People 19 December 2016
You could call Rachel Blumenthal’s entrepreneurial start a “lucky one,” – even she calls it a happy accident – but it was as self-earned as it was serendipitous. At the time, she was working in New York City for luxury fashion and beauty brand, Yves Saint Laurent, which had her interacting regularly with magazine editors and stylists. One of her creative outlets was designing jewelry for herself, and one day she wore one of her own rings into the office that caught the attention of her colleagues.
“Some of the editors that I worked with at Lucky Magazine decided to feature me as a designer," she recalls on SWAAY’s podcast, Entrepreneurs En vogue.
"I don't think I appreciated what could come of it, but about a month later, Daily Candy called, and this was back in 2003 when Daily Candy was the only game in town. I didn't have a website, so I had a couple days, basically, to go figure out how to at least have some semblance of a domain. I did that, and we had buyers and editors and customers that wanted more of this brand that literally didn't exist.”
That nonexistent brand quickly became Rachel Leigh jewelry, which would go on to be sold in 500 stores worldwide, including Henri Bendel and Shopbop, over the course of the next eight years. In 2012, she licensed the brand to Glamhouse, took a year to transition her team, and then began working on a new venture called Cricket’s Circle, an online shopping destination for expectant moms.
This shift was primarily prompted by Blumenthal’s desire to challenge herself, the ever-changing retail scene of the late 2000s, and an entrepreneurial thirst.
“Once you’re an entrepreneur, and once you run your own business, it’s really hard to imagine ever working for somebody in a sort of traditional capacity again.”
“I think I had absolutely been bitten by that entrepreneurial bug, and was really sort of fascinated and excited by many of the early startups that were gaining a lot of traction in the market,” she explains.
The idea for Cricket’s Circle was born out of Blumenthal’s own needs as a new mother who was overwhelmed by a saturated market. The website served as a personal product recommendation engine that did the business vetting for consumers, and served as a springboard for her latest entrepreneurial project, Rockets of Awesome.
“We were able to prove out that we knew how to build a brand that resonated and spoke to this generation of parents,” says Blumenthal. She explains that, based on feedback from the community, they kept hearing the same thing: that shopping for items like car seats and strollers were momentary moments of stress, but that an ongoing pain point was the issue of children outgrowing, wearing and tearing through their clothing.
Rockets of Awesome, dubbed a “parent life hack,” solves that problem. It’s a subscription box that delivers eight to 12 carefully curated children’s clothing items to your doorstep every quarter. Subscribers can also purchase individual items through the website. The business was given $7 million dollars in seed money by investors, and has thrived since it was launched.
Through these ventures, Blumenthal has two primary takeaways for what drives success.
“The first is how critically important it is to have a very defined vision for what you want to build, and the problem you want to solve, and be confident in that vision."
“Everyone is going to have opinions along the way, and ideas for you, and it’s really important not to get distracted from what that north star is.”
The second critical point is building a relationship with your customers, which, when boiled down, is all about your branding.
“I think that brand is hard for some people to understand; sometimes it feels frivolous, or that it’s just about a logo, but it’s not,” says Blumenthal. “Brand is what makes a business, a product, an experience seem memorable. It’s what really pulls at the heartstrings. Building a brand that is authentic to the founding team, and has a very defined vision and point of view, is hypercritical to building lifelong value in a business.”
In addition to Rachel Leigh, Cricket’s Circle, and Rockets of Awesome, Blumenthal serves as an advisor to Warby Parker, which was co-founded by her husband, Neil. Clearly, she has an uncanny ability to pinpoint a gap in the market and solve the problem while gaining the trust of consumers.
Moral of the story: a fortuitous event may help you “get discovered,” but you must work furiously to achieve the kind of success Blumenthal has earned. After all, one ring does not simply turn into three nationally acclaimed businesses.
Learn more about Blumenthal’s ventures, and business philosophy, on the podcast.
3 min read
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist