How Gemist’s Madeline Fraser is Changing the Jewelry Industry

We are all works in progress; even the successful women you see owning them on Instagram have encountered obstacles along the way and continue to work hard to stay at the top of their game. In this series, we sit down with the people who inspire us to find out: how did they do it? And what does success really look like? It is ” Getting There.

Madeline Fraser is a seasoned entrepreneur who founded her newest company, Gemist, after struggling to find an engagement ring she loved. Two years later, Gemist has been dubbed the Warby Parker of the jewelry industry because it allows customers to try on pieces at home before committing, in addition to allowing customers to design jewelry themselves. in line.

Before that, Fraser was a co-founder of two other companies: Zoom Interiors, an online interior design platform she and two college friends started, and later Hutch, a design app. The 30-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles, told TMRW how she caught the startup bug and what she learned about success along the way.

TMRW: How did you get into entrepreneurship?

Madeline Fraser: I never thought I was going to create and grow startups; it just happened. I am a very creative person and a very curious person. When I graduated from high school, I took a year off and lived in India, where I started an art program. It showed me that I could create something from nothing, build something from scratch.

Fraser with his Zoom Interiors co-founders. They started the online interior design company in college and even appeared on “Shark Tank.” Courtesy of Madeline Fraser

You started your first business in college. Does that mean you’ve never had a regular office job or worked for someone else?

I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. I’ve always built something from scratch and then I got paid. I gave myself a salary from day one. You just gave me chills thinking about it.

So you were already an entrepreneur with two design companies under your belt when you created Gemist. Tell me where the idea came from.

I was getting engaged and really wanted a ring that was unique to me. I wanted something no one else had. Because I’m a technician, I thought, “Well, I’m just going to go online, I’m going to design a ring, I’m going to try it on and then I’ll have it – so easy.” And it wasn’t. It was the opposite. I was really, really surprised that there weren’t great tech platforms around jewelry. It was 2018, 2019. There were businesses, but they felt really sterile, like the Walmart of jewelry, just what everyone else had. The user experience was outdated. The technology was outdated.

We had been building technology around furniture and design for years, and I felt like jewelry could work really well with the try-on experience. If you could take customization and design and do it online, but then see it and feel it and show it to your friends and family before you make that big purchase, how would that convert the consumer, and at what wouldn’t that be cool?

Fraser with her husband, muralist Clinton Bopp, in India in 2009. Courtesy of Madeline Fraser

But you hadn’t created Gemist at that time, so what did you do for your own ring?

We went to the jewelry district. It was this very overwhelming, manual, confusing process. But we ended up getting a nice ring at a great price. It really showed me that there was a viable product. You can actually create custom jewelry cheaply and quickly, which surprised me. I said, “OK, great. So we just have to change the process to make it happen.”

And that’s basically what my job is, isn’t it? That’s what I do for a living: I change a process. I make something easier, mainly through technology. That’s where the idea for Gemist came from, and that’s what we built. And it’s grown incredibly well over the past two years of beta testing and release and around the world, which happened just before Covid-19. So it’s been an interesting year, but a great added value for consumers who can’t leave the house, right?

What was the biggest challenge in making Gemist a reality?

Fund raising. You can start businesses, that’s for sure. That’s what I did with my first business. But if you really want to be a player and really disrupt an industry, you need capital. You need partners. As a CEO, you have to step back from the creative side and the passion of building a business, and you have to sell. You have to ask people for money and convince them that you are worth the investment. I enjoy mentoring other founders and usually the biggest questions are about fundraising. It’s never an easy thing.

What do you tell people when they ask for advice in this area?

The first thing is this: they have to lower their tone. The modern version of a business plan is a pitch deck, which should be incredibly succinct and clear. You need to understand your market, your consumer, and how and why you are different from your competition. Get your land. At this point, I know mine so well it’s like my arm. It’s a piece of me. It just comes from me. live, breathe, to become your location. Have as much passion and belief in what you’re building and let it flow out of you for the other person to really feel.

Then do the practice laps. Before going to the top 10 investors you actually want, you need to go to lower level people or even friends and family. Pitch and do it 10 times before you go to the people who really matter or who could potentially fund you.

Plus, you need to have incredible confidence. You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. You really have to think, “Hey, they need me as much as I need them.” You must have this energy.

And, by the way, to raise a round, you’re probably going to have 200 people say no to you just to find the handful of people who say yes. It’s such a difficult thing. I cry all the time! You face many rejections. You just have to get up and believe in yourself, your idea and your team.

Was there a time when you knew Gemist had succeeded?

When I was able to recruit De Beers as an investor, it was huge for me. They flew me to London and I had to introduce their senior leadership and all their key stakeholders in person – this was pre-Covid. Having to stand in a room with so many intimidating people judging you, listening to you, focusing on you, was such an interesting thing for me. I ended up having a sort of out-of-body experience where I felt like I could almost see myself doing it, like a fly on the wall. It was truly a defining moment in my career.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

I have a mantra: fail fast, fix fast, learn fast. You are going to fail many times because you are building something that no one has built before you. You are paving the way for the creation of something new. So the concept is that when you fail, do it as fast as you can and learn from that failure and do your best to never fail the same way twice.

These are the building blocks of success. Say, “OK, that didn’t work. Let’s try that. It didn’t work. Well, let’s see why it didn’t work.” You kind of build those steps up that ladder until you get to a version of success. It is not easy. It’s a wildly difficult thing to do. When I talk to my husband or family about what I do, sometimes I laugh because I’m like, “God, my job is crazy. Who am I to think I’m going to break new ground in the jewelry? What am I thinking? But then you look back at the things you’ve accomplished and slowly you get there, which is really cool.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.