Robin Boesch, BBA ’00, transitioned from trading NASDAQ stocks in New York City to owning her own successful retail business, y&i clothing boutique, with locations in Austin, San Francisco and Dallas. Robin never imagined that she would leave Wall Street to venture into retail, but loves owning her own business and growing the y&i brand. During her senior year, Robin started the BHP Make-a-Mark campaign and has remained active with the BHP since graduation, serving on the BHP Advisory Board for many years.
BHP: Tell me about your career path leading up to what you are doing now.
RB: I graduated with a Finance and BHP degree in 2000. I interned for two summers with Goldman Sachs. The first internship was with the real estate private equity group in Dallas after my sophomore year. After my junior year, I interned at the international trading desk in New York City. Goldman offered me a full-time position, and after graduation I moved to New York and worked on the NASDAQ trading desk. I spent six years there as a trader, trading all versions of NASDAQ tech stocks including semiconductors, software, and hardware. After three years I was promoted to Associate and after five years I was promoted to Vice president. I also helped run the UT recruiting team during that time.
My last year there I was thinking about trying something else. I think there are pockets of opportunity in life and I felt like I was in one since I had made enough money to have financial freedom and I didn’t have anything tying me down. The timing was right to try something different. One of my roommates in college, Robyn Sribhen White, and I had always talked about owning our own boutique. She went out to the West Coast after graduation and worked in retail and was doing well in that realm. We spent about 6 months coming up with a business plan for our own retail store and modeling out how our business would work. Once we decided to do it, I left Goldman and spent some time in New York and Europe, just enjoying life. Then I moved out to the West Coast, and our first location opened in October of 2006 in San Francisco. After a year we opened two more locations, one in Palo Alto and one in Austin. We ended up closing the Palo Alto store because it wasn’t the right market for us. I moved back to Austin in 2009. In 2010 we launched our online business and in 2012 we opened a Dallas store. We are now re-launching our website and are looking at additional locations in Texas.
BHP: How did you first get connected to Goldman Sachs?
RB: I had an officer position for HBA and it was my job to contact companies to speak to our members. I reached out to Goldman and built a relationship with a BHP grad there named Michael MacDougall. He told me about the internship in their Dallas office and I ended up landing the position.
BHP:What was the best and worst thing about working on Wall Street?
RB: The best thing about it was that it was so exciting. It was crazy every day. I also loved the amount of responsibility I was given right away. The NASDAQ market was going crazy in 2000, so it was sink or swim. They needed people to jump right in. If I had to pick a worst thing, it would probably be the “Type A Wall Street” personalities that you encounter. I really loved it though and only left because I wanted to do something else. Goldman was an amazing place to work and if I had to do my life over again, I would do it exactly the same way.
BHP: How did you decide to get into the retail business?
RB: I never thought I would own my own clothing boutique. I thought I would make partner at Goldman and stay there forever. But one day, along the way, I realized there were other things out there I wanted to do. Being an entrepreneur is extremely interesting, it doesn’t matter what you sell, it is more about running your own business. I have known my business partner since I was 15, and I love working with her. We both just wanted something that offered more flexibility than our current jobs and we were ready to try something different.
BHP: What are your plans for y&i in the future?
RB: We would like to expand our current stores in Texas and are thinking about doing a concept store in California for shoes & jewelry. We also want to grow our web business, since e-commerce has been growing at such a fast pace.
BHP: Do you have plans to delve into any other retail markets with another store or brand?
RB: I have learned a lot about jewelry designers and clothing designers and there are always opportunities to invest in other businesses or partner with people on the design and production side. We are thinking of partnering with one of our current jewelry suppliers to help her grow her business. We bring our expertise of how to grow and run a business to designers and they supply the creative expertise. It is a bit like being a private equity partner because you are investing in others who have potential and helping them grow their business.
BHP: What do you sell the most of at your stores?
RB: Our current number one brand is actually a jewelry designer from New York. We also, of course, sell a lot of clothing including brands like Billabong, Joe’s Jeans, Yumi Kim, and many more. We pride ourselves on the fact that you can find an entire outfit for under $300 at our stores. Fashion is about expressing yourself, having fun, and building outfits, so we want to help our clients do that. We sell expensive and inexpensive merchandise together so that you can create a unique look without breaking the bank. Our aesthetic is based on a California casual girl, which is a combination my style and that of my business partner.
BHP: Have you enjoyed being an entrepreneur?
RB: Being an entrepreneur is incredibly rewarding but it also has its ups and downs.The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that your time is your own and you get to do what you want, when you want. The downside is that there is no one above you to learn from because you are your own boss. My advice to entrepreneurs would be to find a business partner and look for mentors. I can’t imagine doing it without Robyn because working together makes the workload so much more manageable.
BHP: You started the BHP Make-a-Mark campaign in 2000. What prompted you to do that and why is it so important to you?
RB: The MBA’s were doing their Legacy campaign and I didn’t understand why we didn’t have one for BHP, so I thought it would be great to do something similar for the undergrads. The first year was successful, we had 98% participation and it brought the class together. I thought it was great that the funds would go towards merit-based scholarships, which have always been a big need for the program. Most of the scholarships offered at UT when I was there were only need-based and not merit-based, which made it less competitive for us to get the best students. Since then, I have stayed involved to try to help keep it going. At my 10-year graduation anniversary, I came up with the idea to add the alumni component and ask alumni to match the amount being raised by students. I am always trying to think of new ways to get alumni involved in giving so we can get the top students and make our program as prestigious as it can be.
BHP: Do you have any advice for current students?
RB: What you pick to do when you graduate doesn’t have to be what you do the rest of your life. That is hard for graduating students to understand, since their focus is often so narrow. They need to realize that there will be plenty of opportunities to do new and interesting things along the way. Also take as many elective courses as you can and study abroad. You will never get another opportunity to be in college again and have time to take classes that interest you. Explore everything and use the university while you can.