Daniella Yacobovsky – Co-Founder of BaubleBar

Episode 78

When Daniella Yacobovsky and her good friend, Amy Jain, were in Business School at Harvard, they let off steam by shopping together and vamping up their wardrobes for Wall Street. Inspired by their love for fashion jewelry, they decided to partner on a fashion jewelry line project during the last couple of years of business school. They then turned their project into a business which we know today as BaubleBar, which sells on-trend fashion jewelry and works directly with designers to sell jewelry at an affordable price. BaubleBar has been named and featured by *Fast Company*, *Forbes*, and *Tech Crunch* for their amazing work. Daniella joins me on this episode to talk about how she and Amy started BaubleBar, what she's learned in the last 10 years of business, the importance of understanding data and the "back-end" of the business, and much more.

Resources from
this episode:




Kara Goldin: Hi everybody. It’s Kara from Unstoppable and I’m so excited to have my next guest here. Daniella Yacobovsky. Hopefully I didn’t butcher-
Daniella Yacobovsky: That was perfect.
Kara Goldin: … your last name too badly. Co-Founder of BaubleBar. Very, very excited to have her here and just a little bit about her. She is transforming the way women shop for fashion, jewelry, and accessories. If you haven’t checked out her site, it’s at Baublebar.com and really what makes them unique is that they’re on a mission to provide every woman with affordable, on trend products. And I mean, it’s such a great site. Definitely, definitely go check it out. And I love what they’re doing. They are also on fire, and rapidly growing e-commerce brand, which of course we’re recording this during a time when everybody’s shopping from home in particular.
So lots of accolades, Fast Company, Forbes, TechCrunch, all have really noticed what Daniella and BaubleBar have been doing. And we’ve all heard of Meghan Markle and Olivia Palermo and lots of other A-listers out there have recognized it and found it definitely before me along the way. But I was a fast follower, I guess you could call me, but love it, love it. And over 200 retailers in addition are carrying it in 17 countries. I mean, that is wild. Way to go. Super, super great.
Daniella Yacobovsky: Thank you so much.
Kara Goldin: So, yeah. So well, welcome.
Daniella Yacobovsky: Thank you.
Kara Goldin: Really excited to have you here.
Daniella Yacobovsky: Thank you so much for having me.
Kara Goldin: So tell us a little bit about how the idea got started. Were you at Harvard Business School?
Daniella Yacobovsky: So I was at Harvard Business School. But the story actually predates that a little bit. So I happened to start business school with one of my absolute best friends, Amy Jain. We had known each other for several years because we have met in investment banking training many years prior. And someone introduced us and said, “You guys have the same birthday. You should throw a party together.” And we did. And she’s been stuck with me ever since. So it was a little bit of luck and happenstance, as most good things are, that we ended up at business school, same school, same yeah. And we had started talking about this idea for a company that we both were really excited about building. I think when we were working together in finance, we had developed a little bit of a habit of going shopping together at Saks Fifth Avenue, which was down the street from where our investment bank was located.
And the summer between our first and second year at school, we were back in New York, we were doing internships. We were shopping for shoes. And we just started talking about how much we loved the category of accessories and specifically fashion jewelry is such a really incredible transformative category in terms of how we choose to dress, how we choose to express ourselves through the looks that we put together. And we just felt like there weren’t a lot of brands or companies out there that were meeting what we were looking for as shoppers and as consumers. And we decided that we wanted to tackle that problem together. And so in the very nascent stages BaubleBar was born.
Kara Goldin: It’s very cool. So was this a class project, you were both in school together, but was it actually given as a project?
Daniella Yacobovsky: It wasn’t given as any sort of project, it really was just the two of us sitting, in shopping for shoes, and talking about, “Well, I love fashion jewelry so much because it lets me easily experiment with my wardrobe.” If you want to try something new, I feel like I always look for accessories as a really easy way to dip your toe in the water when you don’t want to necessarily spend a ton of money on a whole new set of apparel. It’s a really fun way to just totally transform what you’re wearing and your look. Interestingly enough, in business school, your second year you can do what’s called a field study, which is great because you basically get to set up the project however you want. And you find a faculty supervisor who is excited about what it is that you are looking to ultimately research or dig into, and that can become your credit.
