Hi! Who are you, and what are you currently working on?
My name is Elovida Ndua and I’m the founder and owner of Hajime. Hajime is a collection of handmade, statement, bold, timeless and effortless jewelry.
Each of our pieces are designed for their uniqueness and comfort by skilled artisans in Kenya. Hajime prides itself in ethical and sustainable fashion.
Our jewelry is made from brass which is an affordable alternative to gold. It is an alloy of copper and zinc, it’s durable, very malleable, looks good and is sustainable.
This makes it a very attractive choice for jewelry making. We recently introduced 24k gold plated brass pieces which elevates the luxury of our jewelry brand. Our most recent addition is silver plated pieces.
I ventured into the jewelry business in December 2018 by starting to buy and sell jewelry pieces to make a profit. I later started working with my own artisans where we would design and produce handmade pieces at our workshop.
My goal is to make Hajime the top and leading luxurious and sustainable jewelry company in Kenya and Africa. I hope this will inspire young people to pursue their passions without fear of failure.
Some of the milestones achieved so far include: expanding into global markets and strategizing to become a luxury brand. I am building a website for creating brand awareness and reaching new customers.
We have established a base locally, and my aim is to have our social media and website running to establish our brand internationally.
So far Hajime has made and sold jewelry to customers in Africa and the United States.
The last three months we have sold over 500 pieces locally and shipped 190 orders to the United States. This has generated approximately $4.5k in revenue for 3 months.
What’s your background, and what motivated you to start your business venture?
My background is in law and research. I studied law in Strathmore University in Kenya and after graduating, worked as a legal researcher in various organizations.
I did not have any prior experience in jewelry making until venturing into the business.
I learned about designing, making and marketing jewelry from online resources. However, I learned jewelry processes and skills through an apprenticeship.
I would spend hours in the workshop with other artisans observing and learning how to make jewelry pieces, the tools used, safety measures and all the processes.
My passion for entrepreneurship drove me into starting a jewelry business. I wanted to run a business as a teenager in high school, and remember documenting all ideas that I wanted to implement after school.
That didn’t happen as I joined university to pursue a career in law. In university I would buy jewelry pieces from China and sell them to my friends and other students at a profit.
In 2018, I met this lady who was selling handmade beaded jewelry at her shop. I started researching about starting a jewelry business and market.
At first I worked with suppliers, and was not involved in the designing and making process.
There were so many frustrations because most of the time the suppliers would not meet my expectations on quality and design.
There were also so many delays and it became almost impossible to rely on the suppliers. This is what made me look into starting my own business with my artisans and come up with my own designs.
This ensured the quality was excellent and there would be no delays.
How did you get started? What did the early days look like?
After learning about brass jewelry I was very motivated and ready to start. I pitched the idea to a friend and she was interested to invest.
Our initial capital was $100 which we used to purchase jewelry from middle men and resell them to our friends and family.
We later parted ways as she was working a full-time job and had little time to spare for running the business.
I would reinvest back the little profit I was making. There was minimal growth for two years, and some months I would make less than 10 sales.
This was largely because the purchased pieces sometimes did not meet the market trends and also the quality was not the best.
At the end of 2020, I decided to explore some new tactics and that is when I started seeing and experiencing change and growth. I became present, and involved in all jewelry making processes.
I also went to the workshop daily to observe and learn about the processes. This was a game changer, because I was in control and would design the pieces myself with the assistance of other artisans.
We majored in customized designs, and having a workshop ensured supply would be uninterrupted.
This solved the issue of quality and delays. From there, I spent the last two years learning and exploring new strategies to grow my business.
The last year has been the best so far.
I’ve earned new customers, more sales and hence more revenue. The early days were tough, and I almost gave up so many times but chose to keep working hard which I am still doing.
How have you grown your business venture?
When I first ventured into the business, I used a refer-a-friend campaign to acquire new customers. I maximized the word of mouth strategy to grow my customer base.
Approximately 90% of my sales were from customers influenced by my friends and family. When I started, I used to get my pieces from a supplier and resell them at a profit.
