18: The Power of a Personal Brand in Pawn with Lauren Kaminsky Goldman

April 4, 2018

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Yigal Adato: 00:03 Hey everyone, my name is he Yigal Adato and this is the Pawn Leaders Podcast, a podcast to help you make more money,stress less, and live an epic life all while working at the pawn shop. Hey pawn family. Welcome back to another episode of the Pawn Leaders Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us. If you haven't been a member of the Pawn Leaders Podcast Community on Facebook, go ahead and search for it on Facebook. Jump into the group. We talk about past interviews, we talk about guests, we talk about leadership, we talk about business and you can ask any questions in there. Usually most of the guests that I have on the show are also in the group and with me today, I have Lauren Kaminsky Goldman welcome, who from a very young age, also known as the gold [Incomprehensible] has been involved in multiple facets of the jewelry world. Her career has covered businesses ranging from blogger to curator to most uniquely pawnbroker. Lauren's love for treasure hunting began at her grandfather's pawnshops where she would sift through trays of jewelry to find unique pieces and potentially negotiate the best deals with the staff. Now as a third generation pawnbroker, Lauren has elevated to chief operating officer and president of Easy Pawn Corp and she oversees 15 stores and works alongside her father's CEO, David and brother Jason. She has worked hard to grow the business as well as to educate the public about pawnbroking and hopes of altering negative stereotypes from past generations outside of her day jobs that Lauren has spent years being active on the
board of directors for the National Pawnbrokers Association, which I'm sure many of us are very, very thankful that you do that. And also Lauren looks forward to expanding your brand to other corners of the jewelry world and to be a well respected voice within the fine jewelry community. Lauren, welcome to the show.


Lauren Kaminsky: 01:56 Hi. Thank you for having me.
Yigal Adato: 01:58 No, my pleasure. Thanks for being on. And I want to start kind of in the beginning of you in New York and first for the listeners, tell us kind of what New York charges, what the whole periods are so that we know as the conversation goes along.


Lauren Kaminsky: 02:12 Okay. So for a New York pawn shop to legally operate, we have a maximum interest to arch interest rate of 4% per month and we have to hold our buys for 15 days after they're purchased and our loans are held for four months with the 30 Day grace period.


Yigal Adato: 02:32 Awesome. So very similar to California.


Lauren Kaminsky: 02:34 Yes. Exactly.
Yigal Adato: 02:35 So, the [Incomprehensible] thing are large loan balances, a lot of quantity of loans to be able to make some money.


Lauren Kaminsky: 02:41 Right. And most importantly, getting that redemption rate to be as high as possible. [Incomprehensible]


Yigal Adato: 02:45 Yeah, for sure. So, tell us about your history, how you started at the pawnshop. I know that you started your grandfather's pawn shop, but what made a young girl so interested in working in the pawn industry?


Lauren Kaminsky: 03:00 Well, actually I wanted nothing to do with this industry. I got sucked in here. But so growing up, I guess many other, a lot of my pawn peers that are in the same age bracket have have a similar story as we were born into this industry, every dinner table, every family meal is all about the price of gold. And where was it trading at that day? And what came into the pawnshop and these stories from my dad, my grandfather, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, all my God, every single dinner that was all they spoke about. And I still didn't really understand the concept of Pawning because no one sat down and said, here's what we do. And it just was expected that I understood it and always knew the business side of things. And it wasn't until I was studying business and entrepreneurship at Boston University School of Management that I decided, you know what, let me take a shot at this and help my dad for a summer. Actually, he had asked me to help them and anyone in the pawn industry who may or may not know my dad that knows your typical pawn broker who is my dad. Pretty much. They don't ask for help and they don't like to ask for help and it's very hard for them to do. So, I knew that when my dad came to me and said, you know, Lauren, will you work with me for the summer? Things are getting really busy. I'm growing fast. I had to say yes and it really was a life changing experience. I was studying business and now I understood why it all kind of made sense to me. I was able to finally apply what I was learning to my father's business. Whereas if I was doing the track that I was setting myself up for I would be working in a company and I would have years and years of training before I could do these things that my dad was having me do. So, it was just a no brainer that I was being bred and meant to work for my dad and take his business to the next level.