So, funnily enough, we had the idea after our first year at school and then immediately we wanted to spend all our time working on it. We were like, “This is so exciting. I just want to do this.” So we sat down and plotted out. We were like, “Well, how many field studies can you do? Can they all be field studies?” And we were just like chopping up the project into as many as school would allow. But essentially we have a field study for the marketing component and a field study for the ops component. And we really tried to, as much as we could, take all of these different ideas that we wanted to research and explore and somehow jammed them into the curriculum. And fortunately we were able to do a lot.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. I think the thing that’s so interesting about your company, I always feel like there’s a front-end of the company, and then there’s also the backend of the company. And sometimes people think like, “Oh, the backend. It just sounds awful. Really boring and stuff.” And I just always geek out on that because it’s really the data side and the decision making. So that is, in my mind, that has been so often I’m sure accessories were based on the success of an accessory line or a company was based on sales. But I think it’s, you can actually sell more if you really understand your data. And if you really understand who your customers are. And I think, over time, that has become so apparent in so many different categories.
I mean, our business, my day job as a founder and CEO of Hint is we have over 50% of our business is direct to consumer. And so it’s always been… People are now just waking up and recognizing that we’re an omnichannel brand and that we’ve been about data for a long time. But, anyway, I just think it’s so interesting because obviously, I mean, there’s two parts to this too, that you just celebrated your 10 year anniversary too.
Daniella Yacobovsky: We did.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. And note to all those want to be entrepreneurs out there. It’s like, she’s still smiling and she’s still… And so many times when I look at plans and people are like, “Oh yeah, in three years, we’re going to flip the company and it’s just going to happen. Ching.” Right? And it just so many entrepreneurs that I have on here, will live to tell that-
Daniella Yacobovsky: It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint.
Kara Goldin: 100%. Yeah. 100%. So, anyway, going back to the data side of it, was that always your thinking in developing this company?
Daniella Yacobovsky: Yeah. I mean, data is something Amy and I both feel so passionately about and are so excited about. And you’re right. I think it’s funny because when you do interviews and you talk about the company, it is not the sexiest topic. People don’t always love to dig into the data. I think people really love to dig into the consumer side of things and the things that you really see on the face of the company, which obviously are fun and enjoyable and engaging. But data was always a really big part of where we wanted to be. I think just given our backgrounds, we are two people who love numbers. I think numbers can tell you such a robust story about any particular topic or thing, and where we really felt there was just a huge opportunity in this particular category was to really harness that data in an extremely powerful way to help inform the product designs that you were bringing to each of the different channels.
So I think it’s not just about the fact that we do have access to a lot of information around what people are buying and looking for across our site. I think it’s the data coupled with our whole distribution platform. So a lot of people usually shop one of our brands or shop us at a specific location. And a lot of people don’t necessarily realize that we have out baublebar.com, which is sort of our innovation hub or the laboratory of the company.
And then we have a ton of wholesale relationships. We work with retailers that we have always loved to shop and have so much love and respect for folks like Nordstrom, Shopbop, Le Bon Marche in France. So we have a nice international presence there as well. We also have our second brand Sugarfix by BaubleBar, which is sold exclusively at all 1,800 Target doors and on Target.com. And then we also do private label for a couple of other retailers that serve a different demographic than BaubleBar or Sugarfix by BaubleBar necessarily serve.
And I think it’s the power of the data is really understanding what people are looking for and when to really help inform what are the different trends in products that you should be really buying deeply into based on the channel. Because typically we’re finding that folks who are shopping on Baublebar.com, are reading the same blogs, looking at the same accounts on social media, on top of the same trends and looking for the same things at the same time. And it really helps us better predict and figure out when we should be introducing those trends or motifs to other audiences. And also what we think are going to be the winners.
Kara Goldin: Interesting. And what did you see during COVID? I mean, in terms of what were any big trends that you were seeing in terms of people buying?
