This week I had the opportunity to interview Jameel Ghann. one of the co-creators behind Alora. Alora is a jewelry company which creates pieces with a message and gives back to the community.In this interview we talked about the process, working with family and more. Check it out below.
1. What made you decide to start a jewelry company?
I believe that people have always worn jewelry as a way to express their individuality. Unfortunately, my mother and I observed that there was a lot of mass produced jewelry that looked the same and had no purpose other than to be trendy and make the company money. We decided to take a jewelry class, partly to learn a new hobby and partly to make things that we love. We then began handcrafting jewelry with the belief that jewelry should be beautiful, personal and meaningful.
2. You work with your mom and husband. Usually, people say don't get into business with friends or family so how has it been?
It has been a positive experience. We get along pretty well in general. If you don’t already get along with your family going into business with them is a really bad idea. We have different strengths and weaknesses. Working a family makes it easy for us to identify what these strengths are and makes balancing them easier. Furthermore, it is easier for us to take constructive criticism because we believe it is coming from a good place. I really think it is easier to do business with family because you can’t abandon them! You have to work your problems out. I mean, you have to see them at Christmas dinner!
3. Your company’s mission is to encourage and empower women to reach their dreams and goals. How would you say your company does this and do you think you've reached your dreams and or goals?
We do this in three major ways
1) Each piece of jewelry has symbolic positive meaning attached to it- love, forgiveness, family, and believing – so that you can be reminded of your values and intentions each time you wear the pieces.
2) We release two collections a year where a portion of the sales goes to organizations that empower disadvantaged women to rise above poverty.
3) We organize numerous community events throughout the year focused on empowering women through skills training, story sharing, mentoring, etc. Some of the events include, free jewelry making workshops for disadvantaged women and networking events where we connect influential women and disadvantaged women.
I don’t believe we’ve reached our goal yet. It’s a big and ambitious goal, but it is why we do what we do. Fortunately, we are starting to see some impact. We believe that by continuously doing little things to make a difference, we can be a part of a greater good.
4. I love how the majority of your pieces are unique and different from a lot of other companies what would you say makes you different from other companies similar to yours?
I believe we are more than just a jewelry company. We are about strengthening our community and encouraging you to live a purposeful life. When you wear an Alora piece, not only are you encouraged to set an intention, the jewelry is there to act as a reminder of that intention. In addition to that, through your purchase, you are helping to make a difference in someone’s life. I would say the story behind each piece and our commitment to our community are what makes Alora what it is.
5. I was reading up about your process and how your pieces are created. Seems like a lot of work can go into something like a bracelet, which to some people may be easy. Was it hard when you were starting out with the creations or was it something that kind of all fell into place?
It was a mix of both. There is always a learning phase. Starting out, I definitely had some challenges. I was learning how to come up with new designs, how to use new tools, and I was experimenting with different techniques and materials. It was a steep learning curve. I look back at some of my earlier designs and say to myself, “I can’t believe I made that” (not in a good way!). To this day, creating a new design or making a new piece can be time-consuming at the beginning. There is a lot of trial and error, but by continuously working on focusing on it, I’ve gotten better.
6. The beautiful glass beads you use to make pieces are created in Ghana, which I think is amazing. With that being said would you say that your culture influences a lot of your pieces?
Thank you and yes, we are heavily influenced by Ghana. After all, our materials are rooted in Ghanaian culture. The recycled brass is a truly African concept: creating beautiful items from recycled materials. The glass beads have a very rustic feel and we are really drawn to the craftsmanship and vibrant colours of the beads. We also want to tie in our heritage to our designs and glass beads are a great way to do that. I think that being Ghanaian and Jamaican had enabled us to put forward bold, bright style and be unapologetic about out design choices.
7. Being a mom and balancing a business can be a difficult thing is it something you had to adjust or did you have a lot of help in balancing both out?
I’ve absolutely had to make some adjustments. One of the biggest ones has been to just let some things go. For a long time, I wanted to have a regular schedule, you know work for 8 to 10 hours a day. Start at a specific time and end at a specific time. Well, I learned pretty quickly that my children (one is 4 and the other is ten months) have their own schedule, and more often than not, their schedule clashes with mine. I definitely had to learn to be flexible and do things like work when my baby is asleep. Another thing that has been extremely helpful is that my mom and I are next door neighbors. This has made babysitting a whole lot easier!
8. Educational wise what led you down this path to go into business for yourself?
I mean I have a degree in business which was one of the catalysts for going into business for myself. But more than that, after I graduated university, I took a year off and worked in insurance. The grand master plan was to go Law school. It just so happened that I got pregnant that year. I really began to reflect on what I wanted in life and if I should follow some grand plan or do something meaningful that I am passionate about. I have always made crafts and have volunteered quite a bit in my community. Merging these two passions together is really what get me down this path.
9. What’s been some of the benefits and the downfalls of working for yourself?
I would say the biggest benefits of working for yourself is you have control over your time, flexibility to do some of the things that matter (like being able to spend a weekday morning with my girls) and an increased sense of accomplishment.
With regards to the downfalls, I am definitely working longer hours than I would if I was working for someone else. There is also the added risk which can be stressful at times. With all that been said, I wouldn’t trade owning and running Alora for anything
10. Is there any advice you’d like to give to any aspiring “rude gals” or boys who want to go into business?
I would say get out of the building and start making it happen. Whatever idea you have, start testing, experimenting or doing whatever takes to talk to your potential customers. Too often, it is easy to get stuck in the idea/research phase. One of the best advice that has stuck with me is “you don’t know what you don’t know. Start doing and get feedback, ASAP!” Whatever idea you’ve got, the only way to truly be successful is to start now. Talk to people, create a prototype and get it to market. Your customers will guide you, not the other way around.
Be Sure to check out her brand by clicking the link below. You can see more information on product and the process of what it takes to create these beautiful pieces.