Asma Heerji was born into a watch-making family: Her grandfather started the family business 50-some-odd years ago in Dubai, and her father continued the legacy when he moved to the States. Heerji has fond childhood memories of taking winter inventory in the family shop, and her experience in the trade made for a discerning eye when it came to quality.
So when, as an adult, she started looking for a good watch at a reasonable cost, she was dismayed by the landscape–pieces that lacked stainless steel or genuine leather carried unfittingly high price tags.
Rather than continue her search, Heerji took matters into her own hands—literally—and started her own business, recruiting her brother’s wife, Rozmin Ladha—a full-time attorney then—as co-founder.
Thirteen.02, named for the women’s birthdays–July 13 and April 2–launched in 2016 with a mission to offer affordable watches (all under $100) “for the everyday woman,” made with high-quality materials and interchangeable bands.
The sisters are also passionate about giving back: Five percent of profits from each Thirteen.02 watch sold go to a new charity every year. Last year, sales helped Days for Girls, which provides feminine and sanitary products to girls in third world countries who are denied education while on their periods. This year, “because of everything that happened in our backyard,” Heerji said, proceeds benefit Hurricane Harvey relief.
Though founded in Dallas, the brand’s expansion to Houston dovetailed with Heerji’s move here last spring. Last week, the sisters-in-law caught up with Houstonia to weigh in on their diverging styles, how they meld family with business, and the infamous Houston/Dallas rivalry. (Spoiler alert: It’s overplayed.)
On starting the company:
Asma Heerji: “Once a week I would come over to [Rozmin’s] apartment and we would work on [the business plan]. In my mind, I knew Rozmin was going to be my business partner, but in Rozmin’s head she thought she was just helping me out. Finally I said, ‘Rozmin, you know you’re doing this with me, right?’
Rozmin Ladha: “So the moral of the story is, she tricked me!”
RL: “It’s really a family business, and me and Asma are kind of heading it.”
AH: “Our parents are huge in helping us–anytime we have questions about anything, we ask them, they’re the ones that are our backbone. Our husbands are the ones that really help us day in and day out, making sure that we’re doing everything correctly and just being our inspiration, being our help … and the two of us are kind of the day-to-day.”
On being sisters and business partners:
RL: “I definitely think it’s an advantage, because I think that we can be more open with each other than maybe traditional business partners can. If we’re not gelling around the same place about something, we’re able to express ourselves and not hold a grudge … we fight like sisters, we’ll disagree on something and be mad for a hot second and then be done and move forward … I definitely take what she has to say more so into consideration because she is my sister-in-law. It’s coming with a lot of love. She’s not thinking about it in a selfish way, she’s thinking about what’s best for our business and what’s best for us.”
AH: “We try to motivate each other, we try to bring each other up, and we try to do everything we can to make sure that we both succeed, because at the end of the day it’s our family business.”
On work-life balance:
RL: “I have a five-month-old at home. It’s been a bit challenging to balance having a baby at home and then working on this full-time, but it’s also rewarding … It’s really worth it, because for me, I want to be a mom but I also want to be a business woman. I want to be able to show my daughter that it’s possible to have both, and I want to be inspirational to both, and I want her to know that it’s possible for her to have more. Even though it’s really tough at times, and at times I’ll be like, ‘I just want to hang out with my kid,’ I love Thirteen.02 and I love our bands … I really believe in it, and I know when my daughter grows up, she’ll be proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
AH: “It was so funny–last Saturday Rozmin had her baby in her lap, I had my laptop out, and we’re both going over things, we’re telling the baby, ‘this is going to be your empire; you’re going to have to run this pretty soon!’”
AH: “I think Houston is so up-and-coming in the fashion world–or maybe it’s already even here. … Living here has been very different [than Dallas], but it’s been very inspirational to me … Half of us is here. Houston is growing on me. I’m really falling in love with the city. I think a lot of it dealt with Harvey and the city coming together, the Astros winning and the city coming together … and it’s fashion-forward. I love going to the Galleria, going to this one mall and being able to get everything done. I love people watching there, what people are getting, what people are wearing, trying to see … ‘would that person wear my watch?’”
On the Houston/Dallas rivalry:
RL: “I actually don’t think there is a rivalry! I think the Houston/Dallas rivalry is in our heads, because we’re like, ‘Dallas is so different and Houston’s not like Dallas,’ but don’t you think that Houston and Dallas both have a similar flair? They’re both very fashion-forward, they’re both great places to live and work, they both have a Southern charm. I feel like it’s one of those things where we’re so similar which is why people don’t like each other. They think, ‘oh, we’re better,’ but really we’re the same.”
On the versatility of accessories:
RL: “You can change your day-to-night so easily, and that was really important to us. We know women nowadays are always on the go, and they need something that’s fashionable but easy.”
On personal style:
RL: “I really like bright prints, bright colors—a lot of the bolder colors that you see in our line come from me because I really enjoy pops of color. The yellow bands and the green bands and the purple, a lot of that is me. … [When I was working full-time as an attorney], a lot of the time with my corporate clients I can’t really wear bold outfits, but what I can do is have an accessory that’s a bold pop of color. That’s where the watch comes in. I’ll be wearing an all-black outfit and I’ll have this gorgeous yellow watch that really pops … I wanted to make sure we have selections for those women that really enjoy fashion and enjoy color and really incorporate that in their day-to-day.”
AH: “I’m the exact opposite … I always wear neutrals, and it’s hard for me to wear a big statement of jewelry or a big statement watch. That’s why I love our brand so much, because I’m able to use that minimalist watch as part of my minimalist wardrobe. It’s really funny, even my husband tells me all the time, ‘you need some more color in your wardrobe.’” … We love to be able to put our personalities into this brand. I think that’s a blessing.”