Noura Sakkijha founded direct-to-consumer jewelry brand Mejuri in Toronto in 2012. The Jordan-born entrepreneur’s company recently graduated from 500 Startups’ San Francisco accelerator and is an alumnus of Montreal’s FounderFuel program for early-stage startups. She told us about the opportunity she saw in mid-market jewelry sold online.
I’m a third-generation jeweller. My family members in the business are your traditional type of jewellers, focused on materials like gold and diamonds. As a younger woman, I wanted to shop for jewelry, but the options I had were either classic, expensive fine jewelry or costume jewelry that was fun and cheap but disposable. There was a gap in the market, which was filled by independent designers. But in order to survive, they had to mark up their product and sell through wholesale channels, which removes contact with the customer, minimizes the brand experience and makes the product more expensive than it has to be. On the retail side, there’s so much fragmentation: When your parents buy jewelry, they probably go to a mom-and-pop store where they know and trust the owner. There’s not necessarily a brand involved.
I thought, Most of the growth in fashion is coming from affordable luxury brands like Michael Kors, Kate Spade or J.Crew—next-generation brands with amazing supply chains. No equivalent thing was happening in the $180-billion fine jewelry industry. That’s where we came in.
We do very dainty pieces for everyday wear, and introduce new products frequently. We collect data from social media to see what customers love, and then we design pieces in-house. We also create collections by putting together mood boards to set the tone and then working collaboratively with independent designers and social media influencers.
The woman we’re targeting doesn’t mind paying a little bit extra for a diamond with a known source or a product that came from a factory that has no children working for it and pays fair wages. One competitive edge we had in the beginning was that, thanks to family connections, we had access to suppliers we’d known for years. So we manufacture in Jordan but also in South Korea, and I’m very proud to say that as of this month we manufacture in Canada as well.
Traditionally, jewellers market mainly for men to buy for women—it’s a gifting economy. But we target women who want to buy jewelry for themselves. We sell directly to the consumer, so there’s no middlemen in the process, and we don’t do huge markups: Most of our products sell for between $50 and $500. And our margins are pretty healthy, because we control the entire process. We have an amazing free return policy because we’re confident in our product, but our return rate is actually very low. We mostly sell online, but I think offline is very important too—we get to see people’s reactions when they look at the jewelry in real life, and we want to capitalize on that as we grow. But our strategy is to avoid wholesale. If we do bricks and mortar, it’s going to be pop-ups or shops-in-shops, where we can offer a branded experience to the customer.
We’re not selling super extravagant items, so there’s no trust barrier to buying online. Our customers are not purchasing a huge emerald; we’re giving them items they can wear every day. But we’re not compromising on quality: I haven’t taken my rings off in months, because they’re made of solid gold.
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