Right from her childhood years, Amaka Ezeugwa was fond of arts and crafts. She enjoyed making earrings and bangos from beads and pearls, decorations from papers and glues and other art works she could explore.
Amaka was also a huge lover of poetry, so it was not a surprise that when she decided to fully venture into fashion entrepreneurship, she got the name of her business brand from her favorite books.
Amaka had never seen herself doing white collar jobs, she always wanted to channel her passion for handcraft into a career. This need to become a boss and derive fulfilment led her to launch a jewelry line, called Zoya’s Jewels.
Zoya’s Jewels deals on earrings, lapels, broaches, rings, pendants, necklaces, hair pins/bands, customized engravement and more. As hinted earlier, the brand was named after two books, Zoya and Jewels, both authored by Danielle Steel. Each of these books had a character who was a Jeweller and Amaka, seeing herself as one, eventually worked her way up to become a professional jeweller.
Amaka was scheduled to travel to the United States of America for her masters degree, however she made a 5-month stop in India to study Jewelry Design and Production before heading to the U.S. Subsequently, she took a couple of courses to help grow her skills and qualification in the business. According to the 30-year old entrepreneur, learning never stops, it’s a continuous process as long as business is concerned.
“With jewelry, it never stops at one thing. There’s always something new to learn,” she says. “Recently, I took a course because I need to be at the top of my game at all times.”
After completing her masters programme, Amaka launched Zoya’s Jewels with a start up of N60,000 and a piece of advise from Chris Aire, popular jeweller and timepiece designer. Leveraging on the contacts of some jewellers she met in India, Amaka got beautiful pieces which she sold off to her friends during a house party she organised in Atlanta to launch her brand. Thereafter, business was good, but Amaka was not satisfied with doing business abroad.
“I knew making jewelries was my forte but at the same time home was calling. So in 2013, I packed my bags and returned to Nigeria to fully grow the business,” she recalled. “Settling in and building a new clientele in Nigeria was quite challenging. However, I got relieved on the marketing aspect when I stumbled on SMEMarketHub. I was about setting up a website for Zoya so the hub covered that concern for free. I didn’t need to pay a web designer or worry about purchasing a domain name for a website to own my online store. I also made good use of social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter asides selling in different physical stores where I stock my products.”
Amaka makes most of the jewelries herself, and orders some from the U.S, India and China. She runs the business all by herself with little assistance with a logistics company. One of the challenges Amaka faced when she moved back to Nigeria was making items that tarnished when exposed to the Nigerian weather. However, she crossed that hurdle by tailoring her jewelries to strive better in harsh whether conditions.
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“Another challenge I faced was during the Naira devaluation when I had to spend more money to buy less items. I also had some issues with clients who re-order a single piece of imported items. Meanwhile the factory producers could only take orders not less than 500 pieces per design.
As a smart Nigerian Hustler, Amaka has learnt different ways to handle her concerns and has grown in the business. She also connects with other jewellers in different focus groups, where they share ideas and carry out exhibitions.
Amaka’s educational background, graduate of Economics and Master’s holder in Interdisciplinary studies/Applied Analytics, are very relevant to her line of business. Currently, she is a certified Jewelry professional with GIA, one of the most reputable organisations for gemstone jewellers around the world. She sees Zoya’s Jewels as a conglomerate building a community of jewellers across Africa and is working on a new brand that would create unique and luxury pieces from precious stones, swarovski stones, and gemstones.
Haven traded for a good number of years, Amaka’s advise to other jewellers is to be sincere about their products.
“Don’t be like some Nigerian tailors who sell false hope. It’s better to tell a client what item will tarnish in one week and which one will last forever, leaving them with the choice to make their own decisions.”