Alumni Spotlight: Elaine Russell ’09
Get to know some of Kellogg’s alumni who are bringing bold entrepreneurial visions to life.
Sometimes, the Internet serves as a guide. Netflix, Amazon, your favorite online clothing retailer — all offer a menu of recommended items. Shoppers get the convenience of similar options at the ready. Retailers keep the shoppers clicking.
Now, apply that to a purchase that can be one of the most uncertain and stressful: jewelry. To address that niche, Elaine Russell ’09 founded Heirlumé, a company that takes the guesswork out of gift giving, at least when it comes to all that glitters.
“The gift giving industry is a big one,” said Russell, who co-founded the company. “Jewelry is the No. 1 gift men give women, and people need a lot of help.”
Return to Chicago
A veteran of Silicon Valley, Russell was vice president of product at e-commerce company Storeplacer.com and worked for Tinyprints.com until Shutterfly bought it in 2011. That’s when Russell moved back to Chicago and got into the startup scene.
Fine jewelry is a $40 billion industry in the United States, with 80 percent of it men buying jewelry for women. But for shoppers, department stores and big chains generally mean lower-quality products and over-eager commissioned salespeople.
“Jewelry is a hard gift to figure out,” said John Adolph, a Heirlumé shopper and attorney from Dallas, Texas. “It’s hard to get good feedback without giving it away that I am trying to get a gift.” A friend told Adolph about Heirlumé and he decided to give it a shot.