It’s not easy being an entrepreneur, but when you have passion and motivation to make a positive impact in the world, it keeps you going. Jameela, from Alora Boutique, tells her story of entrepreneurship, and what keeps her going day after day.
Why did you start your own jewelry line?
Alora initially started as a hobby. My mom and I were looking for a creative outlet outside of our main jobs. We decided to take some jewelry lessons and we wanted to create things that were beautiful and meaningful. Things really came full circle when I travelled to Ghana in 2013. I spent time in a brass village in Ghana, which is known for making beautiful jewelry out of recycled brass and sterling silver using a technique called lost wax casting. In addition to that, what really stood out to me was that every piece of jewelry they made had a meaning and story attached to it. We learned how to rescue what would be wasted material from a master crafts person in Ghana. With so much waste in the fashion industry and lack of personal significance, we decided to create jewelry that was sustainable and meaningful to the wearer.
Where does your inspiration come from?
We are inspired by our daughters, the world around us, the diversity and beauty of human interaction, and the intention we put into each piece. For example, the inspiration for our upcoming fall collection is the journey that we all go through in life. The setbacks and triumphs we face each day and how we overcome obstacles. I am really excited about this collection!
How long have you been in business, and how has your line evolved since the beginning?
We have been in business for over 3.5 years now. Our jewelry has completely evolved since the inception of Alora. When we started, I remember us only making pieces that we liked. There was a lack of consistency and we did a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces. Since then we’ve really began focusing on what kind of customer would wear our jewelry and where and when she will wear it. We have become very customer centric in our designs. We have also worked on developing our aesthetic and creating more consistent collections with an overall theme.
What obstacles have you had to overcome? What keeps you motivated?
We struggle balancing parenting young children and owning a business both. We try to prioritize what we should be focusing on and it’s always a struggle. We have a small team and often find ourselves running every aspect of the business from production, sourcing capital, marketing, networking, etc. This can be overwhelming and challenging.
We stay motivated because we love creating, and seeing people admire our jewelry. We also want to provide a great life for our daughters and show them that with hard work, anything is possible. Seeing the response from the women we help in the community and knowing that we are making a difference is the most rewarding part of doing this.
What made you decide to have a “mission” behind Alora?
We believe business should be a force for good in the community and we wanted to use jewelry as a way for women to look good and feel good about empowering other women. We’ve been helped by one of the charities we support and Emilyn, one of the owners, has always donated to the Mustard Seed. She has a saying that “you are never too poor to give”. This saying has become kind of our silent motto and has really impacted how we make decisions.
How have people responded to your philanthropic efforts?
The response has been fantastic. The community has been really supportive of our model of using fashion as a force for good. The recipients of our donations and workshops have been really grateful. Because of the response we look forward to expanding our giveback program in the future.
What advice would you give a new entrepreneur, or up and coming designer?
Don’t let the highs and lows get to you too much. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. There are so many things that are going to happen on your journey. Good or bad, have your goal in mind and work relentlessly towards achieving it.
What success are you most proud of?
We are really proud of the work we do in the community. We’ve taught 26 women the skill of jewelry, hosted events where influential women were able to connect with disadvantaged women and raised over $10,000 for non-profit organizations that support women.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years we will be in stores across Canada and the USA in addition to a few European stores. Not only that, but we will have a few different branded retail locations where customers can really connect with Alora. Finally, we will have an employment program with our non-profit partners to provide meaningful employment to women transitioning out of poverty and difficult situations.