My first professional job was at AT&T headquarters in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, in the legal copy room, making photocopies and sending faxes. I worked there during summers and on breaks from college.
It wasn’t the most thought-provoking job in the world, and a lot of people there were trying to do the minimum possible. It really showed me that by going out of your way and being friendly, for one, you get invited back to work again, and two, I got to do more interesting things than my co-workers because I would get invited to meetings out of the copy room. It really taught me that hard work, perseverance and being good with people pays off in little ways and big ways. In addition, it showed me a world beyond what I knew. AT&T was just getting into the cellular market. This was the early 90s when no one had cell phones yet, and AT&T was buying its first cellular company. I was interacting with investment bankers and lawyers who were putting together this multibillion- dollar acquisition. So it introduced me to what those jobs were.
I went on to study finance in college, and I became an investment banker. I was putting together the kind of deals I had seen in that AT&T copy room. Later I went back and got an MBA and continued in banking for a while. After the financial crisis hit, I decided I wanted to become an entrepreneur. For a number of years in my career I was helping other people build their businesses. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be the person building the business. So I switched into wholesaling and retailing estate jewelry. My wife’s family had been in the jewelry business for more than 100 years. This was a way for me to combine my passion for finance and technology and my entrepreneurial spirit into the old-school business of buying and selling estate jewelry.
—As told to Cary Barbor