Meet the Team: Vanessa,
Our Fearless Leader
It's been 5 years since Vanessa Stofenmacher founded Vrai & Oro, starting with an $8k loan, 10 essential gold designs and 1 mission to change the industry for the better. Together with a lean team in downtown Los Angeles, she partnered with local manufacturers, simplified each product to its core and ensured high quality and timelessness in every design.
With her background in graphic design and branding, Vanessa grew V&O organically on Instagram - at a time when the platform was just blooming. Her thoughtful, "less is more" ethos and modern, human-centered approach resonated. We call this beginning phase Essentials - our first milestone.
Fast-forward five years and much has changed, but our values of quality, simplicity and transparency remain the same. It's been a while since we last interviewed Vanessa, so inspired by our first milestone and this year's evolution, we sat down with our founder, creative director and fearless leader to reflect on the highs and lows of her journey and the lessons she's learned along the way.
"If I had to choose one piece of advice for my former self, it would be to always trust my gut."
1. Describe your role at Vrai & Oro
I’m the Founder & Creative Director of V&O. This means I wear a lot of different hats, but most importantly, I define the vision of the brand and make sure we have the best team in place to execute that vision.
2. What's your favorite V&O essential design?
Our Baguette Diamond Necklace as I’ve been wearing it everyday for the past 5 years. I love the shape of the diamond because it’s simple yet unique but the meaning behind the necklace is what’s most important to me. It’s become a special symbol for so many of my favorite memories and milestones over the years.
3. Dream collaboration?
4. What's one of your biggest milestones from the past 5 years?
One of my biggest milestones was making the decision to partner with Diamond Foundry– taking a strong stand to re-define not only the jewelry industry but the diamond industry as well. Today, I’m proud to say that every diamond we use is sustainably grown through solar technology with 100% traceability.
"I always thought I needed to change myself in order to make a difference...but I realized our jewelry was a vessel, even stronger than words, that helped me communicate a mission much larger than myself."
5. Looking back, is there any advice you'd give your former self?
Tons! But I’m also grateful for each lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way because I wouldn’t be as resilient without them.
If I had to choose one though, it would be to always trust my gut. When building a company there are so many decisions that need to be made on a daily basis and there’s rarely a black or white answer. Learning to trust my gut, even when there’s no data to back it up, has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding life lessons.
6. What's one lesson you've learned from the past 5 years?
We’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way (like how to properly price our products to account for all the costs of growing a sustainable business) but we try to see each stumble as an opportunity to become a better, stronger and more honest example for businesses to come.
I’ve also learned that businesses grows through stages, just as humans do and there are no shortcuts. As soon as you hit a groove and start to get comfortable, everything seems to change in an instant and you find yourself in uncharted territory again. Learning to embrace (and maybe even enjoy) the uncertainty of not knowing what’s next, is the only way to keep on keeping on.
7. What would you say to our community, many who have been with us since the beginning?
Growing up, I was very shy and introverted so my voice and ideas were not often heard. I always thought I needed to change myself in order to make a difference but after starting Vrai & Oro I realized our jewelry was a vessel, even stronger than words, that helped me communicate a mission much larger than myself. I can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to be heard, for supporting Vrai & Oro and believing in our mission every step of the way.
8. And finally, where would you like to see V&O in 5 years?
5 years from now, I hope we’re continuing to push new boundaries, just as we are today– questioning not only the traditions of the jewelry industry but also of business at large. My hope is that Vrai & Oro becomes a leading example, that a business can be even more successful when people are prioritized over profits and a culture is formed from the inside out. - VS