Great ideas and inspiration can strike anywhere; for Rayka Kumru and Danielle Allan, their collaboration idea came to life over BlackBerry Messenger.
The two friends started SAF Jewelry, a Vancouver-based company that sells Turkish rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces imported from Istanbul, Turkey. The pair started out by hosting jewelry parties, and the word about their stylish accessories spread fast. The demand for their Turkish delights grew so quickly that they recently launched an online store and will soon be launching a unisex line.
Rayka and Danielle’s personalities have as much sparkle as the jewelry that they sell. Read more about how the two entrepreneurs got started, and get inspired by these Fashion Femmes.
1. How did SAF Jewelry start?
We were on the bus one day and Dan looked at me and said ‘We should start a business together’. I thought, well obviously this girl is out of her mind or just has a lot of patience she wants to put to the test! At that point there was no business idea. A few months later while I was home in Istanbul for a visit, I went to a jeweler in the Grand Bazaar that I always go to. He had always told me to take stuff back for my friends but I had never thought about it as a business idea. I knew Dan would be on board and would take the idea and help me bring it to life. Our initial business agreement happened over BBM, with me in Istanbul and Dan in Vancouver.
2. What does SAF mean?
‘Saf’ means ‘pure’ in Turkish. We wanted to find a name that in someway was either Turkish or was about something Turkish. We weren’t sure if we could find a Turkish word that was easy to pronounce, until we found SAF. Also, Rayka has a thing for three lettered words so it all worked out perfectly.
3. Where do your pieces come from? What materials are they made out of?
All of our pieces come from Istanbul. They are mostly made of semi-precious stones and gold-plated copper. We carry glass stones and silver pieces on occasion too. We’ve had a few customers express their love for silver so we took that into consideration.
4. What’s the best thing about working with your friends? The worst?
We would say we have gotten to know each other pretty well. That makes it easy. We have very different personalities, which works in our favor. I’ll get the crazy ideas and Dan will know exactly how to bring them down a notch and execute them. I’m like the right side of the brain and she’s the left. I’d say we make a pretty good brain! We also enjoy each other’s company; you really want that quality in someone you need to work with, especially when you run a business and have no other employees to boss around (haha!).
The worst part is, at times, we forget that we need to spend time just as friends and not as business partners. We try to go on friend dates and not just business meetings – times where we are not allowed to talk about business.
5. Starting your own business at a young age can be overwhelming. What advice can you offer to other aspiring young entrepreneurs?
If you want to work in a partnership, be strategic about it. Just because you are friends, does not mean you will work well together. It has worked well for us because our skills complement each other, not because we are similar. We would also recommend scheduling time to communicate with each other about what’s working and what needs work.
Also – never underestimate the power your friends have when it comes to helping you market your business. Tell them about what you’re doing and ask them to tell their friends. Friends are also amazing for moral support – surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and your business makes a big difference..
6. What are your most popular pieces?
It depends on the season! In spring and summer, our best sellers have been our white moonstone earrings. We are now selling a lot of gold-plated rings – big bold ones and thin elegant ones – all with brightly coloured and festive stones.
7. What’s the best way to store and take care of your SAF jewelry?
The best way to care for your SAF pieces is to store them in their own separate compartment. If you mix our jewelry in with other pieces in a big jewelry box, it wears on them. We also recommend that you don’t wear your SAF jewelry in the water. It’s ok to wash your hands, but try to avoid showering or swimming.
8. As young women in the fashion industry, what has been your biggest learning experience?
Learning to manage our time! It’s something that everyone in every industry has to deal with, but it is especially true in the fashion industry. We have to be conscious of how long it takes to order and ship products, do inventory, market for showcases, manage our social media, and to keep up with current trends.
9. What’s next for SAF?
We are really excited about the launch of our online store! (www.safjewelry.com) We worked really hard to get it ready for December and had a lot of orders over Christmas. We have some upcoming showcases – check our facebook page for details about Spring shows. We are launching the unisex line soon and are also in the process of expanding to another continent! Rayka is doing a masters degree in Australia, so we’re using that as an opportunity to spread the SAF love.