WWD.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/rao-8217-s-low-tech-approach-754884/
government-trade
government-trade

Rao’s Low-Tech Approach

NEW YORK — Young entrepreneur Varsha Rao certainly isn’t letting a little failure get in her way.<br><br>A former Internet executive who founded the now defunct beauty Web site eve.com, Rao is currently setting her sights on the jewelry...

NEW YORK — Young entrepreneur Varsha Rao certainly isn’t letting a little failure get in her way.

This story first appeared in the August 5, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

A former Internet executive who founded the now defunct beauty Web site eve.com, Rao is currently setting her sights on the jewelry industry. She is in the midst of launching a fine jewelry brand called Zoelle that has just begun to hit stores.

“This is a great way for me to combine my passion for jewelry with the experience I gained founding eve.com,” Rao said in a recent interview. “I think there is a gap in the jewelry market for products that are feminine and specifically targeted at women aged 25 to 45.”

Rao, who is based in San Francisco, has no formal jewelry background, but said she is working with three designers to create the line. Among the initial offerings are pendants, earrings and rings in 18-karat gold with small diamonds and a collection with Asian and Celtic motifs. There is also a bracelet which has an 18-karat gold and diamond pendant that attaches to a strap available in either satin, grosgrain or suede.

Rao, 32, said she has always loved jewelry, but became more interested in it after she began adding accessories and jewelry items to eve.com a few years ago. She acknowledged that it is somewhat of a difficult time to begin a new business due to current economic conditions, but there are some benefits.

“People are more willing to work at reasonable costs than they were a few years ago,” she noted. “Also, high quality manufacturers and other suppliers have more time to work with me.”

At its peak, eve.com had a staff of about 150 and revenues of $10 million. Rao and her partner sold it in 2000 to Idealab, which decided to fold the site later that year.

The name for the line is derived from the words, Zoe, which means life in Greek, and Elle the French word for women. Prices for Zoelle range from $250 to $2,000, and Rao said she is looking to achieve first year sales of about $500,000.

Distribution is still being determined, but the line is already available in the Jennifer Kaufman boutique in Los Angeles, and Rao said she is targeting high-end specialty stores and some independent jewelers. A Web site is in development and is expected to be running by next month. While the jewelry world is certainly a far cry from the warp speed of the Internet, Rao said she welcomes the change of pace.

“One of the main things I took away [from eve.com] is that it takes time and consistent effort to build a lasting brand,” Rao said. “Longevity is a key to creating a trusted brand that has a solid reputation.”