Company: Whiteflash Diamonds
Year started: 2000
Activity: Boutique online diamond retailer
Annual Revenue: $15 million
Attended: Michigan State University
Degree: B.A., College of Arts & Letters, 1980
Company website: Whiteflash.com
“My fondest memories are of my time at MSU. The professors and assistant professors always made time for me; even the students supported one another.”
If there was one word to describe Debra Wexler, it would be resilient. She wasn’t even accepted at Michigan State University when she first applied, and it was only her tenacity and unwillingness to take “no” for an answer that eventually earned her place at her mother’s alma mater. The same drive and determination would make her a success in both the technology and e-commerce industries throughout her career.
In 1982, Wexler and her husband founded Microcomputer Power to provide personal computer systems and network integration services. Wexler started the company with $5,000 out of her own pocket without a clear idea as to what markets she would be targeting. As it turned out, she was in the proverbial right place at the right time. Not only was Wexler working in a relatively new, rapidly growing industry, but she was also one of a small group of women business owners. Companies and government agencies were eager to contract with her to buy personal computers and fulfill their small-business and minority supplier requirements.
Wexler sold the company to GE Capital Information Technology Solutions in 1995 and stayed on for an additional three years. As the Texas regional vice president, she was instrumental in growing the business from $80 million in 1995 to $120 million in 1997. She resigned from GE Capital at the end of 1997.
“To be successful as an entrepreneur you have to be willing to try and fail, and sometimes try and fail again, before you find what works.”
Wexler never really saw herself as a corporate person. She describes herself as aggressive, hard driving and always pushing the envelope to try new things, which isn’t necessarily encouraged in large corporate settings.
In 1998, she jumped at the chance to help a friend of hers (now a competitor) who had been struggling trying to sell diamonds on the wholesale market to dealers. She had an idea for a completely new business model sparked by a 1998 seminar Wexler attended that introduced her to the Internet. In trying to solve her friend’s problem, she thought the Internet could be used to sell specific types of diamonds to a niche market.
Wexler funded and launched WhiteFlash Diamonds, a boutique online diamond retailer, in 2000. The company maintains ISO 9001 certification, the only one in the diamond e-commerce arena to carry this distinction. It also features rings made by premier engagement ring designers such as Tacori, Verragio, Ritani, Vatche, and Mark Schneider. Over the last 13 years, the company has grown to a staff of 30 people, sells diamonds all over the world, and has just opened a showroom in Texas, with annual revenues reaching approximately $15 million.
Photo credit: Whiteflash Photography Team