Nadine McCarthy Kahane has it all: beauty, brains, and bling. The enterprising entrepreneur started runaway hit jewelry brand Stone & Strand while at Wharton. Envisioned as a haven from the stuffiness and pretension of the typical fine jewelry shopping experience, Stone & Strand was created to be the place for the modern and in-the-know woman to find amazing, beautiful, dainty little things.
Stone & Strand produces in-house fine jewelry offering at the same places Fifth Avenue brands do, but crazy mark-ups aren't really their thing. So you can always expect the most on-point pieces at prices and quality you can justify.
Nadine, the CEO, conceived of Stone & Strand while getting her MBA at Wharton. She wanted to do away with the boring world of high-end jewelry, as it felt dry and irrelevant for the new creative set. Instead, she saw an online space for fine jewelry, combining super-relatable customer service with a hand-picked offering of expressive, cool, and on-trend pieces. Her unique style is influenced by her global upbringing between Singapore and London, leading up to happily settling in Tribeca.
You started SAS while at Wharton. What was your inspiration? NADINE MCCARTHY KAHANE: I founded Stone & Strand while I was at Wharton because at the time (early 2012), I really felt like my options to purchase fine jewelry online were stuffy, boring, expensive and unfashionable. Back then most brands didn’t have websites, and department stores typically didn’t bother putting their fine jewelry on their nascent e-commerce sites. How quickly things have changed!
I come from a biotech consulting background (and the focus of my MBA at Wharton was in healthcare), but in terms of personal passion, I just kept being drawn back to the world of jewelry and the desire to build a brand that brought a fresh perspective to the market.
My vision for Stone & Strand is to build an online jewelry brand that offers a hand-picked selection of on-trend and high-quality pieces made from real gold and gemstone at accessible price points and delivering it with best-in-class, super relatable customer service.
What has been your biggest learning in the first few years of business? NMK: My biggest learning has been to recognize the need to avoid the hype and to remain laser-focused on what is actually important to the business and to our customers. This is much easier said than done - as someone who loves novelty, I still occasionally get distracted by buzzy new brands and stories of what can appear to be drivers of overnight successes. These days, I try to constantly remind myself that what works for others won’t necessarily be right for us, and we have to follow our gut, staying true to who we are.
Who is the SAS girl? NMK: We often hear stories from our customers about how they first discovered us after graduating from college and moving to a new city to start their careers. With their first paycheck, they decide that they no longer want to wear costume jewelry that breaks after a few wears, and instead look for something more meaningful. This is when we come into the picture!
Stone & Strand is proudly a women-led company, inspired by the power of femininity and its evolution, and I am constantly driven by the ambitious ladies that surround us in NYC.
In my mind, what defines our woman is more of a mindset than anything else. She is deliberate and purposeful about the way she lives her life. She’s worked hard and isn’t ashamed of it. She’s not afraid to paint outside the lines, to ask for forgiveness instead of permission, and to live the life she wants instead of the one that is expected of her.
She doesn’t take a back seat in her own life. But she definitely won’t tell you how to live yours. Honest and straightforward without being judgmental. You want her to tell it like it is, because you trust her inherently. She’s thoughtful and generous, welcoming and inclusive. She’s magnetic. The girl you want to be best friends with -- kind to everyone and fiercely loyal to her friends.
What's the best part about being a female entrepreneur in 2019? NMK: Today more than ever, I constantly experience a true feeling of sisterhood with fellow female entrepreneurs - and in particular other working mamas. I get a ton of support, advice, and mentorship from other women and it feels like we’re in this together. We’re helping each other succeed.
What are some of your favorite spots in NYC? NMK: There’s so much high-quality art in the city - it’s unbelievable. I try to take advantage of it as much as I can and love the Met Bruer, PS1, Noguchi Museum, and the Whitney.
I’ve always lived downtown, first in Soho and now in Tribeca. Local favorites include Grand Banks for oysters and an “I’m on vacation” vibe, Le Coucou for its overwhelming sense of sophistication, Houseman - the local neighborhood restaurant I can never seem to get a reservation at, and Black Tap for some fun and greasy late night food when you just have to scratch that itch.
What are you most excited about in the next couple of months? NMK: Over this last year we’ve been working really hard at meeting more of our customers IRL through a series of pop-ups, and we have more to come in the next couple of months.
As a digitally-native brand, it feels great to be able to engage our customers in person, and creatively, I really enjoy the challenge of being able to build a physical world for the brand that reflects our voice and who we are.