Making her mark with jewels. (Images via Curve Jewellery)
If you want to find jewelry traders operating in the Arabian Gulf, a simple search on Google can lead you to a long list of local stores, international brands, and traders. This is just one indication of how competitive the field is.
But a recent entrant to the field, Bahraini gemologist Khulood Abdulqader (below), believes she can compete with her innovative products. Abdulqader's product line, Curve Jewellery, is designed with natural pearls and an amalgam of various precious stones. She received initial financial support from the Bahrain Development Bank and UNIDO.
“My end-goal is to establish an international company and so I think it is important to choose a name that is easily pronounced by everybody and that’s why I chose the word curve,” Abdulqader said, and added that company names should be meaningful. “As you know jewelry curves around the neck, fingers, and hands, which makes women more beautiful.”
It’s not only about the market, but also about the culture
Demand for jewelry in Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf is embedded in local tradition. Women purchase jewelry as an investment in their savings and also to offer gifts to their loved ones.
Abdulqader established her presence in the local market by combining her educational background in gemology with thorough market research. She has managed to attract international customers by adding a western touch to her pearl sets while keeping their Arabic identity. She has five product lines:
Turath (the Arabic word for heritage) is about traditional pieces. “I try to make it traditional. It is what my international clients ask for.”
Ours (the Arabic word for wedding) is designed in combination with solitaire and other types of diamonds, designed in sets for wedding gifts.
Moda, a blend of western fashion and Arabic design.
Hourouf (the Arabic word for letter) references Arabic calligraphy. The line aims to attract the attention of younger people and potential customers.
Yahal (means children in the Bahraini accent) especially designed for children.
Female entrepreneurs should think outside of the box
A successful business model should obviously provide value for customers and also have a strategy to monetize this value, creating a sustainable profit. Abdulqader offered the following advice on how to do that:
1. It is crucial to understand the power of supply and demand, market gaps and how to produce a unique product. Abdulqader was able to grow her business and establish a reputation partly because she is the only pearl designer in Bahrain.
2. The planning phase and marketing strategy are important. Usually, startups launch their business with funds from business incubators, who train and mentor entrepreneurs in their initial stages. This in turn is helpful when writing a marketing plan.
“I have taken courses and participated in business planning training through[Vital Voices Global Partnership] and many others to shape my knowledge,” she added. “I have done lots of volunteering to help other entrepreneurs too. Learning from others is very important.”
The third powerful tool that has helped Abdulqader and her fellow- businesswomen in Bahrain is social media. For a business that leans so much on designs and visuals, Instagram is an effective tool to show the product to customers, while Facebook and Twitter facilitate interaction with the customers. Maintaining regular communication with journalists and media institutions also helps a lot.
And finally, establishing a presence locally and abroad by participating in international exhibitions and festivals provides opportunities to reach a wider network of customers.
The Vital Voices GROW Fellowship (VV GROW Fellowship) is a highly competitive one-year accelerator program for women owners of small- and medium-sized businesses. The program includes customized business skills training, technical assistance, leadership development, and access to networks to grow their business and increase their leadership impact.
Through global and regional online and in-person interventions, fellows focus on strategy and long-term business value paired with action-oriented plans. They amplify their role as leaders in their businesses and their communities to ultimately create jobs, stimulate long-term economic growth and produce wider social benefits. The founding global partner for the VV GROW Fellowship is the ExxonMobil Foundation. Since 2008, Vital Voices has partnered with the ExxonMobil Foundation to build innovative regional networks that train, mentor, and connect thousands of women business leaders in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.