Yigal Adato: 05:10 Nice. So you started with the summer and then I'm guessing you would work here and there and then when did you realize, or when did you decide to say, I'm going full in.


Lauren Kaminsky: 05:21 At the end of the summer. Actually, I remember sitting down with my dad and I was going into my senior year of college. I heard all about the business that summer. I went in to work every single day. I worked fine at pawn counter and my dad sat me down and said, okay, is this what you're going to do? And I play hard to get a little but I was like, I'll think about it. Let's see how this year goes.


Yigal Adato: 05:50 You did negotiate like your wage right?
Lauren Kaminsky: 05:53 Not yet. I knew I was going to be way too expensive for him to start. But I had a good feeling and I went into my senior year. I don't want to go into it thinking that, oh, I was set. I was never that person I mean I just never thought I was going into my dad's business. So, I never had that mindset that I had a job at the end of graduation. I was always working and trying to do more and trying to figure out my own path before settling and saying, I'm working for Dad. But that whole year, so my senior thesis was about a gold buying kiosk that I was setting up at Prudential Center, which is a huge mall in the heart of Boston. And I had applied everything that I've learned over the summer to gold buying. And this was 2010 this is right before gold, I mean gold was on the rise, but it wasn't as high as it was. And
all the gold buying popups that were happening purchase on the cost. And this was a new concept. Find Gold from a counter top in a mall. Actually I have my, let me grab something


Yigal Adato: 06:58 [Crosstalk] office to grab something.
Lauren Kaminsky: 07:04 So I have props, so this is my original gold buying kiosk.
Yigal Adato: 07:10 She's showing basically a drawing of how she drew out a kiosk for gold buying. Nice.


Lauren Kaminsky: 07:16 Yeah. And this is from 2010 and it was called Vertagold Goldbar and I had a whole senior thesis on it. I worked with my professor. So it's kind of instead of going to class, that last semester of college you worked on a project and a business plan and you presented it and I actually presented this to prudential center. Sorry, the story's getting a little long winded, but presented it prudential center. They declined and did not want the gold buying kiosk at their mall. I can't even think of the word right now. So I counter offered and said, give me another chance to present this to you, to your higher ups before you just say no, I got a second meeting. And they accept it.


Yigal Adato: 08:06 Wow! Alright.


Lauren Kaminsky: 08:06 Yeah. Then I went back to my dad and I thought he would be so proud of me that I did this and he was the one who said, have you thought about this? Like, you're a senior in college. Do you know what it's like owning a business? Do you know that you have to go in every single day and you're the one that has to open at nine and close at six and you're responsible and all of this. And I said yeah, he was [Incomprehensible], at your senior year college. Like you've worked this hard to get here. Why don't you relax and enjoy college for a few months before you get your hands dirty in the business? And it was definitely a smart decision to listen to my dad cause I think I would've been crazed but I always keep this on my desk and in my office, the storing of the original kiosk as a reminder of like to my senior year and the passion that I had for this business. And that's actually where the name gold girl came from. So, the designer of this kiosk couldn't remember my name and she just kept calling me the gold girl cause I was the girl that was opening this gold buying kiosk. And it stuck with me ever since.


Yigal Adato: 09:14 Oh that's awesome. So, let's get in to the Gold Girl real quick. So, obviously your history in growing up in the pawnshop Industry. You worked for your father and the family is in the pawn. I remember my Friday night dinners, the Shabbat dinners where just like, how's business? What's gold doing? It was just consistently that was a conversation. So, I totally relate to you. So, obviously I found you, I've known of you for a while and we've met a couple of times, but I'm on Instagram and I keep on seeing this by gold girl, by gold girl. I'm like, what is she up to?All this like I go and read and like your curating, this place called beauty and Essex, which has a restaurant behind it and it's like a speakeasy. So, tell the listeners, obviously you're the CEO of Easy Pawn Corp, but you also took a personal brand and you've grown into something incredible. So, what are you doing with Beauty and Essex? What is that and where is that going to go? Lauren Kaminsky: 10:12 So, Beauty and Essex it's my happy place. I call it a hobby, but I love it so, so much and it's a business, so it can't really be a hobby but Beauty and Essex is a restaurant, nightlife hotspot destination. It originated in the lower east side of Manhattan, and we've expanded to Los Angeles and Las Vegas inside the Cosmopolitan hotel. And it's an amazing concept. It's a pawnshop. We call ourselves the pawnshop, they don't do any pawning transactions, but it's upon inspired retail store in the front of a restaurant. So, for those who haven't been, you need to go, but you walk in and you have no idea that you're in a restaurant. And then there's a small door and the back that opens up and it is the most beautiful over the top, almost 1920s glamorous pearls hanging from the chandelier's type of restaurant. And the food is really good. So, it's a dangerous place to have a business.


