Courtesy of Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui
In 2014, Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui started their own company on top of their already demanding full-time jobs.
Kahn was working at Marc Jacobs after a stint at The Boston Consulting Group, and Ezzahraoui was an interest rate volatility trader at Goldman Sachs. They had met in 2009 as Princeton graduate students, two of only a handful of women pursuing finance degrees.
Inspired by the name-brand gold ring turning Kahn’s finger green, the friends decided to start AUrate New York, a jewelry company that would provide affordable, fashionable, high-quality gold.
The duo spent 2014 setting up the company, taking classes at New York’s Parsons School of Design and laying the groundwork for their business, then used 2015 as their test year. Would people buy their jewelry? Could they run a successful pop-up shop? They had begun with funding from their own savings, their families, and from friends, and they needed proof their concept would work. “We’re very rational,” said Kahn. “It has to work.”
And so far, it has. Kahn left her corporate job in early 2016 to devote herself to AUrate full-time, but Ezzahraoui is still working full days at Goldman and nights at AUrate. When Business Insider asked Kahn and Ezzahraoui for their best advice for other entrepreneurs building a business as a side job, they shared the following:
Keep a to-do list. Maybe more than one.
“At all times, I had both a mental checklist for AUrate and for my personal life, and was constantly evaluating how the two priorities interacted with one another,” Ezzahraoui said.
“It sounds simple, but I’m crazy with my to-do lists,” said Kahn. “Telling yourself what tasks need to be done and then scheduling them and saying how many hours a certain task should take. I did this every day. Discuss your goals are: high level ones for the week, and then specific ones for the day. Especially if you have two jobs you’re always going to feel like you haven’t done everything, but you need to sleep. You get them written up and checked off and then you feel like you’ve done what you need to do.”
If you have a business partner, communication is key.
“For the two of us, we had different types of day jobs with different schedules,” Kahn said. “You have to discuss who does what when, and not get frustrated when one can’t help out. You have to be independent in a way, and very flexible.”
Be upfront with your day job.
It’s important to be honest about your side gig with your day job, Kahn said. “You don’t want to be doing something you’re not supposed to. At Marc Jacobs they always knew about it. You always want to makes sure they’re aware, so you don’t feel guilty or like you’re doing some kind of double agent thing.”
Be OK with taking your time.
Kahn said one of the hardest parts of building a business on the side is being patient about its growth.
“The fact that you’re out of commission from 9-6, five days a week, that’s a lot of hours spent on something you don’t want to spend them on anymore, once you build your product and story,” said Kahn. “If we had gone full-time immediately, we would have been much bigger by now. You’re so passionate and you want to go all out. To have to constantly wait and take it slower than you want to was the hardest thing for me.”
Kahn coped with her frustration by establishing milestones for the business to quantify its growth. “‘If we reach these sales in 2015 and have this customer reaction and get this press, then it will happen,’” she said. “Tell yourself there’s an end in sight, it just will take some time. Tell yourself this is the wise way to do it. Yes, you’re doing something entrepreneurial and you’re taking the risk, but you still have the paycheck coming in and that’s a huge benefit, too. Like anything in life, it has pros and cons, and the ability to know you’re not going to live on the street if it doesn’t go well, that’s a huge benefit. There ‘s a reason you’re doing it this way.”
Just get started.
“We can talk about it forever,” said Kahn. “We’re Type A students. We can think of the pros and cons, but entrepreneurship is difficult, and you just have to do it. You learn so much when you get started, but everything gets explained in practice. Nothing gets explained in theory.”