Entrepreneurs are Everywhere show No. 5: Daniella Yacobovsky and Jane Moritz

Nature and nurture together shape successful entrepreneurs. And it’s possible to balance work and family when doing a startup.

Family relationships influence founders and their startups. That was the message from the two latest guests on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere, my radio show on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Daniella Yacobovsky

Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of online jewelry retailer BaubleBar, and Jane Moritz. a food entrepreneur who owns Challah Connection, an ecommerce site specializing in Jewish gift baskets, joined me in Sirius’ New York studio.

Listen to the full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below, but first a word about the show:

Jane Moritz

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere airs Thursdays at 1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111. It follows the entrepreneurial journeys of founders sharing their experiences of what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries to entrepreneurial education and more.

The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs, lows and pivots that pushed them forward.

Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of BaubleBar, previously worked at American Capital Securities and UBS Investment Bank. She discovered that investment banking wasn’t for her, and chose to do a startup instead.

She told me she was born with an entrepreneurial streak that her parents fostered.

It’s probably a mix of nature and nurture. You have to be born with a little bit of (an entrepreneurial) streak. … I definitely have friends who I meet who I think, “I cannot ever see you doing this type of a job,” and there are elements of personality they think are ingrained in you and that you’re born with. Then I think there are some that you learn and that are honed in you in terms of having life experience whether it’s in school or whether it’s in some of your early jobs or early parts of your career.

My parents definitely pushed me to work hard and to be independent, and definitely pushed me to be an independent thinker. That’s something that they really taught… all three of us from a very, very early age, whether it was encouraging reading or having conversations at the dinner table, whether it’s about politics or current events, really encouraging us to think for ourselves and have our own opinions, and really pushing us to be thoughtful about how we approached the world. I think that that’s a really valuable skillset to take to starting your own company or having your own venture.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

She explained that working as an investment banker didn’t allow her to use the skills her parents had encouraged.

I wasn’t challenged. I felt like I was constantly doing a lot of the same work. … At a young age I still felt that I had really great ideas that I wanted to bring to the table, and it’s just very hierarchical. (At a big company) it’s really hard to make your voice known and be able to have a seat at the table.  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Jane Moritz owns Challah Connection now, but previously founded her own direct marketing agency, DMTG, which she ran with her husband. They had a young family at the time.

Jane shared how she and her husband worked together to achieve a work-life balance.

This is a good lesson for entrepreneurs: Be careful what you wish for. (When) I started (DMTG) my (future) husband (Josh) and I were engaged at the time, but I knew we were going to get married. I had this idea for this business where I was going to be able to work … part-time, like three days a week or something like that.

… Very quickly, I got a lot of business. We got married and then I had my first child. I had so much business, it was way beyond what I could handle.

… Just as I was pregnant with my second son — we have three sons — I said to Josh, “I just can’t handle this. This is way too much.” While I wanted to work, (being a mother) was very important to me, I didn’t want my kids being raised exclusively by our beloved babysitter. I wanted to be there.  

Maybe a month or so before my second son was born, Josh was very unhappy in a job … at another direct marketing agency in (New York) city. We decided, you know what, let’s just take the plunge. You join my company and together we’ll grow it. We did. It was very scary at the beginning because here we were both self-employed doing this together.

… We built that company up together for about another eight years and then we sold it to Earle Palmer Brown.

Now the very great thing about that period, though, was that Josh and I really shared the company and we shared kids. We had a great setup where we both worked four days a week and one day he was home with the kids and one day I was home with the kids. Our clients understood that.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here. 

