Founder Friday: Finding the Silver Bullet—Founders Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui Discuss Jumping In to Form Their Fine Jewelry Brand, AUrate New York
As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!
From the moment you meet Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, you know these two are a force to be reckoned with. Both give off serious boss babe vibes and when posed with the question, “What advice would you give your younger self?” both responded with a resounding “Don’t worry, just do it” attitude. It’s this confidence and willingness to dive right in that led them to jointly found their fine jewelry company, AUrate New York. We reached out to Sophie and Bouchra to see what inspires them on their toughest days, what advice they’d give fellow female entrepreneurs, and how rewarding it felt pursuing their dreams of delivering beautiful, affordable, modern jewelry.
Why did you start your company?
BE: We just did not understand why modern fine jewelry was so inaccessible, intimidating and uninspiring. AUrate was born to address all of this.
SK: A desire to fix the jewelry industry and make it worthy of the women who wear it.
Tell us about yourself.
BE: Moroccan-born, I grew up in France before coming to the US for college. I'm one of 10 children, love building things and traveling.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company?
BE: Hiring the right team who shared the same vision for AUrate. It's very hard in the early days when the business is just an idea.
SK: Bouchra and I started Aurate "on the side" while working fulltime jobs. I was at Marc Jacobs, she was at Goldman Sachs. So one of the biggest challenges in the early days was to find time. Period. Basically, we weren't sleeping much or doing anything other than working.
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
BE: Having a co-founder and the right investors on board were key to AUrate's success. I also learned a lot from my father who is a serial entrepreneur and always taught me to bootstrap & be ok with taking calculated risks throughout the journey.
What are some of the ways entrepreneurs today can help raise and inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs?
BE: By being invested in their success directly. There is a big difference between mentoring a woman and sponsoring her success and that comes through when you give her a seat in the decision table.
SK: For starters, every woman who builds a company (or is just rocking something in her life) is already an inspiration to me. Further, help other women. Talk to them, be real - I know I always feel so much better after I've been speaking with people who are going through the same stuff as we are and we share the real sh*t. Even though we're all crazy busy, I think it's very important to make the time.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
BE: Empathetic, unapologetic & No ego.
SK: Optimistic, workaholic, empathetic
What’s something most people might not assume about you at first glance?
BE: I was kicked out of school twice. It hasn't been a straight line for me :)
SK: That I'm good with math and numbers (Bouchra and I met while studying Finance).
What quality do you love most about yourself?
SK: That I'm loyal and have been able to be there for my friends at the important moments.
When and where are you happiest?
BE: With my family & friends over a meal & just staring at a beach.
SK: I definitely get an endorphin boost after the gym (which, admittedly, doesn't happen much these days). Other moments are when Aurate is killing it and when my baby gives me one of those big happy hugs.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
BE: Don’t waste too much time worrying, just go for it!
SK: Have the confidence to do what you really want to do. If you truly love something, just do it. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail, and at least you've tried. You have one life, live it.
What is your motto?
BE: DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER!
What are the advantages or benefits of being a founder that many people may not realize or know about?
SK: You set your own rules. Yes, you might work 100 hours a week, but it's on your terms. For me, freedom is more important than anything - and you've (mostly) got that as a founder.
Thinking about your time as an entrepreneur, what do you believe is one of the most challenging hurdles women entrepreneurs have to overcome?
BE: They need to move from the questioning/analyzing phase to let's just try it out! It's totally fine to check 8 out of the 10 points in the checklists/plan. The label "Female" founder or "Female" CEO also comes with a stigma to your existence in front of VCs or other founding teams, our job is to have more women in the C-suite and invest in more women founding teams to remove this bias.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
SK: I would have started hiring our team even earlier. We did a lot ourselves the early days, but a good team can just propel you forward so much faster and simply allow you to focus on other important issues. It's all an opportunity cost of your time - realize that.
What does your morning routine look like?
SK: Get woken up by our toddler, play with her while dressing both of us, doing emails in between (yes, I'm not the zen type to wait), and rushing out the door. There's very minimal mirror time involved.
What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?
BE: The team I have working with us and the mission. I don't think you can get going without that as a founder.
SK: Actually, happy customer comments mean A LOT. When I have down day, I like reading through them and instantly feel uplifted. People DO appreciate us ;-)
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
BE: Meditation and nice meals with friends. A trip somewhere new is also the main food for my soul.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
BE: Building a business from 0 to 1 to N and working with a great co-founder and team.
SK: Building something out of nothing and creating something new, both for our customers and our team.