A place where nothing is ordinary.
Roman Sharf is the Founder and CEO of Luxury Bazaar.
Luxury Bazaar offers the world's finest jewelry and watch brands in the ultimate online portal.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, where I'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
And with us right now, we've got Roman Sharf. Roman, you are the Founder and CEO of luxurybazaar.com, a website that's doing pretty good business. And you've got an amazing story that thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me, Josh. I appreciate it.
So you are actually originally from the Soviet Union, and I could say Soviet Union, right because what's what's the timeline of your immigration? 1988.
Probably about four years before the Soviet Union broke apart as we see it today.
Wow. And so you traveled to where? And what what happened at that point?
Well, we left as refugees basically, ran away from the Soviet regime, went to Austria was spent almost a month in Austria with my family then went on to Italy spend a couple of months there until finally landing in Brooklyn, New York.
My goodness. And so then, by the way, so you joined the US Army then?
Five years later? Yes, I was 13. Right. We're not
at a 13 year old. We have some want to get these kids to school. But yeah, so what was your decision to join the military?
I am a I love this country. This country took me in as a refugee. It gave me a roof over my head. They gave me an opportunity first and foremost. And by joining the US military I felt it was it was my duty. It is something that I felt would do good for me as an individual in terms of personal growth in terms of discipline. And last but not least, I believe United States of America is the greatest country in the world and I was willing to pick up a gun and go fight for it. Should it be needed, I guess?
What did you do? What was your MOS was a scout, Nathan Delta cap Scout, which I believe is called a forward observer. I was the guy that kind of dumped off in the woods somewhere and I have to tell the rest of the guys behind me that Oh, come over, it's all fine and clear in my life expectancy they said was about 35 seconds of battle ever started.
Oh my gosh. You know, it's like so much pressure as well to make sure I mean, if you are calling back and saying you're given the all clear and you mess up, that's a lot the most one on your shoulder
well, and we were taught how to call an artillery and that's you know, by so enemy out in the clear, I would be able to kill him from five to 10 clicks away from where I'm at, and just try to make sure the pressure wasn't given the correct coordinates because if you're off by a degree that would bomb you so yeah, that was where the pressure came in for the most part. Yeah, no kidding. So, so I was in the Navy for five years and as a when we're recording this. We just had the Army Navy game, so sorry. Thanks. I kind of figured you'd go there. i neva man, so I figured you'd go there. But that's okay. We'll leave that one alone.
You had a great run three years for the Army's
fantastic we did.
Yep. Well, great. So now Roman, what I'd really love to talk about now beyond so after your military experience, you're working in corporate America actually worked for Deutsche Bank and tell me what happened there.
I was that was a highlight of my career. I got into the banking industry first with the fleet bank, which no longer exists, I got bought over by them how many banks at this point? There I supported the global and local payment systems and system that process about $40 billion a month in transactions which talks about pressure that system, wherever to go down because I was in it and the Board of Directors got called within 15 minutes. So the pressure was there to keep those system running. And unfortunately came at a time where there was a lot of conversion in the IT world where everybody was going from client server to web technologies. And it was a five year project that I came in at for probably the first year when it started. It was my job to keep a system that was always semi broken going. And that's where a lot of pressure came in, in that respect. But it was a great career. It gave me a lot of experience to use in my own business, as I say, and then at some point when the economy one down, this was post 911. I was in New York, but 911 we had offices and World Trade Center for as well as across the street, and post that the economy. We know what happened with the economy. And one day I saw every other person on my floor have to get up and leave because the bank was letting go 10% of their employees to the tune of 15,000 people. When I saw my managing director who at the time had probably 20 plus years of the bank had to get up and leave and Two years later, fast forward, he was still looking for a job, I made my decision easy in regards to going on and working for myself because it was at that time where I started doing what I do today, part time. So that was sort of what happened at Deutsche Bank. But it certainly gave me a big push in regards to experience in regards to how to run a company how to run a team and things of that nature.
Yeah, you would think Georgia bank and working in it. I mean, these are two indicators that would generally communicate stability, like you're in a great field in a great industry. It can be a little bit volatile, for sure. But still, I mean, in terms of like, you know, following career advice, kind of doing all the right stuff.
