How did Ahima Jewellry get started?
I studied Metal Art in Ghana and then I did a masters in Jewellery here [in the UK]. I taught for two years, I worked for a little bit and then decided that I can just start my own thing. So I just decided to start it! The name is my middle name. Because I was making something that was Ghanaian, I wanted a name that reflected that. And Ahima is my middle name so why not!
What do you think makes your jewellry different from all the rest?
From what I saw with this kind of jewellry in the market, it was mainly only in silver and solid 18ct gold. I realised, If you were looking for a gift for someone, that is affordable, made in sterling silver, but in gold or rose gold colour, that it was basically non existent. I wanted something that was modern and different so it’s [my jewellry] sterling silver but plated in 18ct yellow gold and rose gold.
It’s not the usual sterling silver colour and it’s not as expensive as if you were to invest and buy gold [solid gold].
Secondly, I worked in different jewellery houses, in Ghana and did some internships here [in the UK]. I realised that there was not a dedicated website where you go and shop beautiful branded Adinkra jewelry, much like how you would normally see from a jewellry house here. They [other jewellry makers] do the designs but most don’t have a dedicated website where you can just buy from any country and get them shipped to you. I decided to focus my attention on building a fashionable product, and a good website that speaks well to the designs, their stories and their meaning.
We do ship internationally and it’s been a lot of work with SEOs and marketing. It’s good that people are recognising it and feel confident enough to buy from it.
Why use jewellry as a medium?
Growing up, I was always an artsy person. I was the type watching the craft shows on TV as a kid. I would experiment after watching it, making all types of stuff. When I was going to high school, I got to choose what I wanted to study. Most people would choose business and science but I wanted to do art. It was a bit weird that I was one of the few people who actually wanted to do art in my class but I got to explore different options and stuff like that.
I went to uni to do art as well and I did my first year foundation. I tried three or four different things: I tried ceramics, I did textiles, graphic design, painting. I felt that jewelry was a bit different and wasn’t that expensive to set up. If I did painting, there’s a lot of big painters out there. If I did ceramics, ceramics are not that common in Ghana. I would have to invest a lot in getting a kiln. It’s easy here but it’s not easy to get back home. I also like fashion and textiles. Everyone knows fashion and textiles so I decided to do jewellry.
I just love crafting in general. I’m not really bound to jewellry but jewellry is something where I feel the freedom to express myself and make something different.
What does it mean to be a Black owned business?
One of the main reasons that motivated me to use the Ghanaian symbols, was probably around the time that Jaime Oliver introduced his jerk chicken recipe. I was like wow, if we don’t tell our own stories and make our own stuff, someone else is going to do it. We’ll scream that it’s cultural appropriation but we’re not doing anything. I felt like if I am a jeweler I should tell my story, I should share it. Make it in good quality that you would be proud to see.
So when I hear Black owned business, I feel like the person is telling their own story. I’m happy to see that, I’m happy to hear that. For most people who are black owned business, you’ll find that even if elements are the same, they’ll have different meanings or different versions of stuff that they’re bringing out. I feel like that’s great and it’s bringing something different to the world.
For me, I decided that I wanted to give something back. That’s why I started the donation aspect. I feel like if I've done something from this business, it’s from Ghana, and I'm profiting from it here [UK] so I should give something back. It’s our country to develop so it was an opportunity to do so.
What have been your greatest accomplishments and challenges?
My greatest accomplishment is that this thing is still going! I’m in my third year and I'm bringing new designs. I dreamed that I was going to do this and it’s still going after three years. I'm doing it full time so it’s an accomplishment for me! I took a lot from this and have opened a second jewellry business [that is called Ohemaa Jewellery], I needed a name that rhymes with my name and I like the meaning, “Queen”. That jewellry line is mainly made from brass and it’s more affordable. With that brand I’m able to take lessons and mistakes that I’ve learned with the first brand [Ahima] to build this second one. It’s helped in a way.
My challenge is that I have two audiences for Ahima Jewellery. For my first audience, I'm not sure where to get them because it’s tricky. My first audience is aged 50, 60 and they’re mainly not on/ actively on Facebook and Instagram. So I’m like where are you?! I’m struggling to find where they are and to speak to them. They wouldn’t think twice to buy because they’re looking for a sentimental gift for their daughters, their wives etc.
My second audience is second generation Ghanaians in the diaspora, that are a bit affluent. They still have the money but they’re wondering if they should wait to spend it on a Louis Vuitton bag or Ahima Jewellry. Forget about the LV bag, buy Ahima now!
How do you communicate to your two audiences?
The first couple of things I sold were from these two audiences. The first person that I sold to, who wasn’t family, was from America, someone that age [50-60]. He actually sent a letter back to me thanking me. That was when I knew that was my audience through the purchases. For the second group, I know they’re on Instagram and Facebook. I need to keep on it for them to buy. So I try to find what they like, the captions and images that draw them and show more of that on my Instagram and Facebook feed.
For the second audience, I kind of know where they are. It’s just convincing them so I have to be active. The first group, sometimes it’s word of mouth and I’m still experimenting with other avenues to meet them. Last year, I tried YouTube. It wasn’t YouTube ads per say. Instead it was a YouTube channel about pre and post independence Ghana. Their audience was my first audience. I went in there for three months. After the end of the video they would show my pieces. What is funny is that one time my dad sent me a Whatsapp - I’ve seen your jewellry on Youtube! He saw it through one of his friends, a friend not knowing that I was his daughter.
Any advice for Black creatives and entrepreneurs?
I would say just go for it. And when you go for it, start with lean marketing. Which I learned from my first business. Lean marketing is more like if you want to start, start with a few samples or pieces. Instead of going out and making 10 phone covers of 20 designs, maybe start with 3 designs and see which one moves. If I want to bring a new design out, I bring 10 pieces and do markets for two months with my current collection. If something comes out of it then I do another five samples to make sure that the audience really likes it - before I say it’s part of my new collection. I test it out that way. Don’t invest too much in stock. It’s better to run out then to have too much in your house.
When I started Ahima, I did it big. I did trade shows and made lots of stock. You might like an idea, it’s big and nice, in your head. But it’s not only what you like, but what people would actually like and purchase. It’s what you can convince them to buy.
Some items, they [customers] say “Oh, I’ve been looking for this I love it”. Some items you have to convince them enough to buy. The UK has a lot of craft shows, a lot of markets. So do markets, do craft shows. Don’t do just one, do around 5 or 6. And then eliminate and build from there. My first few markets didn’t do so well, but now I do markets every weekend so just keep going. Do at least 5 or 6 then you can decide, I’m going to change it this way or this is working, this isn’t working.
What other products do you make?
I did a course in perfumery, I did so many courses you won’t believe it! I’ve always liked perfumes and I’ve always dreamed of having my own perfume line. I decided to test the market to see what I liked. There’s so much shea butter around but a lot of people don’t know about the oils. It’s rare to find. For mine, I have to find an importer from Ghana to bring it to me. Even in Ghana you can’t just get. First you get the oil before you get the butter - so they [the suppliers] prefer to make the butter right away. So you have to speak to them, telling them that when you get the oil, save it for me. They’re still struggling with transportation but I felt like that’s one avenue I could take.
I had five scents in my head, but I just tried two. I have two scented and an unscented one. I feel like it’s not a common product and most people don’t know it. It has all the benefits of shea butter, it doesn’t get hard. For my Shea oils, I don't mix them with almond oil or coconut oil because people are allergic to stuff its just pure 100% Shea oil. I did a trial for a year before launching. I hope people love it.