Daniella Yacobovsky: I mean, I think we are constantly seeing so much. It’s been a whirlwind, I think when you think about the pace at which things change and evolve, I think one of the best pieces of advice we ever, ever got early, early on was think about your company like a stool, and each leg is a revenue stream. And if you cut off a revenue stream, the stool is going to topple. So if you have one revenue stream or two revenue streams, you’re just putting a lot of pressure. And I think coming from finance, we also always think about the benefits of diversification. So right out of the gate, I think when the world fundamentally changed, we were really extremely fortunate that we were coming from a place where we had a platform with four distinct streams of revenue. And four distinct avenues where we sold product.
So when one of those distribution channels functionally went away for a few months, because retail stores are all closed. We were fortunately able to really shift our efforts to some of the other streams. So I think for us, this idea of diversification and this idea of meeting the customer where they are, has always been so core to our ethos and to the brand. And I think is something that really helped us navigate some extremely challenging and certainly extraordinary couple of months. I think separately from that, we’re seeing that people are, at least this year, and I don’t know how long this will play out, but I think people are starting to plan things substantially more in advance. I think we’re finding that people are already searching for Halloween product in the beginning of August, which we would have never expected.
Kara Goldin: Interesting.
Daniella Yacobovsky: I think people are already starting to think about the holidays and starting to think about Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah. It’s been a really just highly unpleasant year, let’s call it what it is. And I think that people are looking for those moments that feel joyful and happy that you celebrate with people that you love. And I think that people are starting to plan a lot more in advance than they were in prior years. Because it’s always fun to have something to look forward to. I think that typically high summer, I think about what I used to plan in high summer, and I would always be planning a vacation that I was taking and that’s not happening. And a lot of people would also be planning back to school. Typically you’re shopping for all the fun back to school things. And it’s this really big moment. And obviously that’s looking a little different this year. So I think people are starting to think about some of those other holidays and momentous occasions and thinking about how they celebrate and show up for them.
Kara Goldin: So you’re in 17 countries. I mean, have any just normalized from a trend standpoint? I mean, do you feel like everything’s back to normal in certain parts of the world?
Daniella Yacobovsky: It’s interesting, I don’t know that there’s going to be a back to normal. I think that this was a pretty fundamental shift and we’re going to see that impacting behavior well into perpetuity. And I think now the question is how do we, as companies and how do we as brands respond to the new normal and respond to the new expectations that people have. So from our perspective, I think people still want products that make them smile. They still want products that bring joy and excitement to their lives. I think one of the areas that we’re seeing change a little bit is I do think that across the board, we are seeing gifting increasing.
Again, I think a lot of moments that you would typically celebrate in person with somebody you are not necessarily able to spend celebrating with somebody. So I think we’re seeing a bit of an uptick in people wanting to send a little pick me up or a little something just to say, “I’m thinking of you.” And it doesn’t have to be, “I spent $200.” It can be like a little something. But I think people are really thinking about those moments. And we’re also really fortunate in that the product that we sell is what we call Zoom friendly, which is when you’re thinking about the fact that now 80% of your interactions are truly happening from the shoulders up. Well, we’ve got earrings, we’ve got necklaces. We’ve got headbands.
Kara Goldin: All kinds of things.
Daniella Yacobovsky: We’ve got face masks. Exactly. I mean, this sort of what I’ve been calling the pantsless revolution is actually working out really well for us and in an unexpected way. So we’ve certainly been benefiting from that. Because again, I think the first couple of months you were like, “What is this?” And now it’s like, “Well, this is what things are going to look like for a while.” So how do I make it feel like me and how do I bring joy to this new normal?
Kara Goldin: Absolutely. So I think that that’s, definitely people are, they’ve got their nighttime clothes or their fancy clothes, especially for their Zoom meetings and showing up. Although I missed mine today. So, before I-
Daniella Yacobovsky: You look fabulous.
Kara Goldin: Thank you. Thanks so much. But what do you think are, well, I’m so curious, on supply chain, did you feel like, I know for us, we had always at Hint wanted to do things as locally as possible. So part of the reason why we’re not international, we’ve had a number of people reach out to us over the years to go into other countries, but we’ve really been like, especially because it’s a heavy product and it’s a little bit different, it’s a food product. We’re taking resources from environments. And so we thought, “Okay, when we do do it, we’re going to try and source the fruit and the water and everything from these different countries.” And when COVID hit, I think that the one thing that we were like, “Oh, wow, we really did this right.” I mean, we source locally. But I’ve talked to other people in this process with other types of companies and definitely with the world at different stages through COVID, supply chains have been interrupted. What did you learn about supply chain through this time?
