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Jul 27, 2021

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Betting on Yourself: Marc Bridge, Founder + CEO, At Present

Why this fifth-generation jeweler (and our founder!) chose to leave his family business and start At Present.

Inspired by our designer partners, friends of the brand, and even our own team, we’re launching “Betting On Yourself,” where inspiring people tell us about a time that they bet on themselves. Maybe they took a leap of faith by starting their own company. Maybe they had their first child in the middle of a pandemic. We’re proud of and inspired by these stories, and excited to share them with you.

I was supposed to spend my life running a jewelry business. It just wasn’t supposed to be this one.

I grew up in a family business. My great-great grandfather opened a small jewelry store in downtown Seattle in 1912. Five generations of my family made their living and forged their identity within the confines of that store and the hundreds that followed. Over the years, it grew into a large and well-respected company. It became such a success that Warren Buffett bought the business and made it part of Berkshire Hathaway, his lollipops-to-locomotives empire.

From an early age, I was sent to work on the sales floor, first cleaning the cases, then wrapping gifts, and ultimately selling diamonds, gemstones, and timepieces. No one told me it was strange for a 14 year-old to be selling Rolex watches and engagement rings, so off I went.

It was fun and I was really good at it. The company afforded me purpose, belonging, status, identity and challenge. I learned an enormous amount and got to work everyday with my father and sister, which I loved. 

But as time passed, I saw an opportunity to build something different than the company I inherited. I saw how hard it was for independent jewelry designers to find customers and build sustainable businesses but it didn’t make sense to feature more unique designs in our mall-based jewelry stores. There was an opening in the market to build a place for designers to share their unique vision and for women to discover extraordinary and interesting jewelry to mark moments in their lives. But could I build this?

When you work in a family business it’s hard to evaluate your own capacity. You get opportunities you wouldn’t have anywhere else. You are both shielded from the reality of ordinary jobs and prematurely forced into encountering a great many others. Once you’re in, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. 

After our son Asa was born, I began thinking about the example I wanted to set for him. Whatever his dreams might be, I hoped he would have the courage and confidence to pursue them. And then I had to look in the mirror. Did I have the confidence to follow my own dreams? Was I too afraid of hard things? Was I willing to bet on myself?

Stories about entrepreneurship inevitably focus on end results. You don’t hear as much about the challenges and losses that are an inextricable part of growth.

Stories about entrepreneurship inevitably focus on end results. You don’t hear as much about the challenges and losses that are an inextricable part of growth. It is hard to give up the only thing you’ve really ever known. Abandoning a certain and well-trodden path for a walk into the dark forest of the unknown was terrifying. It was also the most impactful, empowering, and meaningful decision of my life. I became the master of my own destiny.

At Present is the result of betting on myself.

I have tried to take everything I learned from a lifetime in the jewelry industry and marry it to a vision for what was missing in the world. I couldn’t do it all myself, so it was just as big a bet on the extraordinary people who have become my partners and co-conspirators.

When I began this journey, I had no idea where it would lead. I’ve come to realize that’s part of the beauty of doing new things. It is by embracing uncertainty, learning to live with anxiety, and delighting in possibility, that I have felt most alive. Betting on myself has been the most frightening, exhilarating, frustrating, satisfying and deeply meaningful thing I’ve ever done. 

It is hard. But I’ve shown myself that I can do hard things. I hope my example will give Asa (and now his younger sister Zoe) a sense of freedom and confidence in betting on themselves as well.

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