Yigal Adato: 11:18 So, you basically built this pawnshop idea in the front where you curate the jewelry correct?


Lauren Kaminsky: 11:26 Yeah. So they, I can't take any credit for the initial concept. Tao Group actually came up with the idea to make it a pawnshop and they opened with it just as an idea. And then they brought me in to make it functional and real and actually have jewelry for sale and introduce the public to maybe what a pawnshop is.So, that was always my initial benefit of having the store besides the retail jewelry sales, it was education and sharing knowledge and bringing the pawn industry somewhere it's never dabbled in before and people coming in that makes those jokes and comments like, oh, like let me pull my Rolex before dinner. I was there to the literally stop that and say, well actually if you want upon your Rolex before dinner, like Easy Pawn has location a few blocks away and you could do this, this and this. And they would literally just stop in their tracks.


Yigal Adato: 12:21 Like, wait a second I was just kidding.
Lauren Kaminsky: 12:22 So, people definitely were surprised having someone working there that knew what a pawnshop was and now we were educating them and letting them know like in a joking way, hey, by the way, like if you did pawn your watch, like you have four months to come and take it out. Like it's loan. People really, I noticed started confusing, pawning and buying and that's where I learned all the stereotypes and misconceptions and I was able to stop them right at the front door. So it was very educational point.


Yigal Adato: 12:53 Very cool. So, what have you done or what's happening with your Instagram? You built this personal brand which is allowed for you to obviously I think make a great name for the pawn industry, make a great name for people buying jewelry secondhand. What's it done for your business, for Easy Pawn Corp by using that personal brand.


Lauren Kaminsky: 13:14 I guess, I mean social media is just so important and I feel like you don't even realize the value of it until it's almost like a snowball effect. You start with nothing and you feel like you're not getting anywhere. But then you really start building traction and people start knowing your name. And it's the craziest thing how it's not even, it's not like I'm putting billboards up, it's such a different concept than where we were six years ago even maybe five years ago when advertising and spending the money on billboards. And I mean in New York City we had a cute subway campaign and everyone recognized my dad's face by this big subway ad and now we scale it back and you start posting on Instagram and showing people like a different side of the business, they think they can comment on right away and respond right away. So, that's also like been great because now we can show pictures and it's not static. It's not a billboard, I can't move. So we're always trying to show that like less edgier side of the business group by Gold Girl.


Yigal Adato: 14:19 That's awesome. Very, very cool. So tell me, what's been the hardest part? I had bet on who is another female pawnbroker. What's been the hardest part being a female in the industry? I know you grew up in the family and I know sometimes someone's going to be like, well what's the difference? Right? But when I go to the pawn conventions, when I used to go a long time, it was always like this boy's club. So, you're shattering that. I love the fact that you're in there, you're working with the NPA and what's going on with that? How do you feel being the
CEO of this company in an industry which is mostly male dominant?


Speaker 3: 14:59 Right? It's a really good question. I think at first I was a little uncomfortable, but because it's my family business and I have aunts, uncles and cousins, I always felt my place. I never felt like I was out of place. I more so felt like an odd fish in the pond by being young, I think that was the hardest obstacle to come over.Just being young and a woman in the industry, I really had two things not working for me when I came and I was doing all these things. But having my dad's respect from the beginning was what made me push through. And he never said to me, you're too young to be making these decisions. Like let me do it. Or you're just a girl. Like you're not tough enough to be doing this.
Like I think that actually spoke a lot to me is he always made me feel like you could do this.