Daniella Yacobovsky: I think ironically enough, same lesson as we have on the revenue side, which is you better be diversified and you better be nimble. Because you ultimately rely 100% on your supply chain, as much as you rely on your distribution network in terms of how you get products to customers. So for us, something that, and again, I think we have an extraordinary product development and sourcing team that just works tirelessly. And one of the things they’ve always spent a tremendous amount of time on is making sure that we’re counter sourcing product and that we have lots of different plans in place in case this doesn’t work out over here or in case this is a problem over here, where do we go? And where do we get it from?
I think, especially when you work with some of the massive retailers that we work with, you really can’t afford to be in a position where you run into a sourcing snafu with a particular material, and you’ve got to have a backup plan all the time. So we have a backup plan and then we have a backup plan for our backup plan, and that really, really helped get us through. And again, it was some really interesting couple of weeks and months, as I’m sure everybody had, where things were just really thrown off course from what you usually do.
And we’re really lucky. We have a team of people who just hustle and everyone was just pulling out the backup plans and the backup backup plans and figuring out how we kept things moving. We’re also lucky that we do have a, again, fashion jewelry is a category that has breadth of SKUs, which really helps. We’re typically not a category where there’s this one particular earring and it’s 80% of sales. You come to our site, we have a couple of hundred things for you to browse. So here and there, where there are a couple of things where we were like, “All right, well, we got to figure out something new for that guy.” It doesn’t totally throw things off the roadmap, which really helps. But again, it’s that diversification it’s really critical.
Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, I think that’s super critical. And I would answer exactly the same way. And it’s interesting to me, as I think that the other lesson that I learned, something that we had done and it really is on the operation side of our company versus what I was doing every day. But our Chief Operating Officer, who happens to be my husband too. So I’m very proud of him. But has been really hammering this idea of automation for years and getting people out of the room. So we don’t have any people when we’re ultimately filling our bottles. And so for us COVID was like, I mean, there was just nobody sick. I mean, and nobody was in the room. So we didn’t have big interruption in the process.
But I just think that those are, while we have a moment where we’re taking a little bit of a breather, I think everybody who’s running a company should really start to look at everything that you’re talking about, like the diversification and as much automation as possible. And I think it’s just now’s the time. And nobody saw this really, so I didn’t see this pandemic coming. But I think it’s a time where it’s really important to take a closer look.
Kara Goldin: Did you know you were going to be an entrepreneur? I mean, did you always wish that you want it, like as a kid, were you-
Daniella Yacobovsky: Yeah. I mean, it’s funny, it’s something both Amy and I talk about pretty frequently. I think one of the things we both really have in common is that we both have at least one parent that is first generation American entrepreneur. And I think that this is a really extraordinary place to be able to come and build something from nothing. If you have a great idea and a lot of hustle and a lot of heart, this is one of the few places where you can really, really do that and find the support that you need.
So, that’s something I think we both really bonded over. We had both talked about wanting to start something, but I think that it’s tough when you’re sitting and you’re like, “Oh, I want to start a company. Let me come up with an idea.” I feel like it doesn’t ever hit you that way. It hits you and you’re not thinking about it like most things. And it was really lucky that we happen to have the idea at a time that was truly ideal to start something. In that we were in school, we weren’t leaving a job, we were both young, we didn’t have kids. None of the things that a lot of people, when they struggle with this concept of, “Oh, should I start something,” wrestle with. The timing was extremely ideal for us.
And we were really lucky that it happened at that time. And I remember even then, when we graduated school, at that point we had set up a beta site for the company and we had actually taken full time jobs back in finance. Because you don’t know, you have no idea how it’s going to go and what it’s going to look like. And so we graduated and I think it was May or June and literally the day after we packed up a U-Haul and drove to New York and we got this sad little coworking office. This was before WeWork. We were literally in a closet, my parents sent us a plant for good luck and it died in a matter of hours. There was no light, there was no air. We were just trying to figure it out.
