Dorm Room Startup: Ameera Hammouda (QST’18) Jewelry

Ameera Hammouda’s (Questrom’18) creative interests span from jewelry to fashion to food and writing. As a BU undergrad, she was inspired to learn how to create jewelry and eventually launched her own brand. She’s since upgraded from a dorm room studio and has her eyes set on a global brand of jewelry, clothing, shoes, and accessories–all while creating a positive impact on her customers and the world.

INNOVATE@BU: How do you create innovation?

HAMMOUDA: There really is no one process for me. I feel like I’m one of those people that was both blessed and cursed with a mind that never turns off. I’m always coming up with the “next great business” in my head. But I’ve known since I was young that my dream is to have my own brand and then way down-the-line open a restaurant (I was a sous chef in college).

I decided to focus my creative outlet where my main passion lies, fashion. For me, I draw a lot of inspiration from street style and have been sketching clothes since I learned how to use a pen. It was recently that I self-taught myself sewing and how to make jewelry.

Usually, my designs stem from a bunch of jumbled up ideas in my head that I jotted down messily in a notebook and then I build the final piece through trial-and-error with gold or fabrics.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m a problem solver and I also strongly believe that things can always be better even if they’re already great. Growing up as an Egyptian Muslim, I saw two problems. Although these problems are seemingly minuscule, they were having a bigger impact on more women then I suspected.

First, in Egypt, jewelry isn’t a fashion accessory, it’s heritage. I had discovered that I was allergic to most fashion jewelry and could only wear fine jewelry made from higher quality materials such as gold, white gold, and diamond. I found it extremely difficult to find any fine jewelry that expressed heritage like in Egypt.

Second, my theory is that jewelry is meant to never be taken off, and should hold meaning on top of looking great. Most fine jewelry that I found was generic and overpriced. Last summer, I decided to just figure out how to make jewelry and started making my own. Although I started with jewelry I’ve known since day one that my goal was to have a full fashion brand with clothes, shoes, jewelry, and handbags.

I draw a lot of inspiration in fashion from older icons such as Bardot and Sophia Loren. It is always hard to find modest clothes that were also so stylish that you didn’t feel like you were sacrificing your modesty or your fashion sense. I’ve only created one clothing item for my brand right now which is a sequin zebra print skirt but I have many sketches and plans for the brand’s future expansion with clothing.

Although the problems I’m trying to solve aren’t exactly ending world hunger, I vowed that no matter what business I have or how successful I am I always make sure to donate a portion of my profits to a cause I believe in. That is something I also try to share with supporters of the brand on Instagram stories to increase engagement in charitable events.

Tell us, how did Ameera Jewelry get started? 

In August 2017 I saw this gorgeous choker necklace on Kendall Jenner and could not believe I was seeing a choker that wasn’t a tattoo choker! When I was four, those tattoo chokers were glued to my neck. I would never take them off and I continued to love them, but after the 90s they were rarely sold. 

When I found out that the choker she was wearing cost $5,000, my reaction was to learn how to make my own jewelry and make a variety of chokers that suited my style. I had a lot of people ask me about my jewelry and the next thing I knew I was a Goldsmith in my own dorm room. I started doing pop-ups around Boston and was asked to feature my jewelry in a fashion show.

What problem are you hoping to solve with your jewelry line?

The misrepresentation in the fashion industry. I’ve always grown up being inspired by fashion, models, and style but I still feel, even in 2018, woman are misrepresented in the industry. I don’t think you should struggle to express your style due to race, ethnicity, body, gender, or religious belief. I still feel as though fashion designers are designing with an ideal manikin in mind. It just doesn’t exist.

What has been the biggest challenge or obstacle you had to overcome in your role or for your new venture? How did you do it? What did you learn from the experience?

The biggest challenge has definitely been moving to a primarily online brand. When I sell in person, I always sell out in less than half an hour. My 10 or 15 pieces that I bring with me are gone in minutes and I even have people asking me if I can make a second piece. However, I’m not finding the same success online. It is really frustrating because I have a business degree, I’ve studied marketing, and yet I really can’t figure out who I’m marketing to or how to market. I have seen improvement in both my Instagram and Etsy engagement, but I’m still trying to learn what can help me boost sales. I know that soon I will be having my own website which will definitely improve the experience a shopper has online, as I feel Etsy isn’t really designed for brands but more for hobbyists.

Who do you turn to for mentorship and advice? 

Everyone. My friends, Andrea, Tiffany, Aviva, Vicky, Emily, Demi, and Tyese have been a huge support in developing my brand. I used to hate using social media and checked my phone basically once a week. My friends encouraged me to get on Instagram to help promote my brand. They even told me when my Instagram feed looked bad. They helped me sell and set up at pop-up shops, so they’ve really just been a great support and a great source for feedback.

My family has always just been a great support in everything that I do and encourages me to work hard and do what I love. It’s really interesting that this is what I wanted to do because I come from a long line of doctors. Guess I didn’t get the doctor career gene! The former and current team at the Undergraduate Career Development Center and my peers, rowing team, and professors have also been immensely supportive and helpful in giving me advice to gear towards my business. Thank you to all my past, current and future mentors!

What is one major accomplishment you’re most proud of?

Definitely having one of my pieces worn at Paris Fashion Week by Chanelette, a famous Lithuanian blogger. I wasn’t there to experience it, but it was a high compliment and a big motivator when I was unsure whether to go for it or just do this as a hobby.

What advice would you give to someone starting their own innovation journey right now?

Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s ok to look to others for inspiration or guidance but do not try to follow someone’s exact same path for success; you will not be unique and no one will be interested in your story.

I often had a hard time answering the question “What is your story?” and always thought of it so literally. I think what I’ve shared with you today is my story I don’t need to embellish it. And I hope that years from now I will have a full brand with jewelry, clothes, and shoes while creating a positive impact on the world.

I think it’s important to understand that your path is your own. I can’t copy how Hermes became a big brand or how Gucci expanded into a full fashion line–everyone’s resources and timing is different so no one will build their venture exactly the same even if you’re in the same industry. Your path will always be different so don’t try to follow in other’s footsteps create your own.

Two years from now, what do you hope to be doing? What keeps you motivated to get there?

I hope that by then I will have a website and have launched the first clothing collection.

I am confident with a set of designs and ideas and always want to keep selling jewelry. But, I want to make sure that I am a brand where people can get their clothes, shoes, and accessories. Giving back and customer experience are all very important things to me and I always want to make sure that whatever I do make others lives better and make people happier.

I already have it all visualized. Now, I just need the team and resources to create it and make it a reality. The jewelry is going great right now and I’m doing more pop-ups, but I have so much more planned!

What’s something others would be surprised to learn about you?

I guess I’m what you call a multi-passionate person. Although fashion is my number one passion, I also juggled the idea of being a journalist and worked on WTBU news as I love reporting, meeting people and travel. Another passion of mine is food.  I run a food blog and hope to have a restaurant eventually. I also love sports and joined the rowing team my junior year at BU and even ran the Boston Marathon on an injured foot!

Keep up with Ameera and her jewelry brand on Instagram.

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