Shiffon’s Shilpa Yarlagadda talks business and Michelle Obama

  • Shilpa Yarlagadda, 24, is the cofounder of advantageous jewellery line Shiffon. 
  • The model is thought for its spiral pinky rings, which signify the pinky promise to help and empower ladies. 
  • When she based the business simply three years in the past, Yarlagadda had solely $25,000 in startup capital, most of it from a grant gained in her high-school days.
  • Earlier this month, Shiffon teamed up with When We All Vote Foundation, co-chaired by Michelle Obama, to launch particular version hoop earrings that signify the hoops ladies needed to bounce via to get equal rights. 
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Yarlagadda talks about her profession journey, the significance of mentorship, and her collaboration with the When We All Vote Foundation. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

When Shilpa Yarlagadda was in between her freshman and sophomore years at Harvard, she had an concept.

At the time, she was a pc science main with no expertise in jewellery. She did, nevertheless, have the need to make a change.

In Indian tradition, jewellery holds nice sentimental worth and is one thing that’s sometimes handed down for generations. And as a Silicon Valley native, Yarlagadda grew up near one of many US’ enterprise capital hotspots.

Her concept was a jewellery business that will additionally “give women access to venture capital and opportunities beyond the capital.” She advised Business Insider, “there’s so much work to do.” Yarlagadda’s preliminary concept was to take the nice monetary margins from advantageous jewellery and then repeatedly investing Shiffon’s income again into female-owned companies. 

Yarlagadda had her personal capital to work with, and she cofounded her advantageous jewellery firm, Shiffon, with $25,000, in 2017. She drew from $5,000 of her personal financial savings and $20,000 from a grant she had gained in highschool. (The grant originated out of a nonprofit she had based, which made video tutorials to assist college students perceive numerous academic ideas.)

“Twenty-five thousand to me sounded like a lot of money, but now growing and seeing what other founders are able to do, I’m realizing it actually wasn’t,” she mentioned. “We had to be really resourceful in what we did.”

Now 24 years outdated, Yarlagadda’s business is prospering and not too long ago helped her win the help of Michelle Obama and her stylist Meredith Koop, whose basis When We All Vote has partnered with Shiffon to launch a line of jewellery proper earlier than the election.

Shiffon rings have a symbolic which means

Shiffon’s most well-known product is the Duet Pink Ring.

It’s a pinky ring, Yarlagadda, says, to signify the pinky promise that ladies can pay it ahead to different ladies. The ring can be adjustable in order that it may match everybody, including that on the time, she did not know her personal ring dimension and that making a hoop in a single dimension helped reduce stock prices. 

Its spiral designs signify how the corporate goals to assist ladies spiral upward.

The rings vary from $155 for sterling silver to $695 for 18-karat gold, and those that purchase the rings unlock a secret menu that provides them entry to extra Shiffon merchandise.  

“That was kind of an opportunity to customize and build products around like what our customers wanted in a way that wouldn’t always be so public or take away from the focus that our business had on this one product,” Yarlagadda mentioned. 



Half of Shiffon’s income are given to the corporate’s nonprofit group, the Startup Girl Foundation, which then focuses on giving funding to female-owned companies. They take fairness in every firm they put money into, with all returns going again to the muse to then be used to speculate once more in additional corporations. 

To date, Yarlagadda mentioned, it has supported greater than 11 startups, together with the bra firm Pepper, and the espadrille model Sea Star Beachwear.

This sort of funding is sorely wanted. In 2017, lower than 2.2% of the $85 billion given out in VC funding went to feminine founders. That quantity is much more dismal for girls of coloration, Yarlagadda mentioned, including that she desires to assist encourage feminine founders to assist help one another within the funding sphere. 

“If we can create exponential growth and a chain reaction, it’s going to help us reach equality in the venture capital and business ecosystem sooner,” she mentioned.

Mentorship is nearly as necessary as capital

Mentorship has performed an enormous half in Yarlagadda’s profession, and she mentioned it is virtually as necessary for younger entrepreneurs to obtain mentorship as to obtain capital. This is one purpose why Shiffon has a mentorship board which incorporates stylist Sarah Slutsky, Beyoncé’s stylist Ty Hunter, and former Elle Editor-in-Chief Robbie Meyers. 

