The ‘Ladybrille Entrepreneur Spotlight’ is a feature on Ladybrillemag.com profiling diverse entrepreneurs, primarily small and medium size business owners. If you will like to be featured, please complete the form below for consideration. Our spotlight for today is on Teni Ekundare, CEO & Creative Director of Almeida Gems.
Teni Ekundare is the CEO and Creative Director of Almeida Gems, a luxury jewelry brand designed with the modern person in mind – in all their multi-tasking, multiple-hat wearing glory – who celebrate their achievements but still plan for even bigger accomplishments ahead.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Why did you to start your business?
TENI: It seems to me that in this aspirational world we live in, we’re always being encouraged to look for something more and ask what’s next – the next big win, the next big goal. I wanted jewellery that would celebrate who I am today and what I have achieved so far, in this moment, rather than constantly searching the horizon for what’s next. So, I decided to go out and design just that! My designs are for the busy woman, juggling lots of balls – career, relationships, friendships, health, children, whatever – who is fully comfortable in her own skin – comfortable with who she is and where she is but nonetheless has plans to continue to grow, however that growth looks to her.
I have also recently begun designing pieces for men, a process I find fascinating as the reason men wear jewellery is often so different to women. When I start designing, I picture a man who feels that they are a success but that feeling comes from recognising their failures and short comings. They know that there are many facets that make a man and that success is not measured by reaching the pinnacle in all areas. My pieces are for the man who knows they don’t have it all and are comfortable with that, enjoying the moment while continuing to plan for growth.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How did you handle time management and delegation in the initial phase?
TENI: Having two young boys has made running Almeida Gems even more of a challenge as my family is young and still requires a great deal of my attention (actually, will this ever change??). Delegation was never a problem as there was no one to delegate to! However with time management, I have learnt to be very creative, squeezing as much out of each day as I can. I am a big fan of organising my time and so each evening, I write my list of what I need to achieve the next day. I plan what times I will spend on what tasks and at the end of the following day, I review any items which were missed, allocate them space to the next day and begin the process again. Discipline is key!
LADYBRILLEmag.com:Where and how did you obtain funding?
TENI: I was a stock-broker for many years prior to launching Almeida Gems and so I had some savings built up which meant that Almeida Gems could be fully funded from my personal finances. This has worked really well for me as it has meant I’ve been even more focused on ensuring Almeida is a success and I have had the space and freedom to develop my brand in the way that works best for me and my vision – while there have been times I have wished I had an outside investor, for me, the struggle has been worth it in order to retain autonomy over the direction of the brand so far. That’s not to say I won’t reach out to investors at some point when I wish to take Almeida to the next level beyond my investment abilities! But for now, this system has worked well.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How did you acquire your first customer?
TENI: I started out designing engagement rings as I love the challenge of creating a piece that is unique to the bride-to-be, stands out from anything else she may already have but that she can wear all day every day, no matter what she’s putting her hands through. The thought of an engagement ring which can only be worn on special occasions absolutely baffles me!
I had a friend of a friend who was renewing her wedding vows after 10 years and wanted to upgrade her engagement ring. She knew I had contacts in the jewellery world and so asked me to come up with designs for her engagement ring which wouldn’t cost the earth. I set to it and had a great time working on her ring and I was able to save her over £2,000 from what she was quoted at a jewellery store and provide her with a much better quality diamond to boot! That gave me the confidence that I really could do this business well, sourcing high quality gemstones and save people money at the same time and so I decided to jump in with both feet.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What steps did you take to build systems in your business?
TENI: Because I wear so many hats, I have to be very careful in ensuring I don’t let one area or task dominate my work to the detriment of other things I need to achieve. For me, that means being strict in how I allocate my time between various tasks and remaining disciplined in not “borrowing” time from other tasks too much!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What has been your greatest challenge in business so far?
TENI: The jewellery industry throws up so many challenges, from changing trends, colours, gemstones, social media platforms, finances, prioritising… it’s difficult to pick just one as the greatest! But if I had to, I think I’d say getting your voice heard – there is a lot of noise out there and I want to make sure that I am actually adding value, not just making noise for the sake of it.
Also, the constant balancing act between my family, my business and myself is something that I don’t think I will ever feel I have completely got right, but I’m ok with that, as I’ll keep working on it while celebrating the strides I’ve made in improving – something I’m sure the Almeida Girl and Almeida Guy would understand too!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is the best advice you have ever received as a business owner?
TENI: The best advice I’ve been given is NEVER TO WAIT FOR PEOPLE TO COME TO YOU. You’ve got to go out there and knock on a few doors, you can’t wait for the opportunity to come to you, go out and get it. After all, there’s no point in having the best product in the world if the world doesn’t know about it, so you’ve got to go out there and get your voice heard.