In 2015, two Princeton graduates with no background in jewelry started a line of affordable gold accessories, which they sold directly to consumers online. Two years later, they have a thriving business, a Madison Avenue storefront and have just announced their latest accomplishment: $2.6 million in funding from a number of sources including Arab Angel Fund, Victress Capital and other anonymous investors.
When they founded AUrate, Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn set out to disrupt traditional jewelry retail by selling ethically sourced pieces online, slashing the margins and markups typically associated with the industry. With no marketing budget and no brick and mortar presence (at first), the pair was nonetheless able to establish a base of loyal customers, who appreciated AUrate’s affordable prices and no-nonsense business model.
Now, after three consecutively profitable quarters, with gains averaging around 300%, the team at AUrate intend to spend their new capital on a number of initiatives, including hiring 25 new employees over the next 12 months and expanding their marketing. But their biggest plans have to do with transforming the company from an online business to an omnichannel one with at least two more New York City storefronts and pointed West Coast expansion, starting in Los Angeles.
AUrate opened its first New York store on the Upper East Side in February 2016. Before that, the team hosted a successful Williamsburg, Brooklyn pop-up over the holidays, and they are planning a permanent location in that trendy neighborhood as well as one in downtown Manhattan, in SoHo. “Their storefronts will take the brand to the next level, offering a brick-and-click strategy while providing an AUrate sanctuary for the customer,” a representative for the brand says.
Like Warby Parker and Amazon, AUrate joins a growing number of companies that began by selling online and have used that foundation as a way to back into a more conventional retail model, with brick and mortar locations that give buyers the chance to handle the merchandise and further engage with the seller. It’s worth noting that Ezzahraoui and Kahn, who were profiled in FORBES in March 2016, are educated in Finance and Retail Marketing and Strategy, respectively.
AUrate, with its minimalist and fashionable pieces, appeals to female customers shopping for themselves: a desirable, growing market within the jewelry industry. This past April, National Jeweler published an article describing the rising rate of female self-purchases and how the trend is concurrent with an increase in female-headed jewelry brands. The upshot: female designers understand what women want, and women customers like buying from them.
For at least one of their new investors, the girl-power duo behind AUrate inspired them to get onboard. “We look for strong, tenacious and driven female founders,” Lori Cashman, a partner at Victress Capital said via press release. “We were able to check that box within the first 60 seconds of meeting [Ezzahraoui and Kahn].”
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