Family Ties

Two Moms. Two Daughters. A million Dollar Business.

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  • Written by
    Linda Grasso

When Buckley students Julianne Goldmark and Emily Matson got inspired to design hair ties one day nearly three years ago, starting a business wasn’t even on their radar. “Emily and I loved Gossip Girl. Blair Waldorf (the character) always wore these extravagant, beautiful hair accessories, but they were way over- priced when we tried to buy them,” Julianne recalls. “So we decided to create our own.” As the story goes, Julianne’s mom, Soomi, took the girls downtown to buy materials, and then they got to work in the Goldmark kitchen.

Next, Emily’s mom, Jill, was getting her hair done by celebrity stylist Chris McMillan when he mentioned that he was unable to find an elastic wrist band in a solid color. “We were just having fun at that point. We thought, sure, we can do that!” Soomi says. It was a challenge Soomi was equipped to handle. She’d gone to school for fashion design, but, unable to make a decent living, she switched to a career as a flight attendant. She quit to raise her two daughters which worked for awhile, but as her 50th birthday loomed ahead, she felt the itch to get back to work—but what to do? Soomi bought dye and, after experimenting in her kitchen, delivered the results to McMillan. In a serendipitous twist, one of the stylist’s clients happens to be Jennifer Aniston. While doing the actress’ hair for a movie premiere, he grabbed one of the girls’ ties off his wrist to secure her ponytail. Flashbulbs popped that night on the red carpet and the moms were able to get the photo of Aniston wearing the tie from photographer Alex Berliner, a Buckley parent they knew.

A promotional blitz ensued. Jill, a former personal assistant to several big-time celebrities, had the “know-how” on that front. Still, Jill insists the goal wasn’t money. “We really just wanted the girls to have something to write about on their college essays,” she explains. A visit to the set of a Disney’s Sonny with a Chance turned out to be their next break. While there the girls showed off their products. Next thing they knew, one of the show’s stars, Demi Lovato wore one of their designs on the program. Marie Claire magazine called, followed by O magazine … and the rest is history. “We were in shock. We were working with two 14-year-old girls with no publicist. We just got lucky,” Jill sums it up. Luck may have been a factor in the beginning, but hard work and persistence is what’s put Emi-Jay on the map.

The company had sales of more than a million dollars this past year and employs 15 people. This year, the girls, now busy 16-year-olds with an eye on college, took a step back from the business. Nowadays they’re in charge of attaching names like “Snowflake Silver” and “Sleigh Bell Gold” to the products. The rewards go beyond financial. “The experience has really opened my eyes to the business world. I find it very interesting,” says Emily, who also has a passion for France and is fluent in French. Ditto for the moms. As Soomi puts it, “I’m getting to relive my dream—a dream I’d forgotten about. Now I know even if Emi-Jay goes away tomorrow, I can start something new and make it happen. It’s empowering. That’s something money can’t buy.”