24, Mar 2023
Mejuri CEO, Noura Sakkijha, on building a sustainable jewelery empire

How being a woman and pregnant impacted her journey

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Noura Sakkijha co-founded Judge in 2013 in Toronto. Sakkijha, Mejuri’s CEO, set out to redefine the fine jewelery industry. Traditionally, fine jewelery can be expensive, environmentally harmful and reserved for gifting occasions. Mejuri offers more affordable and sustainable jewelery designed to be worn every day and purchased by the wearer.

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Mejuri has a large range of jewelery, both in style and price. But all pieces are artisanally made with sustainable materials. The jewelers use a combination of 80 per cent recycled gold and 20 per cent newly mined gold, in order to support communities that rely on the industry.

Mejuri does a great job at offering individual pieces of jewelery that complement each other, making it easy to slowly “build” your perfect stack of necklaces, rings, earrings or bracelets. And Mejuri’s website makes it easy by offering recommendations, like this earring trio featuring Bold Huggie Hoops, Big Diamond Studs (or the much more affordable, Round Topaz Studs) and Pavé Diamond Medium Hoops.

Bold Huggie Hoops
Bold Huggie Hoops. Photo by Mejuri

Sakkijha has successfully built Mejuri into an internationally-renowned jewelery brand, but her journey wasn’t all shine and sparkles. Sakkijha faced challenges because she’s a female founder asking for investments, compounded by the fact that at the time of her Series B fundraising, she was pregnant.

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Q&A with Noura Sakkijha

Q: What would the Coles notes version of your journey look like from an MBA at Ryerson University to the co-founder and CEO of Mejuri?

A: While I was doing my MBA, I got a position as a process engineering consultant at one of Canada’s largest financial institutions. I was genuinely interested and passionate about industrial engineering and supply chain in particular, and I am grateful that I pursued it.

I learned so much from my experience in engineering that helped me build Mejuri. However, coming from a family where entrepreneurship is the norm — we all have that “why not” mentality — I always wanted to start a business of my own.

I spent my days working at the firm and my nights working on building what I wanted: a brand that speaks to women buying fine jewelry for themselves first; a brand that welcomes gifting, without prioritizing it from others. Doing so meant rethinking an entire industry, from brand values ​​and operations to product design and photography. I pitched the idea and won the top prize at a business plan competition. In 2015, I quit my job and decided to completely focus on Mejuri, and the rest is history.

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Q: Do you think being a woman has impacted your journey? If so, how?

A: It definitely impacted the fundraising process — sadly, such a small percentage of women-founded companies raise capital. When we decided to fundraise for our Series B, I was six months pregnant. I was nervous about how people would perceive me — when my partner and I were raising our Series A round, one investor asked us during our pitch if we planned on having kids. We were taken aback — because it was clearly something that would factor into their decision.

This time around, my pregnancy became a barometer for finding good partners. If you have an issue with a pregnant, woman CEO Mejuri isn’t for you. My twin girls will always be part of the story, a reality that left me feeling vulnerable yet liberated. I’ve since been introduced to an amazing community of women investors and founders whose shared experiences have given me comfort. Being a woman and mother has ultimately made me a better leader; I am more efficient, balanced and I can see all the amazing individual strengths within my team.

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Q: What differentiates Mejuri from other jewelery brands?

A: The jewelry industry is large and luxury brands have always been key players, however, I believe there is room for different angles and jewelery brands to exist and grow. That being said, I started Mejuri to democratize the industry and encourage our community to purchase for themselves as opposed to waiting to be gifted which is the traditional approach in fine jewelry. Since inception, our community has been at the core of everything we do. A main priority for us has been nurturing and strengthening our relationships with members of our community, leveraging their feedback as a way to make design decisions and introduce new products or trends.

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We were one of the first brands to launch a direct-to-consumer fine jewelry platform for women to buy jewelry for themselves and we pioneered the weekly drop model in fine jewelry. Our brand ethos — of empowering individuals and celebrating ourselves and one another — hasn’t changed since day one and has always resonated with our customers. We continue to tell this narrative through various campaigns and partnerships.

Q: What are your current favorite Mejuri rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings?

A: My current favorite pieces are definitely the newly launched ones Evil Eye Beaded Pendant Necklace inspired by my Jordanian roots, our Rolo Chain Charm Necklace that allows me to be playful with charms and of course, all of our Signature Stackers — especially the Pavé Diamond Soft Charlotte Ring.

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Evil Eye Beaded Pendant Necklace.
Evil Eye Beaded Pendant Necklace. Photo by Mejuri

Q: What are other female-led brands in Canada and beyond that you love?

A: The Canadian brand Knix, and its founder Joanna Griffiths, never cease to amaze me with their mission and business growth. Another favorite Canadian woman-founded brand is Andrea Iyamaher designs are beautifully bold and expressive.

Outside of Canada, I’m a big fan of Ganni which has sustainability at its core. And the pieces are high quality yet accessible.

Q: What advice would you give other female entrepreneurs in Canada?

A: Every day has something to be proud of. I work with amazing people who continuously deliver great work from partnering with the top suppliers and manufacturers in the world to drive employee initiatives that resonate with our team, to handle challenges that we face with a customer-first mentality. I think it is important to look at your wins every day, especially in these times and celebrate yourself.

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For Canada specifically, there is a lot of excitement and support within Canada’s tech ecosystem and I would encourage other women entrepreneurs to look into it. I have built strong relationships with people in the industry who have given me great advice over the years. We were fortunate to receive so much support and access not only from them but from the government-funded programs that support entrepreneurs within the tech industry.

Q: What is the Year of Action Committee (YOAC) and why is it important to you?

A: I feel passionate that individuals have the right to determine their own future and design the life they want — I founded Mejuri on this very premise. Knowing that almost half of our employees and a majority of our customers are based in the US, my team and I feel an innate responsibility to protect their safety and well-being.

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We were one of the first brands to speak out when Roe v. Wade was overturned, but we wanted to do more. We partnered with the Don’t Ban Equality coalition — including Planned Parenthood and American Civil Liberties Union — and brought together a collective of brands to form the Year of Action committee. We know there is power in numbers, and that we can expand our reach with like-minded brands by our side. The committee will host a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, organize community walks across the country to support mental health, engage with American colleges to provide resources and education and launch new partnerships to drive awareness. This is one of many projects we’re working on this year to empower those around us to live life to their fullest potential.

Check out what’s new at Mejuri.

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rmann@postmedia.com

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