And we were supposed to start jobs in September, but we were like, “Well, we got this beta site up, we’ve got three months. Let’s see what happens.” And it’s so funny because in the moment it’s so hard to look at how things are going and truly take a non-biased opinion and say, “These are really strong numbers. We should just do this.” You still, I think, are really met with that fear of, “Oh God. What am I giving up? What if it fails? What if it goes nowhere? What if we launch it and nobody wants to shop with us again?”
And I think, again, both of our parents were so supportive. I remember my dad calling me and being like, “How is this even a question?” He was like, “Of course you do it and you start it and you see, because when are you ever going to do this again?” He goes, “And if you don’t do it, you’ll always regret it. And if it doesn’t work, then guess what? You’ll find a job. That’s your answer, go.” So it was really nice to have that support and just have those people around you, reminding you it’s easy to get sucked up in the fear when you’re making that decision. But the broad picture is actually a really exciting one. If you take a step back and look at it that way.
Kara Goldin: Definitely. I have a book coming out in October that is called Undaunted. And it’s really about getting rid of the doubts and really ignoring the doubters that are around you. Because you’ll always be able to find them.
Daniella Yacobovsky: Always.
Kara Goldin: But so often I talk about these stories in there where it sounds like your dad was the person that really gave you the gas to say, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And I talk about my dad a lot in this book too, that so many times I really wanted to go and I knew I could do it. And I remember when I was moving to New York many, many years ago and I got cold feet at almost right before I was leaving and really didn’t think I was going to move and do it. I was coming from Arizona and my dad said, “What’s the worst that can happen?” And for my dad, it was always about finances. I mean, we didn’t have a ton of money and he was like, “Now just figure it out. Once you get there and you really just don’t think that it’s going to work out that well, then what’s it going to cost you to go to JFK and get a flight, a one way flight from New York back to Phoenix?” And so I did the homework, really figuring it out.
And I figured out, even if I had a lease that was a one year lease and this is what it would run me if I had to break that. That’s how he thought about things right or wrong. And so for me, it was like, “Okay, well, yeah. I mean, if that’s the worst that can happen, then maybe I can move forward.” And so, I often talk, people always say to me like, “You’re fearless. You’re not really afraid of things.” And that’s not true at all. And I think that we all have fears. It’s how you face them and how you tackle them. And what I, I can’t even say a fear it, but what I dislike most is when I am afraid of something and I want to become unafraid of something. And I know that the way for me to do that and the way for so many to deal with that is really to tackle it. So, that’s what the book is really about.
Daniella Yacobovsky: I love that.
Kara Goldin: And it’s definitely about building Hint, but it’s also life lessons and I really am a huge believer that you can do almost anything and everybody can do almost anything if you really face your fears. But also figure out how to become unafraid. And so there’s very few things that do make me afraid anymore, because I just face them. And I think that’s so important for so many people at any age, frankly, in any industry. But I love that story. So what do you think you learned in private equity? I feel like, especially if you’ve never worked in finance, it’s like this black hole like, “What do they want to know from me?” I mean, this is venture as well as just angel investors. And what do you think is the key thing that you learned sitting on that side of the table?
Daniella Yacobovsky: Yeah. I think there were a lot of things that Amy and I really benefited from having that background, which obviously was an atypical background for where we were headed.
Kara Goldin: Totally.
Daniella Yacobovsky: I think one of the biggest things that we really picked up was just having a really analytical approach to problem solving. And not feeling… I think, that when you’re facing a really big problem that needs to be solved, that can feel really challenging for a lot of people. How do you start to break it down into small pieces and just start to do a basic analysis to put together how you would approach something? Or how you think it’ll go? And what is your best thesis as to how we should approach this? I think that that’s a skillset that you just do so many times over in finance that really served us well.
I think you also just learn how to tackle so many things. So we always say, obviously there are areas of the company where we need people with extremely functional expertise. Like, I am not a graphic designer. If I open up Photoshop or InDesign, I literally have no idea what I am doing. It would be a big hot mess. I can give my opinion on graphic design, but that is a very specific skillset that I just functionally do not have. But what I do have is that most things that don’t require a hard skillset, like coding or software, Amy and I always say that together we can figure most things out. We’re really good problem solvers. And I think that’s gotten us really, really far in terms of what we are able to do. And I think that working in finance, you also, you are trained to be quite tenacious. I think you just really figure things out.
