Jake Duneier ’10: Filling His Father’s Shoes While Walking His Own Path

Since 1910, Clyde Duneier, Inc., a recognized leader in the design, creation and purveying of fine jewelry, has been a mainstay in New York City. Headquartered on Madison Avenue, the current administration is the fourth generation of Duneiers to manage the company. One of Whitman’s own is continuing the family legacy.

Jake Duneier graduated from Syracuse University‘s Martin J. Whitman School of Management in 2010 with a degree in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises and management. Today, he is co-president of Clyde Duneier Inc. However, when he first got to Whitman, he had a different vision in mind for his career.

“I never planned on working for my family’s business,” said Duneier. “I had several internships in real estate and venture capital prior to making the decision to enter the company.”

Duneier decided to join the family business before his senior year of college. This decision prompted him to take Professor John Petosa’s family business course, which Duneier said taught him about the common—and not so common—challenges that graduates face upon entering the family business.

“The lessons learned helped prepare me for my own journey,” Duneier added.

And while that class gave Duneier some core skills for a career in the family business, he credits other Whitman courses and faculty for guiding him to where he is today. During his senior year, Duneier took a class instructed by Mike Haynie, the Barnes Professor of Entrepreneurship and executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. At the time, Haynie was building the foundation for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program (EBV), which is now in its 10th year and operating on 10 different college campuses across the country.

“Seeing Professor Haynie lead the growth of that organization into a mega-success has served as a reminder that, no matter how small the idea, with the right amount of drive, execution and determination, anything is possible,” shared Duneier.


Taking this attitude outside of the classroom, Duneier opened an e-commerce website in Whitman’s Couri Hatchery. Specializing in jewelry liquidation, it was his first step into the industry.

Having realized success with his venture, Duneier continued to delve into the jewelry industry after graduating from Whitman. He began taking a deeper look into the issues faced by jewelry companies in today’s marketplace. A self-proclaimed news junkie, he quickly realized the new trend in the industry involves retailers purchasing fine gemstones directly from factories overseas— to the point that generic wholesale buyers can’t compete on price alone.

Based on his research, Duneier approached his father and uncle, who had been running the company for 40 years, and proposed a new idea. To stay competitive with the retailers that purchase gemstones directly and to preserve a role in the supply chain, he suggested that Clyde Duneier, Inc. license the marks of established brands. Instead of sticking to a black-and-white set of rules for running the company, the two were open to his idea for growing the business.

This approach means that Clyde Duneier Inc. can provide the new line of Randy Jackson watches or Badgley Mishcka jewelry sold at department stores, allowing the company to continue making fine jewelry but also affording opportunities for expansion. In the last eight years, the company has licensed over 10 brands and ventured into industries outside of fine jewelry.

“I thank my dad and uncle every day for giving me the creative freedom not only to succeed but also to fail and learn from my mistakes,” adds Duneier.

Duneier continues to exercise that creative freedom and tap into his entrepreneurial spirit through his role as CEO of Purple Inc., a new wearable technology company he launched earlier this year.

Duneier says that no two work days are alike, but one day-to-day consistency is that he always starts with two cups of coffee to get going. From there, he focuses on finding a healthy balance between maintaining existing operations and exploring new opportunities. He firmly believes that companies today need to innovate to stay relevant. To do this, Duneier is in constant contact with his employees. He also meets regularly with brand owners, manufacturers, new retail partners and even leaders from different industries who can inspire new ways of thinking.


Photo Credit: Stephanie Mann

Regan Spencer