One of the coolest parts of my internship with Her Campus has been the opportunity to interview so many amazing people! I recently talked with Matt Lauzon, Founder of Gemvara, about his experiences as an entrepreneur.
Her Campus: Tell us about Gemvara.
Matt Lauzon: Gemvara is an online retailer of jewelry. We are the only place you can go, as far as I know, where every piece of jewelry we sell can be customized. We have pieces starting under $100, but the majority of what we sell is in the $500 – $1500 range.
HC: What inspired you to create Gemvara?
ML: I started Gemvara when I was an undergrad at Babson. I was really interested in mass customization. I was introduced to the jewelry industry while I was in a class [at Babson] and just started thinking about how it is such an emotional, important purchase in people’s lives. What I discovered was that in many cases, people were sort of forced to settle. People would go to jeweler after jeweler and see the same inventory everywhere they went, so I got really excited about the idea of giving people exactly what they want.
HC: How old were you when you started Gemvara?
ML: Now I’m old – I’m twenty-five. (Laughs.) At the time, I was twenty-two, a senior.
HC: How were you able to juggle school and work?
ML: Babson is extremely supportive of entrepreneurs, so I actually found that the more business I got, the better my grades were. I was able to apply the things we were talking about in classes directly to starting Gemvara. That said, I probably had a more active social life the first few years of college than I did my last year of college, just because I spent so much time outside the classroom getting the business off the ground.
HC: What challenges do you face as a young entrepreneur? How do you overcome them?
ML: We have over forty people at the company now, and most of the people I’ve hired, frankly, have kids my age. A lot of times, people have a perception when they first meet someone who is young and trying to get their business off the ground that they are inexperienced. My approach has always been to keep an open mind, acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers, and try to create as many support networks as possible.
HC: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
ML: The more time you can spend with whomever your customer is, the better. A lot of times, when you or your team have what you think might be the best solution, a customer might say, “Sorry, but I’m looking for something else.” Right now, black diamond engagement rings are really popular for us. We probably wouldn’t have predicted that was going to happen, but we have such a focus on listening to what our customers are looking for that we were able to pick that up and run with it. It’s helped us drive sales month after month and create more happy customers.
HC: What characteristics do you need in order to be successful?
ML: If I knew that, I’d be much cooler than I am now. But I think a lot of great entrepreneurs recognize that at the end of the day, it’s all about people. No matter what type of company you’re trying to build or what type of problem you’re trying to solve, it all boils down to what type of people you surround yourself with. We put so much energy into finding and hiring the right people. When I first started Gemvara, I was doing everything from writing copy for marketing material to figuring out how we would process payment, but at this point, I really can’t be there for every decision about every part of the company. You have to really empower people, so you have to hire great people.
HC: What is a typical day like for you?
ML: Every day is different, which is one of the things I love about what I’m doing. Every day I wake up and think about what we can do to make more happy customers. I work with members of the team to make sure everyone is sticking to that vision. I also spend time with investors and potential new employees to find the best possible people to partner with.
Matt would like to extend the opportunity to all Her Campus readers to apply for an internship! Gemvara is based in Lexington, MA and is always looking to take on passionate, excited interns. If you’re interested, visit Gemvara’s Career page to learn more!