Raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Kara Ross (CAS ’88) knew from a young age that she was bound for New York. In fact, she made it her goal. After a four-year detour in Washington, D.C., attending Georgetown University, Ross made that goal a reality with the launch of her business, Kara Ross New York, a fine jewelry line frequently worn by such prominent figures as Anne Hathaway, Oprah Winfrey and even Michelle Obama, in the heart of Manhattan.
At age 13, Ross was already designing jewelry. The oldest of five children, Ross attended the prestigious Agnes Irwin High School before setting off for the Hilltop. Since then, Ross has remained incredibly connected to the Georgetown community. Last Thursday, Ross spoke at the Fisher Colloquium at a panel called “Women Disrupting Business as Usual.” Organized by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, she discussed Diamonds Unleashed, a philanthropic project she launched last December.
Ross now lives in New York with her husband, Stephen, her two daughters and her two stepdaughters. None of her children decided to follow in her Georgetown footsteps, which Ross notes with surprise given her affection for the university. Nonetheless, this has not stopped Ross from remaining actively involved on the Hilltop. She currently serves on the university board of directors and previously served on the College board of advisors, among others. As a board member, Ross has worked on connecting Georgetown students with scholarship opportunities.
Ross has also been involved with various groups on campus, and spoke at the Georgetown Retail and Luxury Association’s Global Luxury Summit last year in New York.
GRLA President Anthony Fadil (MSB ’17) said he found her experiences inspiring.
“After attending last year’s Global Luxury Summit and hearing Ms. Ross’ insights, I was particularly impressed by the way in which she channelled her experiences at Georgetown to establish a vision and ultimately develop a brand of her own,” Fadil wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It was clear that her innovative capacity for design and entrepreneurial spirit contributed to the rapid expansion of her company and the success she has garnered.”
Ross, who graduated with an English major and an art history minor, said her education at Georgetown helped her professional goals.
“[Georgetown] was a wonderful, supportive and nurturing academic environment and it really allowed me to flourish,” Ross said. “Looking back, I wish that I had taken some business classes — some fundamental classes, like accounting. But, I would not change my major or minor for anyone. It allows me to communicate very well, write very well, and a broad-based education is important no matter what field you want to go into.”
Upon graduation from Georgetown, Ross decided to pursue her true passion by attending the Gemological Institute of America where she became a certified gemologist, an expert in diamonds and colored stones.
After more than 10 years of running Kara Ross New York, Ross decided to stop all wholesale business in order to focus on Diamonds Unleashed, a philanthropic endeavor supporting girls’ education. With a mission similar to companies like TOMS shoes or Warby Parker, Diamonds Unleashed is the first jewelry collection of its kind.
Ross said she aims to empower women and girls of all ages through the project.
“Typically, women have to wait to be given a diamond, which seems so crazy in today’s society. The diamond is the hardest substance on earth, and if you think about the adjectives that describe it, you get beautiful, strong, multi-faceted, unbreakable and brilliant. And to me, that really spoke to the qualities of women,” Ross said.
The motif of the collection is a diamond elevated by another diamond, coming together to form a heart. All net profits support Diamonds Unleashed’s nonprofit partners, such as Girls Who Code and She’s the First.
Girls Who Code is a program that aims to promote the fields of science and technology among sixth-to-12th -grade girls by inspiring, educating and equipping them with computing skills. Its goal is to provide computer science education and exposure to 1 million young women by 2020 by working in 42 states. She’s the First provides scholarships to girls in low-income countries, fostering first-generation graduates and cultivating the next generation of global leaders. Ross has also teamed up with CanadaMark Diamonds, a corporation that uses only diamonds that are ethically mined, sourced and traceable back to Canadian mines.
Ross’ latest project does not just stop with diamonds, however. While jewelry was Ross’ first endeavor, the Diamonds Unleashed collection also includes clothing and accessories by designers such as Stuart Weitzman and Project Gravitas. Moreover, the collection is endorsed by Kara’s “Stilettos on the Ground” ambassadors, which include familiar faces such as tennis player Serena Williams and television personality Giuliana Rancic.
During the event last Thursday night, Ross and other panelists, including Julie Katzman, executive vice president of Inter-American Development Bank, and BET Co-Founder Sheila Johnson, addressed the issue of juggling professional and familial goals.
Among the guests in attendance were University President John J. DeGioia and Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security Melanne Verveer. The third of many discussions taking place throughout the United States, this salon series — sponsored by Ross’ Diamonds Unleashed collection — tackles different subjects regarding women in business, the arts, technology and even sports. Ross has always been self-employed, making it easier to juggle running a global business and raising a family. She explains, “There is no perfect balance and to think you can try to achieve that is naive.”
Although it has been almost 30 years since Kara Ross graduated from Georgetown, her connection with the campus is stronger than ever. Using her successful business and influence within the jewelry community as a base, Ross has immersed herself in philanthropic endeavors, notably providing girls with educational opportunities through various scholarship organizations. She has been active in opening a dialogue around issues of gender in society.
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