If you haven’t noticed a theme in our “Boss Files” series yet, it’s that running a business is hard work, but extremely rewarding. This week, we were lucky enough to chat with Ariel Gordon, founder of Ariel Gordon Jewelry, who has been killin’ the game for the last ten years. Not only are we obsessed with Ariel’s jewelry (Amber wears this necklace every single day), we are so impressed by the business she’s built and admire her strong work ethic. Be sure to head over to Ariel’s site, where she and the team just launched a brand new collection this week, and read our conversation on all things entrepreneurship and business.
We’ve been obsessed with all of your designs for years, and we can’t believe it’s been 10 years since you started the company (wow!!). Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and how you got started.
I was a publicist working in Hollywood and was not exactly fulfilled by my job. I knew if I was going to work so hard that I wanted to be the one to benefit from it. I knew I wanted a flexible job that would let me have kids and be present in their lives. I had been making jewelry as a hobby and had an Ah Ha! moment when I thought it could be a real thing. I took courses to learn the ins and outs of fabrication and design. While I was getting my first collection together, I worked for Maya Brenner. It took a number of years before I felt like I had my business to the size where going out on my own felt more exciting than scary. That was about 7 years ago. It’s been crazy since then, growing, and changing, and taking steps forward and sometimes steps back, but it’s been a ride I wouldn’t change for anything.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while getting the business started?
Staffing is by far the hardest part. I consider myself your average overachiever. Like if I just put my head down and work hard enough I can do just about anything. But the truth is that isn’t sustainable. Things have grown to the point where I can’t just muscle my way through. The business isn’t scaleable if I need to personally touch everything. I have an amazing team of people who help with me with all the different facets but finding the right people to help takes a lot of time and energy.
Overcoming challenges comes with rewards, too! What’s been the most rewarding part so far?
Getting to make something tangible in honor of someone’s major life moments (a birth, a wedding, a death, a graduation) is a real honor. When I see a stranger wearing my pieces and how much they treasure it it reminds me why I started this in the first place.
Managing a team isn’t easy! How big is your team? How did you learn how to manage a team?
We have a very lean team, which we’re growing by the minute, but we keep it small at our offices in Downtown, LA. It’s made more complicated by the fact that I now live in the Bay Area with my family, so I’m a full plane ride away when I wish I could be there in the trenches with them daily. Managing that definitely isn’t easy and is something I’m still adjusting to, but I’ve been able to lean on my team and let them do what they do best, and visit very very often. We are 5 in the office + another half dozen consultants + a much larger team of jewelers scattered around the jewelry district (within 3 blocks of my studio) who do all my casting, stone setting, soldering, hand engraving, enameling, etc etc.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Dumber people than me have done this and succeeded, so that means I can do it! Ha! But really… be gentle with yourself and realistic with your expectations. All good things take time and you can’t do it all at once.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
It’s easy to be daunted by all the things in front of you when you’re starting a business. That check list of items you need to do can be so big that it gives you paralysis. Just go for it. Things will forever be a work in progress. It’s ok to put it out there and then keep working and fine tuning. 10 years later, I still feel like I’m refining things as I go. There is no exact “finished product.” It’s all an evolution. But if you have the passion, now’s as good a time as ever.
You’re a mama, on top of running a biz — and we know that ain’t easy either! How do you find work-life balance? Is that even a thing?
Balance doesn’t exist and I think it’s unrealistic to thing there is. What I try to be diligent about is structuring my time – when I’m working I’m working. When I’m with the kids then I’m with the kids. It’s when I try to do both at the same time that both suffer. I have an incredibly supportive husband who can handle the kids when I travel with the help of our nanny and my in-laws. My team in the office knows my kid’s school schedule and we work around it. But I do feel spread thin constantly. Such is life. We keep going.
What are 5 things you can’t live without right now?
Do you have a daily ritual you can’t live without? If so, what is it?
Nespresso + oat milk in the morning first thing when I’m up early with the kids.
What’s next for Ariel Gordon Jewelry?
2019 marks 10 years of AGJ which is really so wild. Like I have a business and it’s real and pays for a mortgage? What??? I have a lot of really cool things up my sleeve to help usher in our big year. That includes an exciting new collaboration around holiday (still under wraps, sorry) + a new collection launch that I’ve been working on for 2 years that fulfills a big passion of mine (rhymes with shmintage). Stay tuned…