I don’t know where to begin when describing Nur-E Rahman. She’s kind, she’s SO smiley, she’s whip smart and she’s going to make this world a better place. Nur-E has had a more unusual road to entrepreneurship than most. After years of consulting and government work she said her goodbyes and launched a jewelry line with a cause with her mom called Knotty Gal. When Nur-E isn’t working hard on her brand you can find images of her traveling the world, playing with her niece and spending time with her friends.
1. Having had a background in consulting what prompted you to launch Knotty Gal? Can you share a bit about the transition from corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur?
I’m grateful for having had my consulting stint, because I learned so much and met some truly fantastic people, many of whom I still stay in touch with. Perhaps most significantly, my consulting gig allowed me to save up enough to start Knotty Gal. The entire experience was definitely rewarding, and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but at the end of the day, my heart just wasn’t in it. I wasn’t passionate about the work I was doing, and I looked at all of the higher-level people on my projects and knew fairly quickly that I absolutely did not want their lives. Their careers were not what I aspired to. Being in the corporate world helped me better understand the concept of being bold and taking risks, but calculated risks. I knew that before I could quit, I had to get my financial affairs in order and start making plans for launching Knotty Gal. I began dabbling in Knotty Gal plans and saving money, all while still consulting. And when I finally quit and made the transition to Knotty Gal full-time, I realized how lucky I was for being able to take with me the skills I learned at Deloitte, everything from Excel modeling to effective networking, and apply them to my Knotty Gal work. I think because of that, having the corporate background made the transition into the startup world a bit easier, actually. I used the tools and skills I learned from my corporate background, including the structure and discipline, and brought them with me into my startup.
2. You work very closely with your mother in the designing of your product, what’s the best part of a family business? What are the biggest frustrations?
The best part of working with my mother is that I have a partner I can always trust blindly. She and I have each other’s backs, and that’s such a rare and important thing to have, especially in business. I know she’ll always be there for me, and I’ll always be there for her, so to have that level of commitment and loyalty in a partnership is a beautiful thing. But just like in any other business partnership or mother-daughter relationship, there are disagreements, and my mother and I definitely have our fights, just like anyone else. That can be frustrating, but luckily, we work well together, and we always come back to a neutral zone. Working with family is most certainly not for everyone, but if you do decide to work with family, you have to be 100% sure you can collaborate effectively with that family member. I always tell the story of how my older sister says that she would probably kill one of us if she had to work with my mother or me! And I totally get that; we all have such different personalities. But my sister has been so incredibly supportive since day one in so many other ways. So yeah, there are ups and downs like in any other business relationship, but I appreciate having someone who will be there for me no matter how tough things get and keep me grounded in the better moments as well.
3. I love that Knotty Gal has a charitable component to it, can you tell me more about the mission of the brand and what you hope to accomplish?
The whole reason we started Knotty Gal was to raise funds for the Bhandari Girls’ School in Bangladesh, which was founded by my great-grandfather in the 1960’s. My mother actually graduated from that school when she was younger! In 2011, I was working as a contractor for the US Agency for International Development, and I was sent to Bangladesh on assignment. During that trip, I got the chance to visit my great-grandfather’s school, and saw how much they desperately needed resources. That’s when my mother and I started thinking about creative ways to raise funds for the girls, and Knotty Gal was born. Between 10% and 15% of all jewelry sales goes directly to the school. We had the cause first and the product second, so we started backwards in that sense. The biggest thing I’d love to accomplish this year is to be able to provide free breakfast and lunch for all the girls there. Right now, they only receive a small daily snack, and some of the girls are so poor, they come to school for this nourishment alone. I’m on a mission to change this. And beyond this year, my main goal for the school is to have it be adequately resourced to provide each and every girl there with a stellar, quality education.
4. What has been your biggest success with Knotty Gal so far? What has been the coolest way people have discovered the brand?
I think one of our biggest successes has been our partnership with BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, to provide computer education training to all the girls at the school. We were in Bangladesh when we met with BRAC officials and finalized all the details, so that will always be a great memory of mine. Aside from the BRAC collaboration, I’ll always be excited about our trunk show at Henri Bendel when we first started, our involvement with the Tory Burch Foundation, and our partnerships with amazing brands like Brit + Co, Bezar, and Master & Muse. I’ve also been happy about the exciting press we’ve received, since press was never in our budget, so all of our mentions came about through networking. We were fortunate enough to have been featured in Forbes, WSJ Live, MSNBC, Good Day New York, Upworthy, Inc. Magazine, HuffPo, the Zoe Report, and other awesome media sites and publications, so anytime someone hears about us from a press mention, it’s always exciting!
5. What’s next for Knotty Gal? Any plans of expanding beyond jewelry?
We’re rebranding! We’re in the middle of redoing our website, and part of that entails making sure we’re telling our story in the most authentic way possible. We do have some new pieces in the works, and as for expanding beyond jewelry, we’d love to move into that space when we’re ready! But for now, we’ve got some exciting jewelry projects coming up that you’ll just have to keep an eye out for!