We had the good fortune of connecting with Kate Rorie and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kate, do you have a budget? How do you make lifestyle and spending decisions?
Absolutely. In fact, one of the reasons I went into finance initially is because I felt so passionately that all of us, particularly women, need to acquire sound financial acumen. Our careers may change, but most of the skills we prioritize acquiring should transfer.
Finances and budgeting can be overwhelming for many. Here are my quick tips for managing finances for both personal and business budgets:
- Know your spending. They have great apps now that help you categorize and review daily expenditures, making it easier than ever to keep up with how you spend your money. I still use Mint.com but there’s constant innovation in this space for every preference.
- Long term or short term, focus on return. It’s critical to understand how long it takes for our investments to pay themselves off (e.g., break even point). Whether it’s school, or even a new marketing campaign, calculating this as part of your decision-making process is a valuable habit to build. Viewing investments like this enables you to thoughtfully prepare for risk while navigating around sunk costs that disguise themselves as “investments”.
- Spend in line with your values. Compare your spending to your values every year. Do you value your career but notice you haven’t consumed any new training, skills or services? Value health but observe you only spend 1% of disposable income on the cheapest gym membership you could find? It’s not always linear but I encourage everyone to do this exercise, you may shock yourself. This year health and wellness became front and center for me and it was clear by my spending. Not only was I not investing in my health and wellness (e.g., gyms, counseling, fresh foods etc.), but I was over-investing in fast foods and convenience items that directly brought down my health.
- Debt should be seen as leverage but should never, ever be ignored. Like many successful individuals, I use debt as often as banks will allow it. There’s a reason for this, and there’s nothing wrong with considering debt to achieve goals of skills development or investing in your future; the catch is it needs to be thoughtful, strategic, and actively managed. Before I take out any debt, I always run a financial analysis through the period where I would break even, and I have 2-3 people review my calculations before making a final decision. I also make sure to run these numbers through several outcomes so I’m never surprised and can remove some of the stress that comes with taking risks. Learning to manage risk will increase your comfort with it. If you’re not a numbers person, I encourage you to connect with an analyst you can enlist to help in this area!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
While I offer a jewelry line and take on all types of fine jewelry projects, where I really stand out is in designing pieces that celebrate a person’s life. Most jewelers are forced to play the volume game, as fine jewelry is a highly saturated industry with pricing and margin pressure, now even more so due to COVID. Contrary to this, I choose to spend 1-2 hours with each client, getting to know them, learning their style and understanding details about the event they’re looking to memorialize. It’s not uncommon for me to text with my clients throughout the design process as we iterate on what feels and looks right for them. This intake and relationship is key in helping me deliver something really meaningful and personalized to each client and their story. Whether it’s beating cancer, completing that triathlon, memorializing a loved one, or even sending off the final payment on your school loan, these are the milestones that make up our lives and our legacies. I take on a limited number of clients each year so that I can spend as much time as needed to ensure their piece appreciates throughout their lifetime.
How did you get to where you are today professionally?
I always joke that I didn’t choose fine jewelry, it chose me! I’ve had a love for gemstones and making my entire life, but grew up battling homelessness with my single mother, and initially opted to prioritize pragmatism and a secure professional career. Sure, my entrepreneurial spirit manifested its way into my life through multiple side-hustles in real estate and philanthropy, keeping my brain and ambitions busy while I pursued a career in tech…but as a creative, it wasn’t enough. I wanted to hyper-focus on passions I could spend all of my time doing and still feel enlivened. I decided to squeeze in a few bench jewelry classes and it unlocked Pandora’s box. Before I knew it, I was fully obsessed and starting Rorie Collection became more of a need to get the designs out of my head than a choice: I consistently found myself pulling all-nighters thinking about how to engineer new projects, fine-tuning my eye for quality, and absolutely inhaling everything jewelry related. It had actually become disruptive; after all, by this point I was a leader at one of the top Tech giants, had a real estate portfolio to manage, and was busy battling imposter syndrome as so many marginalized individuals do. While I’d love to say I was “courageous” in starting the Rorie Collection, it was the only path I saw to quiet the noise in my head!
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I received a family Emerald that had a complicated past: the stone is stunning, but it just happened to be my grandfather’s mistress’s promise ring. Say that three times fast. I barely knew her and I barely knew him, but their legacy pervaded our family history and I wasn’t particularly charmed about the idea of continuing that by wearing the ring as it was.
When the design process started it was intended as a gift from my spouse, but as it came together and the piece became part me–part my story–I was suddenly compelled to buy it for myself. Unlike other jewelry, my focus was less on the piece or what others would think of it, but rather on the sense of pride developing from my ability to buy it. I found my mind wandering about what some young woman would say when this piece was eventually passed down after I’m gone–would it be from me directly, or would it continue for generations to come? Most importantly would my life and legacy travel with it, and would the lessons accompanying my rags to riches story come through? What power this necklace had to communicate my life’s learnings! It became clear this wasn’t just jewelry, this piece represented a pivotal milestone in my life. To be able to share that story, the grit and accountability I learned along the way, and the pride that appreciates throughout time from that journey–that is what this piece represented, and that’s what I wanted people to see when they looked at it: a woman with unbreakable pride that other women could look up to.
Particularly for all who identify as women and those who support us, the time is now to set the tone for how we want women to be seen. I want to be the designer women choose to make that eye-catching piece that starts these conversations. Let’s start talking about the things we’re proud of to those in our lives, and if you’re looking for a fun way to start that conversation, I suggest some sparkly jewelry. It works for me.
Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Two months after being invited to an emerging designer’s showcase in NYC’s fashion district, COVID19 surfaced as an unknown virus. COVID19 proceeded to wreak havoc on the jewelry industry, collapsing small players and freezing supply chains around the globe. Our new online world also changed how successful labels go to market, success indexing much more heavily on branding and e-commerce resources—both often requiring large budgets. Speaking honestly, it’s been hard and will likely continue to be for any designers out there who didn’t have a strong e-commerce presence at the time the pandemic hit. It’s simply a different game today than it was 3 years ago and the lesson is clear: set up your business with flexibility in mind, so you can adjust to evolving customer needs in addition to industry shifts.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As is true in my jewelry business, I love focusing on the experiences we make in life and tend to go a little overboard when I host. Those small moments in a trip where everything just seems to fall in place are some of my favorite moments. I love food, nature, ambiance and local culture and with visitors I like to pepper in both tourist sites and local activities.
In San Diego one of my strongest suggestions for visitors is to start their trip with a long bike ride to get some movement in while soaking in the views. We’d head toward la Jolla and end the day with a kayak trip in the bay. For a great dinner ambiance, my favorite is Herringbone La Jolla at night. I also love a good craft cocktail so I’d force my friends to experience the SD rooftop bar scene for a brunch and a dinner (Rustic Root or Kairoa), and a local distillery like Malahat Spirits.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I found Joe Dispenza’s work on neuroscience and the mind/body connection, it marked a pivotal moment in my life. Learning proven tactics and habits to influence my brain architecture and perception have been mind blowing–pun intended 🙂 We really are our largest cheerleaders in life, and it begins with how you speak to yourself, and how we choose to perceive challenges that arise in our daily lives. As a result I’ve built a daily meditation habit that serves me professionally, personally and spiritually.
Majority of images provided were taken during a shoot by Mcklyn Cole Valenciano (www.mcklynvalenciano.com, or @mcklyncole on IG), styled by myself, with makeup and hair done by Ryan James Conover (@ryanjamesconover on IG).