Rachel Dooley, designer and founder of Gemma Redux, took a break from studying for the New York Bar exam and re-found her creative passion she nurtured during her childhood. Following her desire to create, Rachel designed and produced a mixed-metal necklace using vintage and industrial materials. In no time at all, Gemma Redux pieces were getting featured in magazines like Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Harper's BAZAAR, WWD, and Zink. Rachel's unique pieces even landed themselves on the set of Gossip Girl and on the necks of trendsetters, such as Jessica Alba, Cameron Diaz, Blake Lively, Molly Sims and Ginnifer Goodwin.
We also featured Gemma Redux in our roundup of companies who were spotlit in a 2009 Reuters article who survived their startup years. One of our favorite quotes was from Rachel, when she answered the reporter's question of: "Do you panic?" Rachel's answer was: "Probably once a day," she said. "Looking at my bank account and seeing this is where we're at, and the only way this grows is if I do it, it's daunting." And she did grow her business, and keeps on growing. We sat down with Rachel to hear her story and tips on surviving and thriving throughout the start-up years.
When you first started your business, did you have to quit another job? What was the pivotal move to you starting your business?
Yes, although I didn’t quit right away. I was practicing as a lawyer in NYC, developing my collection at night, and I let my corporate job finance the brand. I still think it was one of my smartest moves in starting the brand, it gave me a lot of flexibility with my design budget.
Why did you know this business was the right thing to start?
I didn’t, I just really hate regrets. I kept thinking that the worst case scenario was that I would be right back where I started if it didn’t work out, and I just needed to take a shot.
Can you share with us some super-star moves you made that improved your
I try to help everyone I can – new stylists, other designers, photographers.... I think I got such a lucky break with this industry so I try to throw some love around when I can. And you never know how your next friendly conversation at an event might turn into a great opportunity. Fashion, like any industry, is all about relationship and it also makes you happier on a daily business to work with people you genuinely like.
Did you have a family at the time of launching your business?
Not really, my now- husband was my then-boyfriend, and our 6 month old obviously didn’t exist.
How has a growing family impacted how you run your business, or what you
want from your business?
It makes me much more focused. I could spend a whole day catching up on email, now I don’t have the luxury, so I really think about what I can be doing to advance the ball. And I think having a family makes me want to have a more relaxing business. I’m not out to negotiate down to each cent or give the strong sell, I am a bit more laid back and really only work for the partnerships that are good for my brand’s growth.
Have you launched other businesses or ventures since launching this business?
Always, always! ;) New collaborations, ventures, ideas are always in the works.
Why do you think your business has succeeded during its first few
Because I worked like crazy. I gave up a social life for a couple of years when I had my day job and spent every waking (and many should-be-sleeping) hours working on the brand. I felt so passionate that I had something other women would love and I wanted to get it out there, so I worked constantly. I think hard work always trumps.
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Rachel's focus and determination coupled by hard work resulted in being selected in 2009 as one of the designers in the inaugural class of the CFDA Fashion Incubator, which is a program established to support the generation of American designers. She believes, "Jewelery should be 100% fantasy and should make you feel excited to put it on." Start indulging in the Gemma Redux collection here.