Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with Basma Chaieri, founder of Etika Jewels. With a passion for innovation, an interest in exploring lab-grown diamonds and 12 years in e-commerce under her belt, the idea for Etika Jewels was born. “For me, a diamond that is eco-friendly, free from any conflict or child labour, and more accessible was a no-brainer,” Chaieri notes.
Emirates Woman sat down with the brand’s founder to learn about her approach to business and how she’s championing a more ethical approach to diamonds in this region.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Physics and Math were my favourites!
What was your first job?
My first job was at an e-commerce startup in Barcelona, Spain – where I lived for a few years. This is where I started developing my passion for e-commerce, startups, and entrepreneurship.
What brought you to Dubai?
I followed my husband back in 2014. We were living in Casablanca at that time, and we were looking for a new life adventure, so the plan was to come to the UAE for a two to three-year experience, and here we are still in this beautiful land that we call home now!
What inspired you to enter the jewellery space?
With more than 12 years of experience in e-commerce and online businesses, mainly in the travel industry, I realize now that diverting my career path to the jewellery space was an unconventional decision, not a typical one! I guess I found myself at a crossroads where many factors pushed me to make changes in my life.
First of all, I was searching for an activity with a positive impact that would make a difference – and I was absolutely fascinated by the lab-grown diamonds innovation. For me, a diamond that is eco-friendly, free from any conflict or child labour, and more accessible was a no-brainer. Also, as a mum of 2 young kids, I was concerned with educating them on matters that affect their future. I had to teach them by example how to become conscious customers and foster a genuine concern for the environment and people. I also had to show them in practice that there is no limit to what they can achieve in life if they are willing to put in the hard work, determination, and discipline.
Last but not least, after many years in the corporate environment, I “got my job as” the Founder of Etika Jewels by creating the work environment I envisioned for myself. An environment that is flexible, agile, and can adapt to a rapidly evolving innovative market. From the very beginning, we wanted to build honest and genuine relationships in an environment that puts people first – whether it’s a client, an employee, or a partner. We aspired to create a company with a meaningful mission, bringing together values of boldness, sustainability, and commitment.
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Talk us through the inspiration for your pieces.
We find inspiration in today’s strong and active women. With a very busy schedule, modern women look for items that instantly transform their looks. They need jewellery that gives their outfit a quick upgrade for effortless everyday elegance. Juggling all sorts of roles and responsibilities, from business meetings and social gatherings to running family errands, these women insist on wanting to look their best. And they achieve this by opting for high-quality low-maintenance pieces that are comfy to wear around the clock. We create jewellery with a mission to make women look and feel fabulous all day long, from that morning walk to the office to an afternoon get-together with friends; it’s all about day-to-evening elegance. Our mission is to create instant stunners for every woman, even when dressed in neutrals. For that matter, we mostly use significantly big diamonds in our jewellery, and we pick only the best quality and cuts to give any look that wow factor. These pieces can easily be worn individually or mixed & matched with others, being designed as true classics in your closet!
What are the key elements of your role?
One of the things I love about startups is that the roles are not strictly defined – and everyone on the team has a broad scope of responsibilities. We are a women-run business with the most amazing team of intelligent and creative ladies doing everything from web development and digital marketing to copywriting and operations. I’m more involved in the diamond purchase, design, and production aspects. I also try to be as close as I can to our clients, and more often than not, you will find me when reaching out to our contact number. And since we are an online boutique – not a physical one (yet) – I frequently do private meetings with my clients to discuss a particular order.
Talk us through your daily routine.
Thanks to my kids, my day starts very early, so I usually have long days to get a lot done. A typical day routine begins with getting the kids ready for school (not always an easy task) and dropping them off at school. Then I try to dedicate an hour and a half to physical activity (either gym or running or swimming); it helps me clear up my ideas and prep for the day with the best mindset. Then I get to work – starting with office work: customer attention, partnerships, web maintenance, emails, etc. – and concluding with outside meetings, workshop, production, packaging, and delivering orders. I then head to school to pick up the kids and make sure that the end of the day is all for the family, being present with them and spending quality time. After dinner and the kids’ bedtime, I usually go back to work for another two or three hours before my bedtime. Whatever the routine is, I always try to keep the work-life balance an absolute priority.
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What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
It might sound very much like an inspirational quote, but I would say go ahead and do it. That idea you have in mind, that project, that trip, that dream, do it. Don’t be scared to start over because you already have a significant journey. Each time, you will start from where you are standing today, carrying your personality, experience, and learnings. A change can come in different forms; it can be abrupt and unexpected, carefully planned, or gradual. Always do it your way, step by step, or all at once. The only right time to realize your dream is now, do not wait until all the stars align. Everything will make much more sense!
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Know when to say ‘No’ – precious advice from my parents. Ultimately we are all responsible for our happiness. So we have to say ‘Yes’ to what is good for us and what brings us joy and happiness. In the same way, we have to learn to say ‘No’ to what doesn’t feel right, what doesn’t align with our values, and ‘No’ to toxic relationships. This is how you create your personal boundaries and protect your inner peace.
And what is the worst?
In my opinion, the worst advice is the one that is not genuine, does not come from the heart, or has no good intentions. I’m blessed to be surrounded by genuine people, whether at work or within the family and circle of friends, who always give me sincere and honest advice or feedback.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Motherhood without any doubt, especially surviving the first year as a new mom. Nothing prepares you for that. I found it very challenging to combine my new role as a mother with a very demanding and fast-paced career. You are expected to work like you have no child when you are exhausted and clinically sleep-deprived, and you are expected to take care of your family like you have no professional life. I think society puts the standards on women very high at the expense of their physical and mental health. I’m happy to see that more and more companies try to prioritize the work-life balance and make the employee’s health a priority.
What are the future plans for your brand?
Our future plans are to continue to grow in our primary market – the Middle East – although our items can be shipped globally. Etika Jewels’ scaling strategy revolves around an effort to get closer to our customers, understand them even more, and respond to their needs and dreams. We aspire to be the company that has created awareness about lab-grown diamonds among the general public, a company known for making its part in building a more responsible fashion industry, and the one that has brought diamonds closer to you.
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