Emirati Salama Mohamed started her pearl business inspired by the roots of her family.
Her late grandfather, Mosa Al Qubaisi, was a pearl diver in the 1940s, so she has always been a lover/collector of pearls. “I would hide in his room and play with his ‘mandoos’ (traditional Emirati box used to keep pearls). I would always get in trouble for playing with the pearls,” Mohamed narrated.
Though starting a business on her own was difficult to achieve to many, and even if she lacked a proper business plan, she decided to follow her dream and create her own path.
“I woke up one day thinking that I have the perfect pearl to make the perfect ring. From that idea, to actually holding my piece, it took me two days. A week later, with a budget of 500 Emirati Dirhams (US$ 136), and two pieces of jewelry, I started an Instagram account for Pearl by S,” Mohamed told Wamda. “The first 100 pearls I sold were from my private collection,” she added. Based in Abu Dhabi, Mohamed designs the pieces working with the pearls, while her goldsmith handles the gold crafting part.
Selling pearls via WhatsApp
Officially launched in January, 2015, Pearl by S sells seawater and freshwater pearls, hugged with 18K and 21K gold. The prices range between 250 dirhams ($68) and 3,000 dirhams ($820). She launches a collection every seven to eight months, and has so far three collections. She also does bespoke designs.
Mohamed admits that her biggest challenge is selling. “You started something based on a dream. Now, it’s not a dream anymore, you have to get out there, and sell it,” she explained.
She sells her pearls via WhatsApp, and promotes her collections on Instagram, where she has over 40,000 followers, as well as through word of mouth.
Customers order via WhatsApp, then pay through Ansari Exchange. Her in-house delivery officer delivers the products within five working days.
Also using WhatsApp, Mohamed sells regionally in the GCC and worldwide. She has products sent to New Zealand, the UK, the USA, and Indonesia, among others. Deliveries are done through FedEx. To make this process more convenient, she is currently working on a website that is expected to see the light in two months. It will allow customers, all over the world, to purchase Pearl by S jewellery, and pay online.
Besides selling online, her designs are also sold at Ush Boutique, in Dubai, and at Toga Boutique, in Riyadh, in exchange of 20 percent of her profits.
In good months, she gets 100 or 150 orders. She has numerous regular clients, among whom, to her surprise, many are men, which has driven her to include pieces for them in her collections.
She said she is very profitable from the day she first started, but the earnings she made were reinvested in her pearls.
Mohamed gives all the credit to starting her business to her family. With motivation from her husband, Khalid, and support from her sister, Mahra, as a business manager, Pearl by S became a reality. “If it wasn't for them, I wouldn’t have started Pearl by S,” she added.
Her ultimate goal was to promote self-confidence and self-empowerment among women. “Every pearl is unique, just like each and every woman and girl out there,” she said.
Competition and expansion
Mohamed does not consider her venture as a new competitor on the market. “I’m not trying to be on top of the competition because I’m not competing. To me, as long as you remain timeless, you will always be on top of any challenge you will encounter,” she explained.
A wife and mother of two, she admits that juggling between family and business responsibilities can be difficult. However, organizing your time and prioritizing your duties can make things work, she said.
Mohamed is not seeking the support of a VC or a third party investor at the moment. However, she might consider it in the future if ever the right opportunity crosses her path. Opening her own shop might also be on her future agenda.