For years, Chelsea Nicholson and Vanessa Stofenmacher felt that the fine jewelry on the market just wasn’t for them. They wanted to make a statement with pieces that were classic yet attainable, and had an inkling other women felt the same. After graduating from General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive program in Los Angeles, they decided to do something about it.
The pair, who were friends before they were classmates, teamed up to launch Vrai and Oro — a Warby Parker-style fine jewelry startup that embodies UX principles its core. Vrai and Oro means truth (in French) and gold (in Spanish), and the name is reflected in the company’s values: quality, simplicity, and transparency. Chelsea and Vanessa produce their jewelry with ethically sourced materials in downtown Los Angeles — without designer markups. And, true to their UX-driven brand, their website and eCommerce platform is minimalistic and image-driven for easy use.
We caught up with Chelsea to learn more about Vrai & Oro, the site’s user experience, and how GA helped the co-founders achieve their goals.
What brought you to GA?
We came to GA for separate reasons. Vanessa had co-founded another startup as creative director and wanted more insight into the user experience of the brand. I had recently finished studying business marketing and had a passion for consumer behavior, so I thought UX would be a strong complement.
What was the inspiration for Vrai & Oro?
We started V&O out of the desire to create jewelry that fits our everyday life without needing to make a statement. For years, we felt that jewelry just wasn’t for us. We were overwhelmed with trends, tired of the designer markups, and confused by misleading product descriptions. We decided to simplify our choices, prioritize quality, and make our collection attainable to women just like us. We’ve always been hugely inspired by companies like Everlane and Warby Parker and saw an opportunity to bring this business model to the fine jewelry industry.
What skills from GA’s User Experience Design Immersive have you used to build your business?
Our entire company was founded through the user experience. Every decision we make is based around how it will affect our customers, so having technical education in that domain has influenced almost every area of our brand. Even beyond that, we really used the GA network when launching the company. We met more people than we could have ever imagined through events and the entire GA community. Last year, we were a part of the Grid110 accelerator program, which was critical to our growth and education, and we would have never had that experience or connection without GA.
What have you learned about yourself through your experiences at GA and as entrepreneurs?
That we truly love the startup life!
Do you have any advice for GA students who want to start their own companies?
Don’t make excuses. Get creative, and don’t let things like having a small or no budget hold you back. Turn what others think to be weaknesses into your strengths. A lot of young founders get stuck on the idea that you need a lot of funding, but really you just need to do it and trust it. Also — use the GA network!
Find inspiration from your customers.