AUrate_Founders2017
Image courtesy AUrate
Interview

Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui

03.21.17

AUrate is a jewelry collection created by Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui when they independently recognized how difficult it was to find high quality, contemporary jewelry at an attainable price point. They settled on the direct-to-consumer business model as the way to deliver a high quality product without the wholesale markup. AUrate being the first of its kind to do this with jewelry successfully. The two friends work together to run the business, Sophie focusing more on design, but ultimately, the collection is personal to both of them. With their combined business backgrounds, the women conquered another male-dominated industry with the tenacity and motivation required to run a successful business. AUrate plans to open more stores in the coming year.

Interview

The two of you met in graduate school at Princeton, but how did that blossom into the beginning of AUrate?

AUrate was conceived because of a problem we encountered as two young working women. The idea came over a brunch in NY while we were talking about working on something for ourselves. I was working as a trader at Goldman Sachs while Sophie worked in Management Consulting at BCG and in Strategy at Marc Jacobs. We couldn’t find any place to buy high quality jewelry at an attainable price point. Either the jewelry was affordable but poor quality or it was high quality but overpriced. This is when we realized we can do a better job at offering contemporary fine jewelry at an affordable price point.

What inspired your direct to consumer model?

Sophie, my co-founder, was wearing an expensive ring that kept turning her finger green – I was born in Morocco where gold is not considered luxury because the customer is very familiarized with gold and its cost. We saw the value in the direct-to-consumer models that worked successfully in other fashion segments, but not yet in jewelry, a sector that remains very traditional and lacks transparency in its margins and production processes. That’s when we decided to start AUrate – a company that offers fine jewelry at attainable prices.

Your pricing model is another unique aspect to your business. How did you develop fair pricing strategy that also leads to steady growth year per year?

This was made possible thanks to our direct-to-consumer model, we decided to cut the middleman, avoiding the wholesale markups that drive prices 3x to 10x higher. AUrate is pronounced “orate”, we picked this name as we are committed to tell a story via our brand that is all about empowerment, transparency and realness. Our customers’ awareness is growing; they believe in our model and are actively contributing to grow the AUrate tribe. 

“A Book for Your Look” is a program you’ve incorporated in order to donate with every purchase. How did this idea come about?

We strongly believe in giving back to the community, so when we started the company it was obvious that we would incorporate a charitable component. We wanted something tangible and real, and landed on our ‘Book for You Look’ program. We donate a school book to an underprivileged child with every AUrate piece purchased. 

Education is the backbone of our society and it just makes sense to give in this way. Imagine what the world would look like if every corporation gave back.

Do you both take part in the design process?

Sophie has been behind most of our designs and I have been focusing on the business aspect of AUrate; we love discussing the designs and inspirations, and we even sometimes switch hats because that’s what makes the journey even more fun! 

It’s ultimately what we’d love to wear, so sometimes it’s fun to work on the designs together.

Why did you decide to base your production and manufacturing in NYC?

The price of the gold as a commodity is the same everywhere. Producing in New York, allows us to increase quality control without spending that much more. At the same time, basing our production and manufacturing close by makes it easier to build relationships with our manufacturers and keep a close eye on the process to make sure our customers get the very best.

What are your favorite pieces from the collection?

I love all the pieces in the collection as we design what we see ourselves wearing. For example, I love the minimal yet bold look of our Geometric Square Ring – the piece showcases the beauty of gold as a material and I like calling it the investment piece, a beautiful chunk of gold that can be melted if you feel like it. 

Our Icon Collection is a typical day to night versatile look. You can customize the gold as well as the diamonds colors. It comes in earrings, necklaces, rings and anklets. For instance, I go for the black diamond pieces that add a little edge to my look.

Do you work with a large team of artisans?

On a daily basis, we work with a team of 20-25 people. We’ve built great relationships with a few artisans in New York, and we like to stay involved in every step of the way. They are part of the AUrate family and we have gotten to know each other on a more cordial level that makes work fun.

You’ve achieved great success since starting the brand a few years ago, what was your most memorable accomplishment?

Making the first sale to a customer who wasn’t a friend or a friend of a friend! That was the ultimate proof of concept that made us realize that AUrate had to exist. I truly believe that going from 0 to 1 is the hardest but the most rewarding step during the journey of any entrepreneur. The 1 to n will follow…

What has your experience been like as female entrepreneurs thus far?

To be honest, we don’t focus too much on gender. The jewelry industry is indeed very traditional and male-dominated, but we’ve worked in very male-dominated fields before and found it easiest to just do our work and focus on that. 
We’re inspired by men like Steve Jobs and women like Sheryl Sandberg – people that make a career by pursuing their passion and going for it, so we just went for it too. The great part is being co-founders and very close friends. You support each other and you come out strong as a team.

What jewelry trends are you looking forward to as Spring approaches?

Our new collection is inspired by a strong focus on geometry. This component has always been part of AUrate’s core DNA where we like to balance clean, minimal and contemporary expressions with a timeless element.

Can you share the next big step for AUrate?

Growing 🙂 We’re opening other stores this year and looking to add more locations down the line – I grew up between France and Morocco, and Sophie is Dutch, AUrate will eventually go global.

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