I I'll tell you one thing in that regard, I had an opportunity before leaving to go even further. It is very unfortunate that I made a name for myself post 911 as I did a few things to help you back out without getting into much details in regards to software that I wrote that was temporary software that allowed the system to continue rolling. But I said to myself, yes, I made a lot of connects within the company, I can certainly move further, I can certainly see myself becoming a director, probably at the age of 30, which would be a great feat. But I said that that's not what I want to do. Because when the bank let go so many people I quickly realized that that was a simple decision. I never blame the bank. I didn't want to be that Managing Director 15 years down the line, to have to get out in the workforce and have to prove myself elsewhere to start from scratch. And that's why I decided to go and work for myself.
And so I was there any question as to what that business would be? or How did you eventually settle in on what you've now created?
Because I have a I have an engineering it background and ecommerce technologies were booming at the time. I got lucky and respect that at the time I had to make that decision. My businesses already been running for almost three years part It's mine. And when I saw the income levels that that was bringing in versus what I was bringing in at the bank, I quickly realized that I am safe in terms of income because at the time I was newly married, I just had a kid like I just bought a new house, it was a bit of a turmoil at the time and a big decision at that financially anyway. But as I said, I was lucky to have that business already running part time. So it made my decision that much easier. And as far as watches and jewelry, and I was always watching that. So for me, to get into this industry and to be able to actually sell what I love or do what I love, I realized that I won't work a day in my life as they say.
Yeah. So how does someone start a business like Luxury Bazaar
to be without giving up any too many companies secrets, I always tell my audience on YouTube specifically, they asked me that question all the time. If you want to start a business and selling watches or jewelry, anything that our high end goods, start with trade shows, because any business develops based on relationships, I'm lets you have the relationships where my business is pretty simple. It's where to buy and where to sell, who to sell to or who to buy from, right. So what better way to start those type relations by getting out into the field of this and get your foot into the door by going to a trade show. You want to sell watches, go to a watch trade show, you want to sell jewelry, go to jewelry trace of Google jewelry, trade shows, watch trade shows, there's plenty of them out there, get out there and meet people. And information is key. And that information is gathering things like pricing, particular vendors, what they're good at what the merchant is all about. Because once you get your hands on the wholesale end of things, retail sort of flows along with it.
Now, are there any myths that you see that you hear frequently about the high end watch industry or jewelry industry? Or maybe stuff you see in movies and TV and you're like, and it is not like
some of the show some of the shows that you see are actually certainly not what actually takes place in the watch industry because entertainment is designed to do what entertainment is Designed to do and that is to create drama number one. In today's day and age of reality TV, what do people want? They want drama, right? They want somebody to lose $100,000 watch, they want somebody to overpay a half a million for something else. They need drama. And the numbers are exaggerated. The watches the stuff that you see on TV today, I've a numbers thrown out of 100 grand on a watch. Odds are that's a $50,000 watch, and it's done for entertainment purposes. Now, I will tell you one thing that people think is a myth in my industry. My industry till this day is still based on a handshake. If you took the camera follow me up and down 47th Street, which is the diamond district in New York City, which I'm sure people are familiar with. I will literally walk from Fifth Avenue to Sixth Avenue stop by about 20 stores and by the time I'm done, I'll have about $20 million in my bag worth of watches. And I will not sign a single piece of paper and that is not a myth because this business is based on reputation. It's based on who you know, and it's based on trust. It's all based on handshakes. And that is actually not a myth. People want to tell people the story they think I need I'm crazy, but it's actually the truth.
So there is a movie coming out with Adam Sandler that I
thought I preview.
Yeah, right. Well, he's got, you know, again, by the time this comes out, we'll see but you know, he's got some. There's a lot of Oscar buzz about uncut gems. And so we'll see. But, again, I would imagine, you know, there's going to be a lot of drama.
There will be a lot of dramatization just based on a preview that I saw on YouTube. There were already a couple of parts that I saw. I'm like, come on, I've been on 42. I'm not physically on 47th Street, but I'm also in a wholesale business. So 80% of my business is wholesale. So I sell to a lot of guys that on 47th Street, and I'm fairly certain I'm going to laugh along some of the parts that are going to be in that movie and that some parts will be true.
