the shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue (SKS) was a way for Daniella Yacobovsky and Amy Jain to blow off steam as analysts at UBS (UBS). After leaving the bank in 2006 to work at different hedge funds, the duo reunited two years later at Harvard Business School. There they reminisced about their shopping breaks in Manhattan and wondered why women have favorite go-tos for shoe-gazing but not jewelry. "We realized the shopping process for jewelry was very cumbersome and the markup was way too high," says Jain. "At $400 for a statement necklace, we weren't getting as much value as we would in a pair of shoes."
During their second year of school, while both pursued finance jobs, they decided to explore this hole in the jewelry market. The pair came up with the idea for BaubleBar.com, an online hub for accessible accessories. Unlike a brick-and-mortar retailer, BaubleBar would hold no inventory; instead, it would display high-end jewelry online and sell customers the pieces that had been consigned to it. This would eliminate the overhead that helps account for traditional boutiques' big markups. After investing $25,000 each in the site, they launched a beta version in June 2010. They were quickly blown away by the number of returning customers, and both decided to leave finance to focus on their startup.
By September, BaubleBar had raised $1.1 million from investors. The site officially launched last December with 250 different items. In the past five months the number of BaubleBar.com customers has quadrupled, as has the amount customers spend per order. Their goal, says Yacobovsky: "We want to be the go-to place for all your fashion jewelry needs."
JAIN AND YACOBOVSKY'S BEST ADVICE:
1. Being an industry outsider can be powerful. "We approached BaubleBar as consumers who loved the product, but felt like our needs weren't being met. It's easy to assume you can't make an impact because you have no direct experience in a particular industry, but the ability to distance yourself from a traditional way of thinking is what will prepare you to stand out and succeed."
2. Select your business partner carefully. "We've adapted the saying 'location, location, location' to 'people, people, people.' It's important to surround yourself with people who push you out of your comfort zone and think about the business in completely different ways. We have always worked well together because we challenge one another and have complementary skill sets."