(Corrects the amount donated per piece of jewelry to the organization Charity: Water.)
Goldman Sachs (GS) may not have a lot of friends in the White House these days, but one of its former employees has made a good impression. After three years as an analyst in Goldman's fixed-income, currencies, and commodities division, Monique Péan began her own jewelry line that can now be found in Barneys, Jeffrey New York, and around the neck of Michelle Obama.
In the summer of 2003 the University of Pennsylvania grad took a job at Goldman, arriving for work each day by 5:30 a.m. Two years later her sister died in a car accident, and Péan began making jewelry as a form of therapy. The hobby persisted, and Péan, now 29, spent $30,000 of her savings to buy a piece of fossilized woolly mammoth tusk from the Arctic Circle as material. When she wore a necklace made from part of the tusk into boutique Scoop NYC, the store manager took notice. Péan said she'd made it herself, and the manager asked to see a line sheet. "I had no idea what a line sheet was," says Péan.
Scoop's interest inspired her to approach more stores, and within six months, she left Goldman to pursue her own jewelry company, Monique Péan Fine Jewelry, sourced from artisans from around the world. Los Angeles' Milk boutique became the first retailer to carry her line. For two years she ran the company by herself, eventually hiring the consultancy firm Launch Collective to help her with marketing, sales schedules, and philanthropy (she donates 10% of the price of each piece to the organization Charity: Water). In late 2009, Péan eased the load by taking on an angel investor, which enabled her nine-person New York-based company to expand its production to 1,000 pieces a year that range from $320 to $203,840 for a recycled rose gold, 33.4 carat diamond bracelet.
Thanks to two industry awards—and buzz following Obama's decision to wear a Péan necklace to a state dinner—the business has grown 136% in the past year. Barney's carries her line in eight of its national stores. "At Goldman I followed currencies and commodities," says Péan. "Now, I find myself doing the same thing. I'm constantly tracking the price of gold."
FROM FINANCE TO FOSSILS
• Price of most expensive material in Péan's current line (antique diamonds): $80,000
• Pieces of 12,000-year-old fossilized woolly mammoth tusk in showroom: 5
• Number of Herkimer diamonds at Péan's headquarters in New York: 2,241
• The company helped provide clean water to this many people last year: 4,000+
Data: Monique Pean Fine Jewelry