When she was a child, College of Charleston alumna Andria Rogers ’12 thought she wanted to be an actress. But a stint as “Villager No. 1” in a school play cooled her ambitions for the lights of Hollywood.
“I quickly learned that I was not meant for the stage when I discovered that public speaking is one of my biggest fears,” says Rogers. “Into my teens, I figured out that I was interested in business. I would always ask my stepdad, when he came home from work, what his sales and profits were that day. By my late teens I knew that I, too, wanted to own my own business. I just didn’t know in what field.”
The answer lay closer to Rogers’ heart. As someone who married her high school sweetheart, the CofC business administration major became interested in the world of engagement rings and fine jewelry as a young woman waiting for her beau to pop the question. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The small-town girl from Valley City, Ohio, launched Victor Barboné Jewelry as an online store in 2015 from her Ansonborough apartment in downtown Charleston. Fast forward three years, and the business, named after Rogers’ Argentinian grandfather, has a New York City address in the heart of the Big Apple’s diamond district. And Rogers’ love of something old is new again in the world of jewelry.
The College Today recently caught up with Rogers to learn more about how CofC helped start her on a career path and what advice she has for other would-be entrepreneurs.
Q. How did you become interested in vintage jewelry?
I had been with my boyfriend, now husband, Darren Boulton ’13, for seven years before we got engaged, so I had plenty of time to find a ring! I struggled to find anything that was just right, until I stumbled onto authentic vintage jewelry and antique diamonds.
I loved everything I saw and I thought, “Why don’t people know about this?!” Also, I believe that living for seven years in Charleston (a city known for it’s old world charm) gave me an appreciation for antiques!
Q. How did you take your interest in vintage jewelry and turn that into a business?
It was never really a hobby for me. I saw an industry that I was very interested in, and I learned everything that I could about it. And then went for it!
Q. How did your degree from CofC prepare you for running your own business?
CofC was a good buffer time for me to grow up a bit. Some people can start a business right out of high school, but I’m not quite as good as those people! It taught me how to better talk to people, Win Friends and Influence People-style à la Dale Carnegie.
Q. What’s one lesson or memory of a professor during your time at CofC that has stuck with you?
Professor Howard Rudd (now retired) did a great job of bringing in entrepreneurs to speak to our entrepreneurship class. There are two speakers who have really stuck out to me and whose messages have been a great help. Shout out to Justin McLain and Dan Schneider (who my husband now works for) who are quite different, but both have remarkable stories and have achieved crazy things in business. I always think that it helps to hear stories of successful people who weren’t born into family money, yet have still built big businesses. To hear their ups and downs is very important, because every business has them.
Q. What have you enjoyed most about building your own business from scratch?
I like seeing how much things have grown and changed! I started this company out of my apartment on the corner of Hasell and Anson streets in downtown Charleston, selling my first ring on Jan. 1, 2016. I now live in New York City with an office on 47th Street (which is the main diamond hub in the U.S.) and did over $1 million in sales in 2017. Owning your own business definitely comes with its hard spots, and there are nights when sleep doesn’t come so easily. But to have something that you built yourself is something special.
Q. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs thinking about starting a business?
My number one piece of advice is to just go for it. Time passes anyways so you might as well try something that you like! To that point, I also don’t believe that you need “an investment” or extra money to get started. The number one question that people ask me is, “How did you get the money to start?” The answer is that I just used my little Roth IRA of $8,000 and started buying and selling!
Many people today think that you need to raise money, but I think it is just as effective to get started and try to fund your business with your sales and grow naturally. Another piece of advice: focus on one thing. It takes a lot of time and energy to build a business, so it works best when you are all in.