Although this can be a common way to make money on eBay it did not work well with me as I wanted to be more involved in the whole process, and get rid of the middle men.
That is when I decided to partner with skilled artisans to have my own designs made from scratch to the final product.
At this stage, I was involved in every single step of the process until the product reached the customers.
Apart from the production work, I photographed all my pieces and advertised on my whatsApp stories for my friends and family to view.
I maintained a database of all my clients and would let them know once a new product or design was available. This helped accelerate business growth.
In addition, I started exploring alternative channels for marketing my business. We started with offline marketing strategies, later tried whatsApp, and finally started exploring other social media platforms such as Instagram to grow.
In November 2020, I got a new client from the United States, who was very interested in my jewelry. We were in communication for months and in May 2021 she visited Kenya and learned the processes herself.
This was a huge opportunity as she provided a channel for Hajime’s products to reach the international market.
We also worked together to develop her own designs for the United States market.
Through my website, I am hoping to promote my jewelry to a wider market and grow my sales and profit.
What is 1 small but powerful tactic you implemented that helped you achieve success? How did it make a difference?
Having a small, skilled, and efficient team. I stopped buying ready made jewelry pieces from suppliers and comprised my own team of skilled artisans.
It made a huge difference for the business as I would have unlimited supply in a timely manner.
Delays did not happen, and it ensured quality stayed intact. The jewelry quality improved dramatically, and I was involved from the point of sourcing the materials to the point of a finished piece.
One of our core values is sustainability and having this team and being in charge made this possible.
We are also able to produce custom and ethically sourced designs for our clients and walk with them through the process of designing and producing samples.
What is one of the biggest challenges you faced during your business journey, and how did you overcome it?
Having no experience in the jewelry business while getting started led to so many costly mistakes.
One of the biggest challenges was paying suppliers who did not deliver on time and some delivered faulty products.
I had to learn the hard way to start and grow my own jewelry making business without involving suppliers “middle men”.
Another challenge was working for a long time without profit as I was reinvesting everything.
What is one new or unusual trend showing up in your industry that you’re paying attention to?
Customers value pieces with a story. They want to know the story behind each piece and they put value in that.
I want to start telling these stories on my social media and website so that my customers can see the processes involved and the people behind it.
Another trend is supporting ethically made jewelry and the impact on the environment.
This is one of our strongholds as all our pieces are made from ethically sourced materials and they ensure sustainability. 90% of brass in the world today is recycled.
What is the biggest factor that separates successful people from people who fail or never get started?
Fear of failure. Most people do not want to fail and so they get afraid of starting projects that they think they cannot manage.
A successful person makes that first step and then figures out the next one. Without actions, ideas are just ideas.
I choose this factor because I believe in failing to be successful. Failure depends on how you view it.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started?
If you are intending to start a jewelry business, make sure you are providing your customers high quality products and great service.
This will determine whether they will come back or refer you to other customers. Be present and know the basics such as the processes and materials.
Also keep your financial records updated and constantly check them to know how your business is doing. You can be making a lot of sales but no profit.
The little things matter the most. Make sure you are in compliance with rules and regulations of running the business.
Treat your workers well, pay them above the minimum wage and ensure they are motivated.
Start with what you have and embrace small milestones. Do not wait around for the right time to implement your idea.
Also, be ready to put in the work and overcome the challenging times. It is not easy, but eventually everything will make sense and you will start seeing the results of your hard work.
How are things going today and what’s next?
Market development is in progress now, which the new website will support as well.
I am also gradually growing my Instagram account to gain new customers by creating engaging content.
What have been the most influential podcasts, books, or other resources?
The 5 AM Club book by Robin Sharma inspired me to become my own boss by getting rid of distractions.
The School of Greatness podcast by Lewis Howes inspired me to become more passionate about entrepreneurship.
Where can we go to learn more?
Feel free to follow me on Instagram @hajime_jewellery
Jack Brewer is passionate about all things personal finance, and enjoys testing out new side hustles and investing strategies.