It’s time to skyrocket your Monday with some proper Monday Motivation! Our fifth girl boss in our Career Girl Monday series is Sophie Kahn (32), who lives in New York and runs a very successful business in fine jewelry. What choices did she make to get here? And how about living in New York? Sophie: ‘The city’s energy is infectious, so you’re operating at 110% all the time. It keeps you on your toes and allows you to do things you didn’t think possible.’
You went to Princeton, and now you run a jewelry business in New York. It seems like you’re living the dream. How did you get where you are today?
Sophie: ‘I was always very clear on what I wanted to achieve and was willing to work really hard for that. I’ll never forget a moment when I was 18 and waking over 5th Avenue in NYC, on my way to the airport after a holiday. I was so enamored with the city and make a pact with myself then and there that I was going to find a way to go back to NYC. On the plane ride back home I wrote out a plan and list of objectives and really stuck to that. I’ve been doing that ever since, and still do it daily with AUrate. I guess you can say I’m a to-do list nutt. I’ve also been fortunate to have a great support network of family, friends, and boyfriend/now husband who have always encouraged me to follow my dreams.’
How would you describe AUrate to a stranger?
Sophie: ‘In 4 words: “Fine jewelry – No concessions.” In more detail: We believe that, when it comes to fine jewelry, you can have it all. Luxury can be affordable. Design can be accessible. Indulgence can be ethical. In other words, we offer jewelry without making any concessions on quality, price, design or ethics. It’s a new way to do fine jewelry.’
What has been the role of luck in your success?
Sophie: ‘There’s a saying: “it’s better to be lucky than good; but if you’re not lucky, you better be good.” Luck is important but you can’t count on it, so you have to make your own. For example, I found a job in NYC at the height of the crisis (2009) when very few companies were hiring. At the same time, thanks to the crisis, it was easier to get a visa as a foreigner and not have to participate in the lottery. So there are two sides to many situations; it’s your responsibility to be prepared to make the most of it. I’ve also been lucky to be in good health, have energy, and to be brought up in a loving and nurturing environment.’
What would you advise girls who dream of running a business in New York?
Sophie: ‘Just do it. You can think about it and write a detailed business plan, but at the end of the day, it comes down to just starting. Of course, you need a bit of planning but don’t overdo it. Try to get a proof of concept, and once you’ve shown that it works, you can raise capital and grow further.’
What quotation or saying inspires and motivates you to be yourself and what you love?
Sophie: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I’ve used this a lot in life to draw inspiration and energy when feeling distraught or anxious or down. When things are easy, everybody can do well. It’s when things are hard that it really counts.’
How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Sophie: ‘I try to take some time to myself and really focus on not focusing on work, for instance through meditation, meeting with friends, or reading a book. Now that I have a baby, it’s become a little easier since my time with her is focused on her. But, to be completely honest, I’m “on” almost always, including vacations and weekends. AUrate is my oxygen and I like to think about it and work on it – it’s not work in the traditional sense since it’s enjoyable for me.’
What is a lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
Sophie: ‘To sometimes keep my guard up and keep things close to my chest. I’m very open and sometimes this can backfire. On the other hand, sharing encourages the other party to do the same, so there’s also definite benefits to being transparent, but I’ve learned to be careful (especially in a city as cutthroat as NY).’
Who’s your role model and why?
Sophie: ‘Maybe cliche, but Sheryl Sandberg. I think she’s so strong and “Lean in” really helped me feel okay about working hard while being a mom. Even with the tragedy that befell her family, she’s been able to find meaning and help others, which I find very inspiring (currently reading her book “Option B”).’
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Sophie: ‘Don’t worry too much about what you’re going to do and if you’re good enough. Don’t be intimidated by big names and big mouths. Just stay your course and you’ll get there. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’
What do you hope to achieve in 5 years time?
Sophie: ‘I hope that by then, AUrate has grown further and has become a widespread alternative to the famous brand names (think Cartier, Tiffany etc.) for fine jewelry. I also hope that more new companies will follow our philosophy and implement ways to give back, whether through sustainable production practices or through direct giving.’
More? We’ve got more! Make sure to check out the stories of these other kick-ass girl bosses too:
Career Girl Monday #4: Eve Tomaszewski
Career Girl Monday #3: Caroline Glasbergen
Career Girl Monday #2: Danique & Adine
Career Girl Monday #1: Emilie Sobels