Founder builds 7-figure jewelry business in garage
A few months ago, Meg Strachan, founder and CEO of the lab-grown jewelry company Dorsey, was shopping at a New York department store wearing one of her line’s diamond bracelets. I was.
There she met two elderly women in the shoe department. One of them wore a strikingly similar bracelet, and Strachan remembered her grandmother Dorsey, for whom her company was named. The trio struck up a conversation, and it wasn’t long before the topic turned into jewels.
“That’s a very expensive bracelet you’re wearing. $75,000.
A discussion about the merits of lab-grown gemstones ensued, and by the end of it, the woman admitted that Strachan’s pieces were the type her granddaughter would buy today and, in fact, probably already had. .
That’s exactly what Strachan was counting on when he started Dorsey in late 2019.
“The mined diamond industry is not happy with what the lab-grown industry has done,” Strachan said. entrepreneur.
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“I’ve seen vacancies in a market that many claim is saturated.”
When Strachan launched Dorsey, she was working full-time as vice president of growth for Girlfriend Collective and raising her young daughter. She’s been in the fashion industry since she was 20, she’s had a lot of experience with direct-to-consumer companies, and she’s worked with “all kinds of startups,” she joked. was
But from a business perspective, jewelry was uncharted territory.
But on a personal level it felt deeply familiar. Strachan’s grandmother Dorsey was a “jewelry lover”. Although she had the means to purchase fine jewellery, she rarely wore it, preferring instead inexpensive yet eye-catching jewellery.
“Throughout her life, she wore beautiful costume jewelry that she collected from the 50’s and 60’s,” says Strachan. “And she used to give it to her granddaughter. So every August, she cleaned out her jewelry drawer so we could go through them and wear her creations.” And she was the reason I fell in love with jewelry.”
Strachan’s knowledge of the business and love of jewelry has created a great opportunity to manufacture high quality jewelry at an affordable price.
“When I decided to start Dorsey, I knew there was a vacancy in a market that many would argue was saturated,” says Strachan. “What I wanted as a consumer was missing the price, product quality and brand perspective.”
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“Lab-Grown makes beautiful stones accessible to women at a much more affordable price.”
Strachan explains that 100 years ago, the same designers and factories were making both fine and costume jewelry. So, for example, it was much harder to tell the difference between an expensive diamond bracelet and his cubic zirconia set.
It was not uncommon at the time (or even now, depending on the circumstances) for someone to lean over and ask if the stone in the piece was real or fake, which Strachan called this “very personal” and “kind of invasive.” It’s called a “na” question.
“It’s about what you can afford, what the person who gave it to you can afford,” says Strachan. Depending on who you’re with, the person being asked may actually change their answer, downplaying how expensive it is.”
But over the past 100 years, the line between fine jewelry and costume jewelry factories has become stricter. Generally, each factory only produces pieces that he falls into one category, he says. Various designers have also added, “you can actually touch and feel the difference.”
But Dorsey is once again committed to blurring that distinction.
Consider this: the round-cut white sapphire Riviere necklace from Dorsey’s lab. Strachan calls this “polarizing” jewelry. Such things used to be “dripped with diamonds” only for the wealthy and royalty. It retails for just $360, well below the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of its diamond counterparts.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Dorsey
“There are so many other gems,” says Strachan. For those who have an incredible amount of money to spend on fine jewelry that most of us don’t?”
The opportunity was very clear to Strachan, but not to everyone else.
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“It’s not the industry that decides what the consumer wants, it’s the consumer that decides what the consumer wants.”
When Strachan started telling people about her idea, she quickly realized it was “tied in” with how the jewelry business has operated for the past 50-60 years. Far behind closed doors. ”
“I would argue that the marketing used by the jewelry industry has not evolved much and the consumer has evolved,” Strachan explains. “The way we consume and discover products and the types of products we want to buy and wear have changed.”
Manufacturers repeatedly told Strachan that she was wrong because there just wasn’t the demand for lab-made jewelry she envisioned. So after receiving “a flood of rejection emails” from investors, she decided to start the company on her own.
Her first purchase order was just a few and she had to juggle her responsibilities as a full-time vice president and mother, in addition to juggling the challenges posed by the pandemic. “It was out of balance,” she recalls. no Include avocado toast or hot lemon water.
“I packed everything in the garage, woke my daughter up from a nap and went to USPS for the second time that day. I took the bag of orders, put it back in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and drove to USPS. Strachan said. say.
Strachan continued to personally ship and package all orders until Dorsey reached $1 million in sales.
“It’s very interesting to me to learn that the consumer dictates what the consumer wants, rather than the industry dictating what the consumer wants,” she says.
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“It’s a mindset that people have to disconnect from, and the consumer is disconnected from it.”
Dorsey should have been profitable from the start. Luckily it was: Since then, he has developed a cult following, with Justin Bieber among his many fans. Seen 600% Year-over-year growth in 2022; boasts double-digit EBITDA.
Additionally, in a flurry of events, investors began contacting Strachan for funding the venture, with Dorsey raising its first funding in September 2021. Last year, the company sold over one million of his lab-grown stones — 25,000 people signed up for the waiting list.
Over the years, Strachan says it’s been rewarding to see the decision-makers around the table in the jewelry industry becoming more receptive and willing to experiment with new ideas. say.
“Eighty years ago there was no lab-manufactured industry,” says Strachan. It’s a mentality that people have to disconnect from, and the consumer is disconnected from it. ”
If there’s one thing Strachan has confirmed on Dorsey’s journey, it’s that people are ready to experience a new era of high-quality, accessible jewellery.Like the granddaughter of the lady in the department store. And for many, it’s already here.