In our “What I Learned at…” series, MBAs discuss the tools and skills their business schools provided as they launched their careers.
Moran Amir, commonly referred to as “Mo” by her peers, is a second year at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the co-founder of ADORNIA Fine Jewelry, the online destination to learn about and shop for fine jewelry. By applying innovative editorial content and fashion merchandising to the fine jewelry segment, ADORNIA reintroduces the art and tradition of jewelry to a modern generation of women. In Part 3 of this series, Mo describes to mbaMission how she met her ADORNIA business partner, Bex Aronson, and the importance of the Wharton network in growing her business.
Trite, albeit true: I chose the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to connect with its 80,000+ alumni network scattered all over the globe and encompassing leaders in every industry. I had entered my undergraduate school, New York University (NYU), a semester later than my peers because of visa issues and so lost the key networking opportunity of those first few months. I departed NYU with strong yet disparate sets of friends who ended up in career paths that did not confer immediate benefits on mine.
The fashion industry gave me a significant network, but early on, I knew that I was never going to fit into the culture of the archetypal fashion girls. Though embodying the fashion world’s gestalt—5’10’’, international and well-heeled—I was still much too righteous to limit my calorie intake and much too cerebral to remember to reapply my lipstick. More than I loved my Balenciaga bag, I loved learning about the business model behind it. I ascended professional ranks very quickly and left many of my peers behind both mentally and physically.
Through my Wharton peers, I found my cheerleading squad and much of the confidence I needed to found ADORNIA Fine Jewelry. My Wharton classmates are an impressive group of people, and I didn’t have to look that hard within and outside my cohort to find outstanding individuals. They are international hotel entrepreneurs, marketing geniuses, private equity stars, medical doctors and classical pianists. Some like cheesesteaks, while others prefer arugula. They hail from Beverly Hills and Bombay. This is an incredible group comprising Jews and Arabs, fashion girls and rugby players, the gay and the allied.
And then there is Bex, my talented business partner in ADORNIA. I caught her attention at a loud bar the first week of school by recounting to her the exact outfit she had worn at the Welcome Weekend for admitted Wharton applicants four months earlier. At that moment, we knew instantly that we’d be good friends. Prior to Wharton, Bex had been an accessories editor for Lucky magazine and a fashion editor for Redbook magazine. Given our fashion backgrounds, we both were involved in the Wharton Graduate Retail Club and the school’s annual Charity Fashion Show. She founded Wharton’s first-ever fashion blog, The Whartorialist, and hired me as one of her editors.
We fetishized leopard prints, organized Shabbat dinners, vacationed in Europe and talked serious business—the jewelry business. I found an amazing friend and business partner for life, and we forged a connection so strong that our unit requires just one word: bexandmo. And a highly complementary business pairing we are! Bex handles most of the creative facets of ADORNIA, whereas I manage most of the operational aspects. Only at a place like Wharton can such synergistic skill sets come together and formidable friendships be created that help drive business. ADORNIA is a natural extension of our labor, our passion and our friendship.
Launching the business a few weeks before starting the second year of the MBA program at Wharton, I did not know what to expect coming back to campus. Needless to say, my close friends and the larger class have proved to be an endless source of enthusiasm for ADORNIA. I utilized my industry contacts to land a spot on the roster of Philadelphia’s first-ever Fashion’s Night Out at an esteemed boutique, Plage Tahiti, in the city’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. Bex and I sent invites to our Wharton peers, and the turnout from them was incredible. We have managed to attract sales from Internet strangers through our promotional efforts, but we can’t help but smile bigger every time a Wharton friend’s name pops up on our new orders log. Building the business in the company of our peers at school has been a boon for ADORNIA. It has allowed us to nurture ADORNIA’s growth in these early stages by tapping into a natural support network and captive audience of women. This Wharton bootstrap will help ADORNIA go far.