So when you started Luxury Bazaar, how would you describe the online, retail or E comm world for high end jewelry And watches,
I'm going to use one word, I'm going to call it columbic. You have to remember at the time my website launched and eBay launched, you can literally throw anything on eBay at that point and my either my business started with eBay originally for the first two and a half years. And then I built a website. It was Klondike it was because it was a numbers game. If you look at a platform like eBay that got 200 billion clicks a day, and it was only me and maybe 10 of the guys that said, You know what, I'm gonna put $10,000 watches on eBay. And everybody in their mother said, You're nuts What the hell is gonna buy these expensive watches online? we fast forward to today, people are buying houses and cars and all kinds of expensive goods online today, and it seems to be the norm. But back then, I spent 90% of my time trying to convince my client that I'm not a fraud, and they'll actually get a 10,000 item in the mail should they send me a check or a wire? So it was columbic. And then slowly but surely as competition built up, it became less than less of a Klondike and economics one on one till you have regular profit in a regular profit, right. You make your money The property when you're new when there's no competition, and that's what happened for the first couple of years that sort of allowed me to give the boost to become the company I am today.
How do you get in front of your ideal clients? So someone like myself, I, you know, I've never owned high end jewelry or watches. I'm not opposed to it. I've just not really been in that world. But yet, I do pretty well in business. So there's like, there's a subset, there's a certain avatar that you're after. And what do you know about that avatar, that that allows you to get in front of them.
It's actually in reverse it, you can follow me here. It's not about it's not about getting in front of a specific client. It's getting yourself in front of an audience. And it's sort of goes back to the same thing I said in the wholesale end of things where it becomes a handshake thing, a trust thing. And with us, it's a question of putting yourself out there for X amount of years and this is the biggest plus that we have because we've been around for 17 plus years at this point. And once you put yourself out there with your website being on every single platform that exists out there, we sell across probably 14 different platforms, most of them do carry our name. And once you stay in your client space often enough and as your mobile marketing technique, and you show yourself as a trusted individual, much like you're doing a wholesale business, that client will then come to you. Of course, in today's day and age, it's about the three C's. a smart man once said that, today's you have to have the three C's, which is creative content consistently. And you had to said that now I did. But so the three C's creative content today translates into video, its creation to the fact that I opened up a youtube youtube channel a year ago to get in front of my client to make them feel warm and fuzzy inside the fact that we did an office tour to show people Hey, this is where your product is coming from. These are real people. These are my shipping guys. This is my QA guys, this is my sales team and so on and so forth, and consistently is the fact that that content has been be out there day in and day out via social media. And the media today is indeed social media. So your Instagrams, your Facebook, your YouTube channels, that's everything that sort of builds on top of the trust have been around for 70 years and physically showing the people Hey, this is who we are, this is who you buying from. And at the end of the day, selling yourself,
Roman, many people when, let's say they're a jeweler, and they say, Well, I'm going to get out on the YouTube. And so what they do is they start producing videos, where they're doing nothing, but just like selling merchandise, and there's no personality behind it. There's no story behind it. There's no humanity behind it, there's no authenticity, it's just like, every video is a sales pitch. And, and I don't know, I don't think that's really what audiences are after. I mean, unless they're legitimately like shopping and they really, like they're right in that transactional
two things. There's two took a different approach. There's two things when my my CMO of approached me last year and said, You got to get on YouTube. And you got to start talking about these watches because you're a walking encyclopedia, you know everything there is to know about watches. I told him the following, I said, I will do this, I was hesitant, and really due to time constraints, because this takes away about five to six hours a week of my time. And I still have a company to run. So I told him, I'm going to number one, tell it like it is. Number two, I will not be selling anything on my YouTube, I'm simply going to talk to people about the product showing the product from a perspective of someone that's knowledgeable without pitching it. And at the same token, giving them knowledge on things like the market, what the market pricing should be, what the value is behind the product that they're saying, Is this an investment or not, which is a common misconception in my business because they're not investments. They're expensive toys. Right, right. So this is what I decided to do and has worked for me, I do have my own channel, the luxury resort channel, the only thing we do there is we do a product video. And this is for someone that simply wants to get a close to look at a product that shows the product is a 22nd video, and it tells you all the things that you need to know about this product. That's one approach without really selling it without putting a big on sale price click here and by now yeah my YouTube channel, I conversate with my audience I conversate with my followers, I consider them one big family. And by doing it that way by being authentic and telling people how it is makes me stand out from the next guy, and you also won't see a lot of clickbait videos. If I did a Rolex video every single week, week in week out, I get the most amount of clicks, I get the most amount of likes, but that's not what I do. I show people everything and anything whether it's a million dollar watch or a $200 watch, I don't differentiate it's just a question of putting forth the information as genuine as possible. And the reason it comes out that way honestly, because I don't pre record or practice anything. My q&a sessions I read them off and answer off the top of my head watches that I show on my desk the shows go what's on my desk, which means the watches that come across my desk, I literally turn on the camera and I just start off
what is the typical customer journey for someone who ends up purchasing a high end piece from you
for the most part I have clients that are, that will come back and purchase over and over and over again, when it comes to a large purchase like a watch where an average ticket price is $15,000. Once people get warm and get that warm, fuzzy feeling from you, they'll continue coming back to you. And the reason for that because they know what they're going to get you know how you back the product. I have a seven day no questions return policy and items that you can buy up to a million dollars. Not a whole lot of guys do that. And at the same token, it's about getting, especially when it comes to pre on watches. People have a lot of issues and say, Well, what if it's broken? What if it's this What if is that by us warranting everything by us standing behind our product, even though it's not our fault. We don't make these watches, right? We just sell them, but if something were to go wrong, I still stand behind it. And it's a question of loyalty. I would rather have a customer come back 20 times over to buy a product from me then gain 20 new customers over time and none of them haven't haven't come back to me.
