Doubara Abolarin, is the founder and Creative Director of Zivanora, a line of fashion and fine jewelry dedicated to designing and handcrafting everyday jewelry with a modern and minimalist flair.
Doubara is an alumna of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandizing (FIDM) in Los Angeles, California, she has worked as a Jewelry Editor and later as an Assistant Jewelry Designer for a jewelry house in California with clients such as Macys, the hit British TV show, Downton Abbey, American Apparel and other SMEs before returning back to Nigeria to launch her own brand, Zivanora.
She shares how she started her business with Woman.NG
FROM HAVING AN IDEA TO STARTING YOUR BUSINESS, SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH US
My journey into jewelry started around 2005 while I was in college. My mom taught me how to make a faux pearl necklace one afternoon and after that experience, I fell in love with the process of making jewelry. I got so wrapped up in it that when I went back to school, I’d go to the local market in Ghana to buy beads and other findings to make pieces of my own design. When I was back home in Nigeria for holiday, I would go to Balogun Market with my mom to go scout for jewelry I would either alter and sell or sell as is.
Over time the more jewelry I made, the better I got at it and the more I explored ways to creating something that was 100% my design. As time went by, bead making wasn’t enough for me anymore. I could not make certain designs I started to imagine with just beads so I started exploring metal work. Eventually, I made the decision to go study metalsmithing and that lead to Zivanora.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO? THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER BUSINESSES YOU COULD HAVE EXPLORED, WHY THIS?
Yes, there are so many businesses out there, but I believe God gives you a particular desire for a reason. We all have something that comes easily to us or something we tend to gravitate more towards. There are things we just seem to crave and can’t keep out of our minds and I believe that’s just God directing us along our path.
For me, I really like making things with my hands. Once I imagine something, I want to make it. So I guess discovering jewelry making was perfect for me.
On the company website, I talk about why I love jewelry and designing jewelry. I love designing and fabricating jewelry because it’s wearable art that can hold a lot of history and story. It holds human emotion and life moments in its own unique way and has always been a way for humans to express what’s in our hearts and how we feel. Jewelry is a reflection of our desires and one of the most delightful ways of sharing with the rest of the world who we are. It’s such a joy to give people a piece that becomes a part of them.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW BEYOND ALL DOUBT THAT THIS IS GOING TO WORK?
I don’t think there was any one moment in time I believed without a doubt that starting Zivanora was going to work. I took sometime to think back on how far I had come, the lessons I had learnt trying to make and sell jewelry in the past and the formal education I had just received. I did my homework regarding starting a business and decided to move in faith.
HOW DID YOU RAISE THE CAPITAL TO START YOUR BUSINESS, ESPECIALLY WITH THE HIGH COST OF RUNNING BUSINESSES IN NIGERIA?
While I was in jewelry school, I started saving towards the business and also had some help from family. One of the great things about my school was students were given basic tools and supplies and so those helped cut down cost of some things I needed to get to start the business. These were tools that once you had them, you had them.
After school, I decided to bootstrap my business and spend on only the absolutely necessary as I went on. Also I cut cost by building my website myself, designing the company logo myself and performed other tasks within my skillset. I am a very hands-on person and not afraid to try doing things myself.
BRILLIANT IDEAS DON’T ALWAYS MEAN GREAT SALES, HOW HAS IT BEEN MARKETING YOUR SERVICES?
Marketing is always an ongoing event. I use different avenues to put the brand name out there both online and offline. A lot of work goes into online marketing but I also look for opportunities to be seen in other media I don’t necessarily have control of. I also try to reach more people via collaborations with other businesses.
AS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE HIRING STAFF AND BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
Building a team has been a gradual process. It started with hiring people for tasks as needed. Now I have an intern that works in the production department.
YOUR GREATEST SKILL/STRENGTHS THAT HAVE PARTICULARLY BEEN OF HELP IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS
I would say my tech background really came in handy and helped with things like building the brand website and setting up the business in such a way that tech plays a big role in keeping me organized, helping me run the business on the go, communicate with clients easily, etc.
DID YOU HAVE TO GET A FORMAL TRAINING OR QUALIFICATION TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
To become a metalsmith, you do not necessarily need to get formal training to begin. A lot of designers around the world started by teaching themselves by following videos online or attending different short classes for 3-5days but I personally wanted the formal education, so I went for it. I believe it prepared and set me up for business better than if I tried to DIY the process.
YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS FOR SOME TIME NOW, WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISHED YOU HAD KNOWN BEFORE YOU STARTED?
So far, there hasn’t been one particular thing I would say I wish I had known before starting Zivanora. Before I started the brand, I had previous stints at running a business so I took note of various experiences and learned from them. I also wanted to start Zivanora on the best possible note as I could, so I spent some time researching and reading on how to start and run a successful business. All the lessons gathered really helped get Zivanora to where it is today. That being said, every day brings its own challenges so I roll with the punches and seek help when I need it.
ANY LIFE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS PARTICULARLY PREPARED YOU DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU DO NOW?
Growing up, almost every morning during devotion, my dad would teach about staying organized and avoiding distractions. He practically drilled it into us, and now all those lessons come in handy in my business.
It’s going to be difficult to run a business especially in the early days as a small business owner when you are the only one handling multiple aspects of the business if you are not organized.
If you don’t stay organized, a lot of things will fall by the wayside or get forgotten and you will be ill prepared for opportunities when they come.
Another major thing I learned from those morning devotions was learning to avoid distractions. It has prevented me from jumping on every business trend or bandwagon but instead focus on my vision and goals.
CHANGE CAN BRING OUT A PART OF US WE NEVER KNEW EXISTED, WHAT NEW THINGS HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE COURSE OF STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
After I got my first intern, I started to really see how far my bench skills had improved. It’s hard to be really objective with yourself sometimes until something happens that forces you to see things differently.
THE GREATEST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED AND BY WHO?
One advice I make a point never to forget was given to me by my uncle just before I moved back to Nigeria. He said, “The key to business is quality and consistency”.
It sounds so simple but it’s a very important aspect of business. I believe opportunity opens the door but consistency keeps you there. Consistency is one of the things that keep a brand alive for generations. So I always keep his advice at the back of my mind.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ESPECIALLY IN NIGERIA?
Basic financial skills and being able to ask for the sale.
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