Separately from that, in terms of hard skills, I do think it was helpful when we were thinking about starting to raise money. And we were thinking about raising capital, it was helpful that that was a world that we just really understood. I think that when you approach that world for the first time, if you don’t have somebody guiding you through it, it can be really challenging and really scary. I think for us, the fact that we really knew how to put pitch materials together, how to put a fundraising model together, how to prep for what we thought were a lot of the questions we were going to get in the early days, especially when you’re raising off of an idea on a pitch deck and you literally don’t have product and you don’t have customers, you don’t know what you’re doing.
It was really helpful that we not only have had a couple of years of, in many cases, putting those materials together for companies that we were working with or evaluating companies, pitch materials. We also have this extraordinary network of former mentors, bosses, teachers, et cetera, who were able to help us just stress test a lot of those materials and ultimately our pitch to investors, which was just really, really helpful. Really helpful.
Kara Goldin: [inaudible 00:32:48]. That’s amazing. So what’s next for you guys? What are you most excited about for this year?
Daniella Yacobovsky: It’s been such a whirlwind. It’s been a really exciting year. I think that we’re really excited to keep building. We’re really excited to just continue to bring new product to people that makes them smile and gives them a new way to express themselves with accessories. Obviously, it’s been a year of extraordinary change, but I also think that that has brought us so many opportunities that we couldn’t have ever have predicted. So for example, face masks, really exciting new category, I think, and our thought is, “Well, you can sit there and complain about having to wear one, or you can pick one that you just really love and look super cute and matches your outfit.” So I’m always going to fall into the latter camp. And I think that, again, it’s just given our team something really fun.
And I think one of the things that I always loved the most about being at an entrepreneurial company is I think one of the most fun things about it is the challenges change constantly, the opportunities change constantly. And how quick can you roll with the punches? Which I think just gives you such an extraordinary amount of opportunities for learning and growth. And this year has certainly provided plenty of those. So, I personally think that it’s just made it fun and it’s been particularly fun because the whole team has really risen to the challenge of how do we figure all of these things out? And how do we figure them out all in 65 [inaudible] places. And that’s been wild, challenging, just really rewarding. I think when you see the final results and you get to celebrate those together as a group, it’s been really rewarding.
Kara Goldin: I love it. I love it. So my last question, what makes you unstoppable?
Daniella Yacobovsky: So I think what makes me unstoppable is really the team and people that I’ve surrounded myself with. I think whether that’s Amy, my business partner at BaubleBar, whether that is the extraordinary team that we have brought on to help us build the vision for the company. I think the thing that ultimately keeps it all going and keeps us going is that incredible group of people. No person is an island. And I think that it’s whether, it’s the functional support of someone jumping in and helping you solve a problem, or it’s the softer side of people just knowing you so well that they know when you’re just having a day and you just need a pick me up, or you need somebody to just say something that’s going to knock you out of that funk. I really think it ultimately is that team.
Kara Goldin: I love it. I love it. So where do people find you, Daniella? And then also I mentioned BaubleBar so Baublebar.com.
Daniella Yacobovsky: Yes. So we are Baublebar.com or all of our socials are @BaubleBar. So B-A-U-B-L-E-B-A-R. And you can always find us at your local Nordstrom, at your local Target, look for Sugarfix. But we are we’re there and we’re excited to welcome you.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. And then, Daniella, which social are you generally on?
Daniella Yacobovsky: I’m usually on Instagram and I am Daniella Fiala, F-I-A-L-A.
Kara Goldin: Awesome. Well, very, very great to have you here today. Everybody go check it out, if you haven’t already, and shop, shop, shop, and check out, go into the Nordstrom’s and Target stores as well. And we’re so thrilled to have a great company, but also female founded company too. Yay. So excited. And happy to hear that everything is going great. So well, thanks everybody. And if you enjoyed this episode, by the way, definitely give a great review and also subscribe and more coming soon. Thanks.
Daniella Yacobovsky: Thank you.