Welcome to EW‘s weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with the co-founder and co-CEO of New York-based jewellery brand Aurate, Bouchra Ezzahraoui. Having initially started her career in the world of finance in 2011, Ezzahraoui saw a gap in the jewellery space in the USA – finding an inclusive luxury experience for women looking for quality pieces, but not at astronomical prices.
Ezzahraoui co-founded Aurate in 2014 with Sophie Khan, promising to produce quality pieces with durable materials via sustainable processes.
EW sat down with Ezzahraoui to discover what is at the core of the brand’s ethos, the future of Aurate and the key elements of her role as co-CEO.
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What was your favourite subject at school?
I have loved Maths since a very young age. I used to be stunned by all the elegant ways some theorems could be proven and how huge datasets could be analyzed and understood. There is something very unique that comes with the subject, you’re challenged and the journey is as important as the final answer you’re trying to prove. It is pretty much the same as running a business.
What was your first job?
I started my career as a derivatives trader at Goldman Sachs in New York and was in finance for about 7 years. It was a great learning experience where I got to manage risks and make decisions in a very fast-paced environment. Getting to manage a team while being in a very results-oriented space is a great bootcamp to make the jump to a more entrepreneurial venture.
What inspired you to go into the jewellery industry?
As women who wanted to buy jewellery for ourselves, the offerings were limited in the US. We were over the green fingers from cheap costume jewellery but also couldn’t afford the real gold jewellery that would last. We then decided we could do better for women, the self gifters who are not just expecting a gift from their significant others. Real women looking for an inclusive luxury experience and a product that checked all the boxes.
Can you talk us through the inspiration behind your brand Aurate?
The focus is on our women and making sure that her jewellery wardrobe adapts to their lifestyle. The look and feel of our jewellery is more clean and modern – our designs are made to beautify the gold itself and not overdo it with needless distractions. The jewellery is meant to be beautiful, timeless and make you look and feel good.
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What are the key elements of your role?
Lately, I have been spending most of my time on finance, business development and performance across all the departments. As we grow and become more profitable, the challenges in each of those sides of the business keep changing and so is my role. Being a CEO, I still have to oversee all aspects of Aurate but I am lucky enough to have a co-CEO and a team I can rely on as well.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I start my day planning for the rest of the day as new things come up all the time on top of the recurring meetings. This is the most important part of my schedule as I need to be strategic about what I want to focus on and which of my actions can be more impactful.
I usually have catch-up meetings with my team in the morning to go over our priorities or any updates from their side. The rest of the day is a combination of internal and external meetings and I try to find at least a few of hours to focus on analyses or projects; and those frequently happen during the night if my day is too hectic.
I take a walk in the middle of the day to recenter myself and that could also be five minute meditation break sometimes depending on my workload.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Make sure you’re solving a need in your market but go for it relatively quickly. I see a lot of entrepreneurs spending so much time on the most complex business plans. The reality is that your plan will change on a much faster cadence than you expected, and your job will be to adapt and take calculated risks very quickly.
As long as there is demand for your product or your solution, the “how” will change many times along the way so it’s ok to go to market with a “not so perfect” two-year plan vs. the dream five-year business plan.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Work hard and don’t take no for an answer. You will hear a lot of “nos” along the way but your work will speak for itself eventually.
And what is the worst?
Save on headcount costs initially by doing it all by yourself as a CEO.
This is the worst advice to take when you’re managing a high growth business even in its early stages. You need to hire specialists and rockstars that are better than you and who can teach you and the team things you don’t know, that’s how you grow and avoid many mistakes.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Understanding the deep meaning of “running a business is a marathon”. I am very impatient and it took me a few years in this venture to digest the fact that a lot of work we’re doing today is the foundation of something much bigger we will probably only be able to see years from now.
What are your goals for 2021?
Keep listening to our customers and be where she wants us to be. We are now expanding to more categories and markets and have a lot of exciting updates for our international expansion.
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