Lauren Kaminsky: 15:58 And he wasn't even telling me what to do. He was just letting me do what I needed to do to move the business forward and he was never shooting down my ideas. He would say things like that's a little crazy, but if you think it's a good idea like let's do it. But I think having family support, especially his made it less challenging but it still is really hard going to the convention and speaking at these talks and being in a room where it is definitely like a male dominated industry. You always do feel a little bit inferior, but I think women are starting to make their mark and all industry, so it's nice to know that you know I'm not alone.


Yigal Adato: 16:40 And I also do believe that like Beth's stores when you see the pictures on Instagram, like both of your Instagrams are incredibly beautiful, like well curated pictures and posts and you look at the stores they're clean and well merchandised.Sometimes I walk into like some of my clients and they just have the guys working. I'm like, you need a female here. You need a woman to come in like touch it up just a bit.


Lauren Kaminsky: 17:08 [Crosstalk] though. I think they know, it's just a matter of getting that it's getting a woman there to feel comfortable and to like feel her place. But so important I think in all industries


Yigal Adato: 17:21 For sure. So, tell me what's been the hardest thing about growing Easy Pawn? Like what's been, I don't know how many years, how long have you been the CEO there for? Speaker 3: 17:31 Actually my dad would kill me. I'm technically COO.
Yigal Adato: 17:38 COO, my apologies. My apologies to your father seriously.
Lauren Kaminsky: 17:38 Yeah. I'm also HR so we can, I can be CEO for just this amount of time. I have been in this role for five years now. I started in 2010 when I officially graduated, but I was behind the counter and kind of doing like smaller scale things. And then once we really expanded and we opened up an office because we grew out of our basement inside the pawnshop. But that's when I really took the reigns. And [Crosstalk]


Yigal Adato: 18:13 So tell me in 2010 how many stores did you guys have?
Lauren Kaminsky: 18:16 We had five stores.
Yigal Adato: 18:17 And no you have?
Lauren Kaminsky: 18:18 15.
Yigal Adato: 18:20 So, in the last 8 years you've added 10 stores. Let's talk about that. So I want to talk about what's been the hardest thing of building out those 10 stores or going from five to 15 and then I want you to think about and answer for the listeners, what are three things that Easy Pawn Corp does that makes you guys successful without giving away the secret sauce, right? But what makes you guys successful to where you'd be able to in a 15 store operation and it's profitable and it's fun.


Lauren Kaminsky: 18:51 Right. Very good question. So, I would say the most difficult thing I listened to this with your podcast with John Thedford, is the secret sauce of employees and finding the right staff and they're the glue that hold it together. So, I think when you have like a great framework, it can easily get knocked down by having the wrong people represent you. So we do work really hard on betting and making sure that when I hire someone, they're going through the right corporate culture training and that they know what it's like to work at Easy Pawn and what's acceptable and what's unacceptable from the get go. And I would say that we pride ourselves most on our customer service and also we like to be the most high tech in pawn and the most available. So even though we are constantly growing, we have 15 stores, our customers can walk into a store and either they can get me on the phone right away if they need to or they can make a payment through Instapawn from their phones. So we're always trying to be on the cusp of what's new and hot and exciting for our customers. So, we did that because a few years ago we ran a demographic survey and 60% of our customers were between the ages of 31 no sorry, it was 18 to 31


Yigal Adato: 20:17 Wow. So, you guys actually measured that. You guys find out who are my customers, what are the ages and then you cater to their needs?


