There’s nothing more personal than that necklace, ring or cuff you wear every single day without fail; the one that represents a special memory, a person or something you love. It’s that piece you can take comfort in—the pendant you absentmindedly play with throughout the day, the ring you twist around your finger while you’re sitting in class—you know, the one you feel completely naked without. Being in the business of something this significant is no joke, and Ivka Adam, founder and CEO of Iconery.com, just gets that. Not only does Iconery offer the kind of hard-to-find pieces from the most coveted designers in the industry, it’s a place where you can get those items customized to suit you perfectly, whether you’re choosing between 14k gold or rose gold, or you want to get your initials engraved into what’s sure to become the one piece you’ll keep for the rest of your life. So what does it take to be the powerful woman behind this inspiring business? We spoke with Ivka to find out.
Name: Ivka Adam
Job Title and Description: Founder & CEO of Iconery.com
College Name/Major: UCLA/Economics; USC/M.B.A in Economics
Tell us about your day to day—what does your current job entail?
Ivka Adam: I start my day practicing Transcendental Meditation and then I work out while listening to NPR or the TED Radio Hour. On any given day, I am talking with fine jewelry designers, manufacturers, influencers and investors. The key is to keep one to two “North Star Goals” and manage to-do lists accordingly. The hardest part of launching a start-up is staying laser focused. Much of my day is spent brainstorming great ideas, and then constantly sorting what we will and won’t do. Years ago, I established Mondays as “no meeting Mondays” to focus and set the week up for success.
What is the best part of your job?
IA: As a managed marketplace, we get to work with so many incredible people from designers to manufacturers to influencers. The best part of my job is enabling others to live their dreams—I’m not a designer, but I can build a platform and drive awareness for others who have unique talents.
Jewelry is the most personal art form—we wear it on our bodies, and it signifies important people or moments. Being able to help designers create and then connect them with people who will treasure their creations is incredibly rewarding.
What was your first entry-level job in your field, and how did you get it?
IA: I began my career at Ernst & Young in account management. I had already been an intern on the business development team for my two final years at UCLA, and they made me an offer upon graduation—a huge deal because it was 2002, the tech bubble had burst, and no one was hiring. I’m a huge believer in internships to get full-time jobs. I had three internships during business school at ibeatyou.com, eBay, and Hulu. Each experience led me to secure an incredible position at eBay once I graduated, which was also a huge deal because it was 2009 and the recession had kicked into high gear.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started that you know now?
IA: I’m actually glad I was somewhat of a jewelry industry newbie before starting, because it has helped me bring a fresh perspective from a manufacturing standpoint, as well as a consumer standpoint. With that said, the first thing I did was recruit industry insiders from jewelry manufacturing and the fashion industry to establish credibility quickly among our designers, suppliers and consumers.
Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
IA: Beth Bemis was my first boss at Ernst & Young and is one of their most successful business development professionals in the entire firm. Perfect was never perfect enough, and we spent many late nights agonizing over spreadsheets, proposals, and PowerPoint presentations that I’d create for her. She was tough—like an Olympic coach—but as a result, I am a better leader and communicator. Every day, I find myself appreciating her for something she taught me and reflect often on the dedication she had while training me.
In your career, you will look back and realize that you learned the most from and have appreciation for the bosses that were toughest on you. I love the saying “pressure makes diamonds.” So, remember that when there is red pen all over something you’ve handed in for the 10th time, it’s way past midnight, and you want to quit!
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
IA: As a start-up CEO, it’s natural to think “I hope we make it.” We live in uncertainty. My favorite words of wisdom are, “How you would be if you knew you could not fail.” I first heard this while I was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012 and it shifted my mindset from a state of fear: “I hope I summit” to “I’m already going to summit, so how can I enjoy today?” which I think ultimately got me to the top. It’s much more powerful to lead a company from the mindset that we are already a success.