Vrai & Oro, a 5-year-old direct-to-consumer company, is seizing an opportunity to bring transparency to the normally opaque process of buying high-end jewelry.
“We kind of evolved into a diamond-focused brand when we launched into engagement rings,” said Vanessa Stofenmacher, founder and creative director of Vrai & Oro. “Two years ago, I started looking into the engagement ring industry, and because we’re [rooted] in transparency, I knew we wanted to offer our customers a transparent way to know where their diamonds are coming from. So I did my research and found that you really can’t trace back a diamond to its origin. You reach a lot of middlemen in the process, and unless you’re large enough to own a mine, which we were not, you’re really not going to get the transparency you’re looking for. And that’s not to mention that the traditional diamond industry is funding conflict that you don’t necessarily want to be involved in. It didn’t feel right for us to be a part of that industry.”
On this week’s episode of The Glossy Podcast, Hilary Milnes sits down with Stofenmacher to discuss how Vrai & Oro makes the complex subject of diamonds easy for customers to understand, how the company has reimagined manufacturing systems and how Stofenmacher balances data and intuition when making business decisions. Edited highlights below.
To create change, you need changemakers
“We went through a lot of different partners and a lot of different exploration to find the ones that fit. My motto has always been to hire or work with people for mindset fit over skill-set fit, because minds are really hard to change and skills are really easy to learn. So we always look for partners that share the same mindset as us: They’re looking forward, they’re open-minded, they’re excited to try new things and they’re looking to technology to solve issues in their industries. The jewelry industry is very traditional — a lot of people are still using fax machines — so when we came across manufacturers that are implementing these new ERP systems and trying to tie their data system into ours, I thought, ‘OK, this can work. We can build something cool together.'”
Why diamonds shouldn’t be such a scary topic
“Taking all this information and simplifying it is part of our job. We spend a lot of time making all this information digestible, especially when it comes to diamonds. It’s a very complicated subject, but I like to think of it like a fine wine. You can be a connoisseur of wine — you can know all about it, and you can know every note and it can be very complex — or you can just have a really nice glass of wine and enjoy it. That’s how I feel about a lot of the [diamond] educational process: You can simply enjoy, you don’t have to know every single thing about it to have a good experience. So we try to offer the most essential information; don’t make it overwhelming. The traditional way to do it is to make it overwhelming and complex, so it seems like you have to trust this person to buy something so expensive. For us, it’s the opposite.”
Decisions based on data and intuition
“We’re very data-driven, very digital-first, but we’re also very intuitive. We don’t make all of our decisions based on pure data, and that’s a mistake some companies can make — they just look at data and make decisions on paper, without seeing the human aspect of it. We’re very human-focused in the sense that we really like to listen, whether that’s to comments not even directed to us on Instagram or emails that are written in. Really, any touchpoint that we have with the customer, it’s about listening, taking in feedback, having conversations with the team and looking at how we can solve these pain points with a more human approach.”
Shaking up traditional manufacturing practices
“Our manufacturers have a huge undertaking with us right now, which is really exciting for them and for us. Really, what they have to do is change how they’ve been doing things for a really long time. Typically, there’s an inventory model and a made-to-order model, and what we’re trying to create is an on-demand model which falls somewhere in between. Something that’s made-to-order is completely custom, from start to finish. With inventory, you’re on an assembly line doing the same thing, and you have the inventory you send out when a sale comes. What we’re trying to do right now is merge the two — allow that customization that comes with made-to-order but provide the convenience that comes with inventory.”