How a college student launched jewelry company Shiffon

Growing up in Silicon Valley, surrounded by tech giants and start-ups alike, Shilpa Yarlagadda noticed "so many companies," however she "just never saw that many women in the C suite," the 24-year-old founding father of on-line tremendous jewelry start-up Shiffon informed Marcus Lemonis on his upcoming CNBC restricted sequence, "Streets of Dreams with Marcus Lemonis."

So whereas nonetheless in undergrad at Harvard, Yarlagadda and a few mates began Shiffon as a ardour venture to generate profits to fund girls entrepreneurs. And a lot to Yarlagadda's shock, the enterprise took off.

Now, since launching Shiffon in 2017, Yarlagadda is juggling faculty (she took a hole yr from Harvard however is on observe to graduate in 2021) with working a enterprise in an trade she knew little about, studying as she goes.

It is probably not a typical path to the jewelry enterprise, however then not a lot about Shiffon is typical. In reality, Yarlagadda is constructing her enterprise by deconstructing the normal tremendous jewelry enterprise mannequin, promoting direct-to-consumer on-line, and utilizing the additional earnings she makes by eliminating the intermediary to fund start-ups which are led by girls and that help girls.

It began with a Google search

"I originally started working on [Shiffon] with classmates from high school and college. It was a fun passion project at first, and we didn't realize it would turn into a real company," Yarlagadda informed CNBC Make It.

To work out how you can make jewelry, Yarlagadda began the best way most younger individuals begin something — she googled it.

"I read how to make jewelry on WikiHow," Yarlagadda says.

The then-Harvard freshman additionally went to close by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and knocked on professors' doorways as a result of she was all in favour of utilizing the college's 3D printers.

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Shilpa Yarlagadda, founding father of Shiffon. Photo credit score: Jenny Tarbell. Photo courtesy Shiffon

"One of the secretaries for a material science professor told me her boss had successfully 3D designed and printed his wife's engagement ring. I thought that was really cool," she says.

Around the identical time, to assist familiarize herself with the trade, Yarlagadda headed to New York City to go to town's famed diamond district (the topic of Lemonis' premiere episode of "Streets of Dreams," which travels to a number of the iconic streets that gas American's important enterprise cultures). She stayed with a distant relative in Queens and took a two-hour subway to the district on forty seventh Street.

"I talked to so many people from CAD designers, casters, stone setters making pieces from the Tiffany blue book, polishers, stone sources and jewelry production companies that manufactured for some of the most high-end jewelry brands," she says. "When I came to the diamond district,  I really saw how much craftsmanship can make a product stand out."

When Shiffon lastly launched in April 2017, it was with one design — an adjustable, spiral pinkie ring embedded with a small diamond or gem stone.

"Doing something simple well isn't easy and we wanted to focus all our energy into making a hero product that could give back," Yarlagadda says. "Inventory is also a large expense for many businesses starting, and because we didn't have a lot of capital to start, we wanted to be wise in what we held onto." (Yarlagadda says she began the company with a number of the $20,000 prize she gained for a sequence of instructional YouTube movies she created, like this one which teaches a mnemonic trick for studying the solubility guidelines in chemistry.)

Early gross sales have been by probability or by means of private connection, Yarlagadda says. For instance, she offered a ring to an Uber driver who overheard her cellphone name describing what she was attempting to do with Shiffon.

The "most exciting" was when she would take a look at an internet order and truly not know the client, she says. And to start with, that was typically because of celebrities.

Celebrity help catapulted Shiffon

In 2017, the chums with whom Yarlagadda had began Shiffon needed to deal with their research. So she quickly recruited household pal Shreya Chaganti, as Shiffon was making huge progress strikes, and quick. The enterprise surged ahead in bursts, beginning nearly earlier than Yarlagadda had all of the organizational facets of her start-up prepared.

One such surge got here after Yarlagadda persistently messaged Emma Watson's stylist, Sarah Slutsky, on LinkedIn and by electronic mail, attempting to get Watson to put on the pinkie ring in public. Slutzky finally took a name with Yarlagadda and put the pinkie ring on Watson in June 2017 when the star was in Paris doing a press tour for "The Circle."

That was months earlier than Shiffon's web site even began accepting pre-orders.

That September, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley every wore the pinkie ring to the Emmys, the place they accepted awards for the massively standard HBO sequence, "Big Little Lies."

And that was only the start. A-listers from Serena Williams to Michelle Obama wore the ring. Obama even narrated a video encouraging girls to vote that was performed in a collaboration with Shiffon's October launch of a restricted version pair of hoop earrings. The marketing campaign was posted to social media with the hashtag #HoopsToVote (a nod to the "hoops" girls needed to bounce by means of to get the best to vote).

Moments when celebrities wore Shiffon's jewelry would enhance gross sales, Yarlagadda says.

"The first time we sold a ring to someone we didn't know or go to school with was when someone found us after an Instagram post from Emma Watson's press tour," she says. "Every time there was a big moment and people discovered our story, and that our ring could really fit anyone because it was adjustable, we would sell out."

A tiny ring that makes a huge influence

Today, Shiffon rings begin at $155 for a sterling silver pinkie ring with a purple sapphire stone to $425 for a rose gold pinkie ring with a white sapphire stone to a pair of hoop earrings with small diamonds for $1,965. 

Yarlagadda declined to share numbers, however says income from gross sales (that are totally direct to client through the Shiffon web site) goes to again into the company to drive progress, and 50% of earnings go to Shiffon's non-profit group, The Startup Girl Foundation, which invests in feminine founders and firms that help girls.

So far, Shiffon's non-profit arm has invested in enterprise from woman-led lounge put on company Sea Star Beachware to MobiTicket, a text-based bus ticketing service primarily based in Niarobi.

"We definitely thought that because of the margins in jewelry we could really use those profits to do something good and to fund women led businesses now — which we funded 11 of," says Yarlagadda.

Yarlagadda and Chaganti, 24, additionally supply mentorship to the start-ups they fund. They are, in spite of everything, constructing their very own start-up on the similar time. 

"It's so much better to have your own success while you're also able to provide for other people's success and that was really inspiration for our business model," Yarlagadda says. "We really felt that if Shiffon's success could lead to other women success, and other founders' success, while building this collaborative community," it may very well be a self-sustaining system of ladies supporting girls, she says.

Watch "Streets of Dreams with Marcus Lemonis" premiering on CNBC on Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 10 p.m./ET.

See additionally:

This founder offered her start-up to Amazon at 27—now as a Google exec, she's serving to give again

This jewelry enterprise began as a aspect gig—now Michelle Obama wore its 'vote' necklace at DNC

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