Lauren Kaminsky: 20:26 Exactly. So we knew if they were younger, they must have a smartphone and they probably would want to start using the app and it's been doing really well and we just like to pride ourselves on that. We offer that additional service. So these were, I mean that was a huge focal point that I also learned from working with Tao Group. So this is kind of a crazy concept now a pawn shop bringing in hospitality. So everything that I've learned from opening up Beauty and Essex pawn shop with Beauty and Essex, I mean I sit in on their manager's meetings, I go to their events, I really learned their corporate culture. And my idea of a perfect pawnshop is that it will be run just like the restaurant. So, pawnbrokers are selling loans. Just as you know,servers are selling the lobster tacos that night. I mean everything that has to do with customer service and how you serve that to your customers that are coming in. And I think that customers at the pawn shop level, knowing that they could get me on the phone if they have any issues or if they need me to explain something really means a lot to them. And then also the convenience of the app, the convenience of being able to email us and it gets answered right away. Brand recognition. So you can go to our website and see who we are. We're very transparent, we're not that shady pawn shop that doesn't have a functional website or no pictures. I think it's really important with images now, like Instagram is all pictures. Google map It's pictures. Like you have to show people who you are, who is standing behind you and what your stores look like. That way they know what they're getting it before they come in.
Yigal Adato: 22:13 I love that you said that, I follow like 300+ pawnshops on Instagram and most of them are probably listening and all they post is pictures of stuff like here's a generator for sale, here's a gun for sale, here's a fishing rod for sale. But what people want to see is who's behind the counter. I think you guys do a great job of that. I also love the fact that you mentioned, and I want to reiterate it to the listeners, that you went out there and you did a survey. You got your demographic, you found out who the client was. I'm sure you guys do like age and ethnicity.


Lauren Kaminsky: 22:45 Yeah, everything.
Yigal Adato: 22:45 The whole thing. And for those of you listening, there's a great website called zipwho.com and that's z i p w h o.com where you put in your zip code and it gives you the demographics of like raise, how much money people are making in your area with the ages. Do they own houses, their mediate income. So you know exactly when you're doing marketing on Instagram, Facebook, even if you put up a billboard, you can market directly and speak their language as opposed to, I always remember my father saying, you know, Yigal I market to old Mexican women because that's my clientele, right? That's who his clients were. And then when me and Morris, when we did our demographic, we said, wait a second, we've got 50% then and it's a much younger demographic just like you said it. Once we found that out, that's when we went forward and changed our marketing I was [Incomprehensible]


Lauren Kaminsky: 23:41 Right. It's actually crazy for you. Just made me think of quick story. When first started working with my dad and you brought me on, we were opening up our store in sunny side up and coming affluent neighborhood outside of New York City, not your typical pawnshop destination. And they rebelled and they were picketing a pawn shop opening there, tons of hate mail letters, emails, everything, the whole works. And I just started working for my dad. I was three months in and I decided to start going to the Chamber of Commerce meetings for that local community to show them who we were. And I think that that's something that pawnbrokers need to do more of is I went to these meetings, I mean I came with cookies and hand and because to come with food. I mean the Jewish mom and me it was like eat, eat, eat. I promise you everything will be okay.Lavonne cookies in hand, the best cookies in New York. And I told them a little bit about myself and about my family and my father and the store has opened up. We had a big party there.We invited everyone and I think that they put their guard down and they were like, we're sorry. It's not what we thought it would be. You're not the pawnshop that we thought it would be in our neighborhood. And that store has now been open since 2010 and it's one of our best locations.


Yigal Adato: 25:05 That's amazing. I couldn't agree with you more. Pawnbrokers today need to become part of the community and grow the community. You know, we opened it up in city heights. I became the president of the business association. And so I helped clean up the neighborhood. I helped, allow them to see that a pawnshop is necessary here and that we can lead as well. And that's why I call this Pawn Leaders because we can't just open the doors anymore and money's going to come in like we have to lead in our communities, lead in our businesses, lead in our lives in order to be successful. And I think when you're doing an incredible job at doing that and I wanted to thank you for coming on the show. It's been great having you on.