That's expensive to get Many new customers so in terms of operation then what does it take to fulfill that the kind of volume that you're doing and the you know the level of client care I don't know if you know if someone's purchasing say a $65,000 watch it. Is that just something that you go ahead and send that through the mail or how
does that work? you actually believe it or not, it does get sent through the mail we ship up to 1500 boxes a day out of here but he's shipping department I have a have a QA department have a receiving department returns and that people dedicated to do all those wonderful tasks. But at the end of the day, it ends up being a FedEx package that goes out overnight Obviously, I'm not going to get into what my insurance costs are yeah expensive list. That's my insurance expenses on a hundreds of thousands a year. And but that ensures that that package does get delivered if God forbid something happens to it. I am number one covered and the customer feels comfortable. Plus video cameras. The minute of package gets packed up downstairs in the shipping department, there's a video of it coming out of my bank wall onto the shipping table wrapped up and out to the FedEx truck. So if anybody out there decides to claim Oh, they shouldn't be a breaking the box, not that it has ever happened, but I certainly have video to back me up as well.
So Roman, you do a lot of your behind the scenes on your YouTube channel and I should point out so what you want to do is for the person who's listening to us, just go on YouTube and search Roman Scarf. And that's ROMAN and then Sharf is SHARF they get that right. Yes, thank you. Yeah. And so, do you share a lot of like, a day in the life I mean, which I think is just so fascinating, and people fall in love with this. It's like, you know, that it's like, that's why you have built up. Such a huge following is it's, you know, you've designed your own reality show, that people really build this relationship with you. They end up becoming your biggest evangelists and yeah,
Know yourself. If you can sell yourself you can sell anything as they say. But the channel is again, it's as you said, it's a glimpse into life outside of my regular watch related geeky stuff where I show watches I answer questions in regards to anything and everything that has to do with my watch and jewelry business. At the same token, I decided to give everybody a glimpse into my personal life. And it took a while because you're putting yourself out there right on foot. So when I'm celebrating when I celebrated my buddy's 40th birthday party, we were in Mexico, and I down to about 40 shots of tequila day, and I put all that on camera. You know, you put yourself out there a this is who I am. I'm not the guy who's going to pretend to be anybody who I am not. I wear a white t shirt on my videos. I don't wear a suit and a tie nor do I use white gloves when I look at my watches and I handle them and because that's not who I am. And by showing my myself, my wife, my family, my family life as well as my friends and everything else that comes in between along with sneak peeks into these trade shows not a whole lot of guys have access to look at a Hong Kong trade show which I attend three times a year and display on. Not a lot of guys get access to look at $5 million watches, watches at the same time. And this is what I tried to show a sneak peek of and again, keep it in mind that this is not a reality show as you said that's often also scripted reality,
right? I tried to do and and an audience's consents the audience's he can't fool them for very long. Well, Roman I you're doing a fantastic job. You have a huge following. You have a very, very successful business. You're doing good business. And again, you're the Founder and CEO of Luxury Bazaar, and that's BAZAAR for those who have never been to a bazaar. That's how it's spelled. And of course on YouTube, you can find Roman and again, that's just Roman Sharf, and that's SHARF. Roman. Thank you so much for joining us.
Josh, I appreciate you taking the time. It was a pleasure talking to you on that look yet, so perhaps I'll sell you a watch one of these days. Very good. Let's plan on it. All right, we'll see you soon.
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