Today Benjamin Arabov, son of Jacob Arabo, takes over the reigns of the über-luxury empire Jacob & Co, as the new CEO. When he left the company at age 19 he promised to come back when the time was right. And that was four years ago, in 2017, when Benjamin took over the social media activities of the company. Jacob & Co’s combined social media presence has grown spectacularly, from 200,000 followers to 2.5 million and it keeps growing at a fast pace.
We sat down with Benjamin Arabov, well, in front of a zoom meeting like we do these days, and we talked about his youth, growing up in the business, and now taking over the business that his father founded. Jacob Arabo founded the company in 1986, so thirty-five years ago. In 1978, as a boy of only fourteen years, Mr. Arabo emigrated with his family from Uzbekistan to the USA. He participated in a jewelry design and fabrication training program for immigrants in New York City, which had led to everything that followed… He started working in the jewelry business, he stood out, and started designing jewelry and later also watches, but it wasn’t until 2001 before watches were added to the Jacob & Co mix. Over the past 35 years Mr. Arabo built an empire, a luxury empire, as a high-end jeweler, earning him the name ‘Jacob the Jeweler’.
Today Mr. Arabo (who doesn’t use the “v” in his professional surname) in his capacity as Chairman & Founder of Jacob & Co., still works on every project, from design to prototype to fabrication through to the sales, marketing and distribution of his jewelry and watches. So the question arises how Benjamin and Jacob will work together in the company.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME Watches – Benjamin, first of all congratulations! How do you see your father and yourself working together in the company?
Benjamin Arabov – My father will be focusing on product design and managing his team. I want to make sure he has enough time for the bigger picture, the grand vision for Jacob & Co for the next couple of decades. I will focus mainly on operations and marketing. When you’re a business owner, you wear many different hats. There are things you don’t like doing, and things you do like, and my father was doing at all. He had his hand in everything and he was the main decision maker for many things. So with the addition of my support and help, I am able to alleviate that responsibility, so he can focus on the creative and innovative side of the business.
We have to ask, Benjamin, what was your first wrist watch?
For my birthday and my brother’s birthday – my older brother is only a year older than me – my father would get us a G-Shock watch every year, when we were kids. That kind of started the curiosity for watches. Every year we would anticipate and wait for the new G-Shock, whether it was a new model or a different colour. And then we would go running in the park with our run around in the park G-Shocks, show it off to our friends. You know, they had this feature where you could press the button in the middle and it would light up in the dark. So those were the first watches and my brother and I were big fans.
Do you still own the G-Shocks?
Hahaha, no they lasted less than a year and then we would get another one. We played sports with it, running around, you know… they would break. We were kids. The next year, for our birthdays we got a new one. But I must say that the passion started back then. Of course, my father came home after work, full of stories about business, designs he was working on, both from the jewelry and watches side, so every night we had these stories and that would slowly build up to our passion. That’s how I got into it.
However, at age 19 you decided to venture out and start your own business. Why?
I left the family business when I was 19. I was working in the family business on and off, during summer breaks or school breaks. For example when I was in college, that was for 3 days a week, so I was working for 2 days a week, at 18 and 19. So at 19, I decided to leave the family business, that was a very tough conversation to have with my father. He’s old school, he’s all about family business and passing it on to the kids. But I knew there was only so much I could learn, professionally, within the walls of Jacob & Co. I knew, if I wanted to bring real value and be respected, I had to go out there and get real world experience, and come back, whether it was after a year, 2 year, 10 years or 20 years, with the right experience.
So I left the family business and started working for a digital marketing company in NYC. I learned so much and I’m grateful for that. But after two years working there, and having been promoted several times, I was not learning anymore. Now my father kept asking when I would start my own business. He thinks that when you have the means you should do that instead of working for others. With his push and his confidence, I left the company. I was working and started my own business.
Benjamin Arabov founded Growth Enrollments with only $ 1,500 usd and in 2020 the revenue was $6 million usd. He recently made the 2021 Forbes 30Under30 list for his work with Grow Enrollments, of which he’s still the sole owner.
That was only six years ago and that was the best experience I could ask for! To be able to learn and grow, also from fail, and bring this back to the business. Especially on the digital marketing side, the luxury space needs so much help and I’m happy to bring this to the family business.
You have been in charge of the digital space for Jacob & Co. Why is that important for the brand?
Most of the products that we produce have the jaw-dropping effect. We are producing never before seen complications at a rate that no other luxury watch brand is producing. Over the past five years we’ve launched more collections than our competitors have in 20+ years. Many people are in awe when they see our watches. Just think of the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon in which we developed a replica of a 16-cylinder engine. Or the Swiss music box that plays the famous melody of The Godfather movie and pairs it with a triple axis tourbillon, inside the Opera Godfather Edition. It’s for that exact reason why digital is so important to us.
We have so much creativity to show, we can’t sit around waiting for a trade show or a magazine cover featuring our watch. We want the world to discover the creative genius of my father and there is no better way in today’s world to showcase that creativity than on social media.
Four years ago, you arrived back at Jacob & Co and took the lead in digital. How is that performing?
I took over the social media activities of the company in 2017 and since then, as a team, we’ve been able to grow our audience from 200,000 to 1.8 million followers on our main Instagram account (we have several). Today, our Instagram account is the fastest growing among our peers worldwide. This is how we sell our products. Our creative team works tirelessly to produce the highest-level quality of content and when we promote the product on our social media, we get phone calls and orders. A large percentage of our business over the past four years has been generated from the buzz of social media. It also helps that the majority of our competitors are producing very similar products, year after year with small modifications, while we are producing jaw dropping pieces on a consistent basis. We stand out!
2020 was an interesting year and again showed the importance of a strong digital presence in luxury. When the world shut down and no one was walking into the stores, because the majority of our sales happened over the phone, we adjusted very quickly, adapting to full digital (for most of the year) and had our best year yet.
What are your goals for Jacob & Co., digitally?
I want our brand to be the strongest and most creative brand when it comes to the digital space. I want to create content that caters to each social media channel and I want our audience to always look forward to what is coming next. I want to continue our significant growth on our Instagram and Facebook channels. We are also one of the very few luxury brands verified on TikTok and we are the only luxury brand with over 100k followers there. My goal is to reach one million followers on TikTok by the end of 2021. What is important for us as well, is to produce content that our audience and clientele can enjoy. Too many luxury brands produce content that is boring to play it safe, but if you want to crack the code of digital in today’s world with so much competition, you need to give the people what they want. I also want to launch our e-commerce.