Lauren Kaminsky: 25:48 Let me take a selfie of us for [Crosstalk] Yigal Adato: 25:50 Yeah, for sure. So, before you take the Selfie, I want to just take everybody for listening. Thank you so much for listening to the Pawn Leaders Podcast. And don't forget, I'm sure Lauren, I'll invite you into the community if you're not there. Check us on the Pawn Leaders Podcast community. Ask questions. Our goal is essentially to help the pawn industry grow and make your stores better and make your communities better. So do as Lauren says, go to your local chamber of Commerce, become a leader in the community, in your stores. And of course the customer service is essential. Learn. How can be profound-


Lauren Kaminsky: 26:30 National mom and pop business owner day.
Yigal Adato: 26:33 What was that?
Lauren Kaminsky: 26:34 It's national mom and pop business owner a day.
Yigal Adato: 26:38 Oh, well congratulations! Right.
Lauren Kaminsky: 26:40 Yeah. Well to everyone. I mean all the pawnbrokers out there.
Yigal Adato: 26:43 For sure. I love it. I didn't even know that this.
Lauren Kaminsky: 26:45 Your shop local and support your small businesses.


Yigal Adato: 26:49 Agreed. How can people find you on Instagram?
Lauren Kaminsky: 26:51 You could find me at bygoldgirl.com is my website, and that's, by goldgirl and that's the same for my Instagram social media handles bygoldgirl.




From a very young age, Lauren Kaminsky Goldman, also known as the GoldGirl, has been involved in multiple facets of the jewelry world. Her career has covered businesses ranging from blogger to curator to, most uniquely, pawnbroker.
Lauren’s love for treasure hunting began at her grandfather’s pawn shops, where she would sift through trays of jewelry to find unique pieces and pretend to negotiate the best deals with the staff.
Now, as a third-generation pawnbroker, Lauren has elevated to Chief Operating Officer and President of EZ Pawn Corp., overseeing 15 stores, and working alongside her father/CEO, David, and brother, Jason. She has worked hard to grow the business as well as to educate the public about pawnbroking in hopes of altering negative stereotypes from past generations.
Outside of her day jobs, Lauren has spent years being active on the Board of Directors for the National Pawn Association. Lauren looks forward to expanding her brand to other corners of the jewelry world and to be a well-respected voice within the fine jewelry community for many years.


[02:12] For a New York pawnshop to legally operate, there is a maximum interest rate of 4% per month, buys are held for 15 days after purchase and loans are held for 4 months with a 30 days grace period.



[03:57] When Lauren studied business and entrepreneurship at Boston School of Management she decided to assist her father with his pawnshop for the summer.



[09:01] The name GoldGirl originated when Lauren presented a kiosk business for her thesis in college, and the designer for the kiosk could not remember her name, so called her GoldGirl.



[10:24] Beauty & Essex is a pawn inspired retail shop and restaurant with a vintage collection of jewelry and musical instruments. The started in Lower Manhattan and has expanded to LA and Las Vegas inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel.



[13:56What has using your personal brand on social media done for EZ Pawn Corp? Social media has allowed the business’ name to spread quickly. Persons are able to see a different side of the business that they can relate to right away.



[15:05In an industry dominated by men, how does it feel being a senior female in the business? The fact that it is a family business, I never felt out of place. However, having the respect and support of my father helped to motivate me being young and a female in the business.



[18:15] In 2010, EZ Pawn had 5 stores and have grown that number to 15 in 8 years



[18:55] The most difficult thing about growing your business is finding the right staff to holding the business together [19:10] “When you have a great framework, it can easily get knocked down by having the wrong people represent you.”



[19:34] 3 things that EZ Pawn does that makes them successful are:
  • Customer service
  • The most high tech in pawn
  • Availability


[20:05] A demographic survey was done by EZ Pawn and it showed where 60% of their customers were between the age 18-31 years old. This therefore meant that the business had to find a way to connect with their audience



[20:45] Working with TAO Group taught Lauren the concept of using hospitality to assist in the success of the pawn store



[21:32] Customers like knowing that they:

– can get through to a representative of the pawnshop

– have the convenience of using an app and getting a response via email right away

– are buying from a store that has brand recognition



[22:45] You can utilize zipwho.com to get the demographics of persons living in different areas.



[23:44] Lauren speaks about the importance of being a part of the community leading the change [26:51] Check out Lauren’s website at bygoldgirl.com and connect with her using the handle bygoldgirl on Instagram and all social media sites

Yigal Adato

Yigal is a 3rd generation pawn broker, and is now a mentor, coach and educator with the pawnbroking industry.

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