Raising a round of funding is a stressful and gruelling experience for any startup CEO. The last time Noura Sakkijha was relentlessly pitching her company, the Toronto-based fine jewellery brand Mejuri, to potential backers she was seven months pregnant with twin girls. Right before she landed her biggest deal to date, Sakkijha was on bed rest with preeclampsia (the same condition Beyoncé had when she was pregnant with her twins). Sakkijha and her husband, co-founder and Mejuri COO, Maj Masad, nailed down a massive $30-million in Series B funding with investors from her hospital bed. Stressful is an understatement.
“It was exhausting for me, but I looked at it like a challenge,” Sakkijha says. “It also helped me pick the right investors. If the investors aren’t comfortable with a founder who is going to dedicate a portion of her life to her family, those aren’t great investors. [Being pregnant] naturally helped me pick the right partner.”
Since launching in 2015, Sakkijha and Masad have raised $38-million towards their goal of changing the way the world thinks about buying bling. Traditional jewellers, Sakkijha says, market jewellery to men rather than women because of the belief that accessories of a certain quality should be bought — preferably on Valentine’s Day or a Very Fancy Occasion — by a straight woman’s boyfriend or husband. Mejuri does the opposite.
With a staff of over 80% women, Mejuri is a company by women for women. Its designs aren’t going for elaborate “look at what my SO bought for me” statement pieces. Instead, the inventory is timeless, with thin gold bands, classic small hoops, the occasional pearl earrings, and wearable diamonds that are understated yet still striking. Mejuri’s minimalist approach makes buying jewellery a more intimate experience for women who want enduring pieces for everyday wear that scream, “look, I bought this for myself!” Scratch that – Mejuri jewellery would make that declaration with a quiet whisper.
“When you look at Tiffany’s and you see the ads targeted towards men, there’s always the ring, the box, the same thing.” Sakkijha says. “I thought, ‘That’s not what we’re looking for.’ We wanted women to think of jewellery like they think of their shoes and their bags — if they want to buy fine jewellery frequently, they can, because now they have designs that fit their everyday life at a price that is reasonable, and you get great quality.”
Mejuri’s lower price point (from $88 for a solid white gold ring to $385 for a rose gold diamond necklace or around $1,200 for an engagement ring) is one of its most attractive attributes to customers, but also the one that faces the most skepticism. “We have to educate customers,” Masad says. “The customer looks at the price and says, ‘OK, this can’t be 14 karat gold or ‘This can’t be real gold or diamonds.’” Mejuri’s inventory of delicate rings, dainty pendants, unusual engagement rings, and more recently, barely there solid gold anklets, is 100% real — and ethically sourced.
They keep prices low by being a “direct-to-consumer” business, meaning that they focus on online sales, with only two showrooms (New York and Toronto) so they almost completely cut out expensive manufacturers, marketing campaigns, and bricks-and-mortar stores that can cost traditional jewellery companies millions. Sakkijha would know. The former industrial engineer is the third generation of a family of Jordanian jewellers (she moved from Jordan to Toronto to do her MBA at Ryerson). The old-school model she grew up with is exactly why Sakkijha founded Mejuri. She wanted to bring fine jewellery to millennial women. Now, 75% of Mejuri’s customers are women buying for themselves, and 75% of those women are millennials.
Instead of seasonal releases or big marketing campaigns like the old-school brands, the company has “weekly drops” — the first of its kind in the jewellery industry — where they release fresh inventory to their 444,000 Instagram followers at the beginning of every week. With the help of influencers and repeat customers, the Mejuri Monday Editions tend to sell out instantly. They don’t even use hashtags. Their IG aesthetic is just like their jewellery: less is more.
Mejuri’s concept is so simple, it may be easy to underestimate it. In early pitches to potential investors, Sakkijha heard things like “the jewellery market is overcrowded” and she recalls the first seed round being “difficult” because they didn’t have name-recognition or traction. Millions of dollars and a set of twins later, Mejuri seems to be doing just fine. The brand is nominated for two Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards this month: Accessory Designer of the Year and The Joe Fresh Fashion Innovation Award. A Vancouver pop-up store they opened recently gathered lineups around the block, and they’re also looking to expand their showrooms to L.A. and Chicago. With Series B funding secured, Sakkijha has big plans for the future of Mejuri.
“We’re really focusing on building a brand that women want to be a part of by making luxury a habit and treating yourself,” Sakkijha says. “We want expand internationally and continue to build a movement of women empowerment.”