“So often in business and in life, having key advice from people who’ve been there before and people that you look up to can just really make a huge difference,” Yarlagadda mentioned. 

Yarlagadda’s personal mentorship journey started within the early days of her business when she simply began reaching out to individuals she seemed as much as, together with Slutsky, who’s finest identified for working with the likes of Emma Watson and Tory Burch. 

Sarah Slutsky

Sarah Slutsky turned a mentor to Yarlagadda.

Roy Rochlin / Contributor / Getty Images

It was Slutsky who, along with offering mentorship, taught Yarlagadda concerning the Kimberley Process, a certification scheme which requires those that signal as much as supply conflict-free diamonds and helped her discover methods to supply her diamonds. 

“I loved her taste in jewelry. I loved her focus on sustainability as a business,” Yarlagadda mentioned. “I just felt it’s our duty to make sure that we’re operating [the business] in a way that is really ethical and not causing more harm in the world.” 

Slutsky’s shopper Emma Watson was one of many first to put on a Shiffon ring. Watson wore the piece in 2017 throughout a press tour for her film “The Circle.” Then, Nicole Kidman wore a Shiffon ring on the Emmys that very same yr. 

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman sporting a Shiffon ring on her left pinky.

Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic / Getty Images

Since then, many high-profile names have worn Shiffon, together with Serena Williams, Cynthia Erivo, and Shailene Woodley. 

The largest identify, nevertheless, has been Michelle Obama, who wore the ring throughout her e book tour in 2018. 

Obama’s stylist, Meredith Koop, turned an enormous supporter of the model, Yarlagadda mentioned, and finally turned one other mentor. Yarlagadda had reached out to Koop by way of her agent, and Koop advised Business Insider that she was “completely taken with her drive, openness, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.”

Yarlagadda’s relationship with Koop finally led Shiffon to its newest endeavor: a partnership with the muse When We All Vote, co-chaired by Michelle Obama, that seeks to extend voter participation. 

Koop began working on the basis earlier this yr as a artistic advisor and thought Shiffon would make for an excellent collaboration

The basis had been doing merchandising drops main as much as the election, with Shiffon being a part of the second and ultimate merch drop proper earlier than the election. 

“We were looking for cool products and, also, cool stories of diverse brands, designers and founders,” Koop advised Business Insider. “Shiffon was an obvious fit.”

Together, Shiffon and When We All Vote launched particular version hoop earrings with the phrases “Vote” engraved on them. The earrings vary from $150 to $1,280 and had been promoted on social media by Hailey Bieber, Mandy Moore, and basketball participant Sue Bird. 

“Shilpa and I discussed the idea of beautiful, covetable hoops that would have a subtle yet striking nod to voting,” Koop mentioned. “And also connect aesthetically to the duet pinky ring with the double stones. Shilpa connected the idea of the hoops women have continuously had to jump through for equality and voting rights.”



As a public determine within the realm of politics, Obama’s type, Yarlagadda mentioned, has a big impact on younger designers and designers of coloration, and with the presidential election proper across the nook, Yarlagadda and the muse needed a chance to step in and assist encourage individuals to vote. 

The “Vote” earrings had been formally launched on October 7 and on the time of publishing, have been practically offered out. Through November three, half of the income from the earrings and the pinky rings will profit When We All Vote.

Yarlagadda mentioned she hopes she will be able to proceed to do partnerships like this sooner or later to lift consciousness about different necessary elections, such because the midterms. “There’s so many that actually matter so much, as well,” she continued. 

It all, she mentioned, goes again to her mission to assist empower ladies and to assist encourage and encourage the subsequent era of feminine entrepreneurs. 

“In the boardrooms, women are still not given a fair and equal say,” she continued. “I think we really wanted to do this as a way to inspire and remind women how hard they work to get these rights and that their voice matters.” 

[Editor’s note: This article has been corrected throughout to clarify that Michelle Obama’s co-chaired organization, When We All Vote, is partnered with Shiffon, not Obama herself.]

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