As far as strokes of luck go, Beyoncé modelling one of your products just months after quitting banking to launch a fashion label is a pretty big one. But Anoo Rehncy, co-founder of A Black and White Story, pins it more on hard work – and the skills she learnt on the sales desk of J.P. Morgan’s investment bank.
“It took a lot of hustling, finding the right people and convincing them about the uniqueness of the product,” she says. “When you speak to clients in investment banking, you have 30 seconds to get your message across. You learn how to convince people that you’re worth their time.”
Both Rehncy and co-founder and CEO Bipan Ahuja quit investment banking jobs in 2014 to launch their fashion brand in 2015. Two years later, they’ve been named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and stock in some of the world’s leading stores including Nordstrom and Colette Paris.
While the jump from banking might have been worth it, for Rehncy it wasn’t an easy decision to make. She says she “always knew” she wanted to go into investment banking. She studied at the London School of Economics and started interning at both Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan before securing a full-time job at the latter in its consumer equities specialist sales team.
Ahuja, meanwhile, had an offer at a hedge fund, which ended up closing in 2008 shortly before he was due to join. In the toughest job market in living memory, Ahuja “cold called every bank” when the City had its choice of Lehman Brothers analysts. He eventually ended up working in private banking at Investec in 2009, before moving into a front office role at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in FX Sales in 2012.
However, working for an investment bank turned out not to be an ideal job.
“People tend say one thing and do another” she says. “It was more important to me to live an honest lifestyle rather than get caught up in the office politics.”
This ended up inspiring the idea behind A Black and White Story, which preaches equality and encourages people to be straight up with each other.
“I was working for 16-17 hours a day but seeing no tangible reward,” says Rehncy. “You don’t get a lot of recognition for the work you do, and the hierarchy is not as flat as some claim.”
The jump to starting A Black and White Story was a huge risk to take, but Rehncy says that she learnt a lot about the consumer industry during her time at J.P. Morgan and that banking also equipped her for the challenges of a start-up.
“Banking trains you to be resilient, to not take no for an answer and not be afraid to cold call,” she says. “You’re thrown in at the deep end and have to figure a lot of things out for yourself. It’s a good training ground.”
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