When Jane purchased Challah Connection, it was a local challah delivery service for the Jewish Sabbath. She initially planned to grow the service nationwide, in a model similar to the cosmetic and food subscription services popular today. Customer feedback pointed her in a different direction:

This was 2002. The Internet e-commerce was really just getting going and I thought I would build (the business) up using the Internet and UPS, etc. …

One day I picked up the phone and called Florence Fabricant (food critic at) the New York Times and I said, “I just want to tell you about my company.” It was a stroke of luck that she answered the phone. … 

She loved the idea … and in February 2003 (the Times published an article about Challah Connection). … We were inundated with orders that day and phone calls. …

That did not make our business, but it did put us on the path that we’re on now. In the article … Florence talked about the Challah subscription program and said that we also sold babka and Russian coffee cake. … Ninety percent of the people that called that day and for the next few weeks said, “Can you take those three things and put them in a gift basket?” … I’d never even thought of gift baskets. … of course I said, “Absolutely!” …

That turned on the light bulb in my head that said, “Oh, this is really interesting. This is what they want.” And also that… was a whole lot more profitable than selling challah subscriptions. …

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

The idea for BaubleBar originated during one of the midday shopping trips Daniella and her co-founder, Amy Jain, had a habit of making. Here’s how they got to know their customers:

The first thing we said was, We know we would love this, but will other women love this? So we started doing surveys and … testing selling product. We would buy a product from wholesalers because we obviously didn’t want to go out and invest in a whole production arm and we started testing: Would women buy this product at a $20 price point, a $30 price point, a $50 price point, a $70 price point? We sold product literally out of our apartment. …

… We learned a lot about the type of product that (the customer) wanted and the price point that she wanted it at, and we learned a lot about merchandising assortment, which was incredibly helpful. … We had this thesis that jewelry is a category where women are really experimental in terms of their style. They want a really broad range and a broad selection, but that’s obviously expensive to produce against, so we needed to test that a little bit. 

…Every time we did these shopping parties… in our apartments … we would really monitor what women were buying and we found they were buying a really broad range. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Here’s how they knew they were on to something:

We wanted to really to get an understanding for, OK, well, this customer group that we know really well because they’re our peers and they go to school with us, they like it. What about total strangers? What are they going to do?

We put up this website. … It was a closed site, meaning you had to sign up for an account and be invited to shop. … We could not afford (to advertise, so) we sent emails out to all of our friend groups (tens of thousands of people), and we really pushed people.

… a lot of people shared (the invitation) with friends. People started forwarding it, and it … picked up steam. We got a lot of traffic to our little testing site (and) we started selling product. 

(But) what was most exciting is not only did we sell product, but as we were putting new products up people we didn’t know kept coming back. What we got most excited about was … we had women coming back and buying from us four or five times within the first three to four months of being up as a site. I think at that point Amy and I looked at it and said, “We think we’re really onto something.” That kind of sticky behavior for us really validated this idea that there is a consumer need.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to Daniella’s full interview here

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Jane initially ran Challah Connection from her house:

(In the early days), we did all the (order) fulfillment in my basement. Our living room was our customer service center. For holidays we would have to take over the dining room, the family room for other packing and outbound calling, but we basically took over the whole house. In February 2014 (having acquired thousands of customers) we moved to a warehouse. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here. 

And as was the case for Daniella, Jane’s family support was key in shaping her entrepreneurial path:

Both my parents were very entrepreneurial. My father was a dentist, a very prominent dentist in Stanford and he also developed real estate on the side. My mother … created a line of cosmetic organizers that she was selling into all kinds of large department stores. She also sold direct to consumer, this was back in the ’70s when there was no Internet, but she did those small ads in the back of the New York Times.

… Also, my father was very prominent in our lives and my mother as well, but my father had some lessons that he taught myself and my 4 siblings. One of those lessons was that self-employment and entrepreneurism was the ticket to freedom. … that that really stuck in my mind. … My father was actually very progressive and he felt that even in his day, again, in the ’60s and ’70s … that women should have a fair shot at everything. He taught us a lot about empowerment and wanting us to go on to be successful and so on. He was very cool. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to Jane’s full interview here.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to the Daniella and Jane’s full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here(And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: radio personality and food entrepreneur Al Milukas of Live the Live, and Zahra Aljabri and James Faghmous of Mode-sty, an online clothing retailer of modest styles.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111

One Response

  1. This is the century of entrepreneurship…

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