LONDON — Lab-grown diamond brand Kimaï ’s founders Jessica Warch and Sidney Neuhaus have made it out of “Dragon’s Den,” a British business reality television series that follows the same premise as “Shark Tank,” with a 250,000 pound investment.
Their business received offers from four dragons: Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Sara Davies and Steven Bartlett.
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The Antwerp-born best friends opted for the latter dragon’s deal, which includes a 3 percent equity stake in the business. It was Bartlett’s largest investment offer since he joined the show in 2022.
“He knows how to build communities, and he’s young,” said Warch in an interview ahead of the episode airing on Thursday night. “For us as a young luxury brand, digital is the focus and we plan on scaling up our digital presence with Bartlett’s expertise.”
Kimaï will be using the investment to expand its retail operations. The brand already has a store on London’s Chiltern Street, and the owners’ plan is to improve the look and feel. Warch and Neuhaus are also looking into opening a store in Paris.
The brand doubled its revenue in the U.K. with the opening of its London store, while France has proven a major online market.
Warch said that having a physical presence makes sense, as people who are spending on higher-priced products want to try them on, specifically when it comes to engagement rings. “Meanwhile, in the U.S., we do sell a lot, but that customer is more used to buying online. Therefore there’s less urgency to open a store there.”
Bartlett will be supporting Kimaï’s marketing, innovation and community growth, and helping to scale the business.
“They are two of the most impressive entrepreneurs I have ever seen in the Den,” said Bartlett, adding that they are “really incredible negotiators — which is annoying as an investor, but perfect as business partners. I’m happy to be in business with them.”
He described the duo as “kind, humble, smart, tenacious and passionate.”
The brand gained wide public recognition in 2019 when Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex wore the Felicity earrings, a diamond-encrusted curved bar that sits horizontally across the lobe of the ear.
“We started with jewelry and then extended into bridal because in the early days, we didn’t think bridal would work with lab-grown diamonds,” said Warch.
Even though lab-grown diamonds have taken off in the U.S., they’re only picking up momentum now in Europe.
Kimaï communicates with its customers via social media channels and video calls, which has accelerated the purchasing volumes of engagement rings and led to an organic increase in direct-to-consumer sales online.
Men’s jewelry sales have been growing, too. The brand first launched with men’s bracelets in discreet styles in 2020. They feature gold links that are held together by recycled and fully traceable plastic cords, with prices starting at 445 pounds.
“In France, there’s close to no competition. People are looking for an alternative, but there’s not really a place to find lab-grown diamonds,” said Warch.
In 2019, Kimaï brought on investors and completed a seed investment round of $1.2 million.
That round was led by Talis Capital, whose portfolio also includes the chat-based commerce platform Threads.
A number of high-profile investors including designer Rebecca Minkoff; Instacart CEO Fidji Simo; Cartier France’s former managing director Coralie De Fontenay; and billionaire businessman Xavier Niel also joined the funding round.
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