Get to know a Toronto startup: Mejuri

Noura Sakkijha and her husband Majed Masad wanted to unite jewelry designers and consumers in a virtual marketplace. That's exactly what they did when they launched the beta version of Mejuri, a Toronto-based jewelry crowdsourcing startup, this past September. Since then, it has gained about 250 designers in more than 21 countries. And a couple of weeks ago, Mejuri won the International Startup Festival's Elevator World Tour at the CN Tower, beating out about 100 other startups.

I recently connected with Sakkijha to learn more about Mejuri, why she launched it, and how she plans on competing with other jewelry stores - online and offline.

What was the inspiration for launching Mejuri?

My family has been working in the fine jewelry industry since 1953, so jewelry has always been an important part of my life. When looking at the industry, I noticed there isn't much innovation in the fine jewelry industry, especially when you compare it with costume jewelry. Even though there are many talented designers out there, customers still struggle to find unique designs. We thought of crowdsourcing to bridge the gap between the designers and the customers.

When you're buying fine jewelry, you should invest in the quality of the piece and the story behind it. This is what we provide. The customer's experience is personalized as they learn more about the designers and the inspiration behind each design.

How does the process work?

Designers from all over the world submit their designs, people comment and vote, and we then manufacture and sell the designs through our website. We share the profit with the designers through royalties, and we market for them. We have challenges and open calls for the designers.

Challenges typically have a theme and specific timelines. There are several winners per challenge and one top winning design. All winners get royalties and marketing, but the top winning designer receives additional rewards such as monetary awards and/or features in publications.

Open calls don't follow a specific theme and have no timelines. This means that designers can submit any design that they want at any time; the design goes through the same process of voting and commenting and the winning designers get royalties and marketing.

How are winning designs selected?

1. The Crowd Vote: Voting allows us to better understand which designs have the most demand. We look at the overall score relative to the number of votes.

2. Social Media: We analyze social media virality and interest. The more people sharing, pinning, commenting and posting, the better.

3. In-house experts: Our internal team of stylists, jewelry manufacturers and jewelry experts look at the trendiness and uniqueness of the designs, as well as any manufacturing complexities.

How do you compete with other jewelry stores - both online and offline?

A great value that we bring to the customers is the unique design aspect. Designers from different walks of life and different inspirations submit their designs on one platform. We personalize the process by connecting the designers and the customers together. The crowdsourcing aspect enables us to be more of a customer-centric company; it means we're constantly taking customer feedback in and catering to their needs.

Additionally, we produce high quality products that will stay with our customers forever. We're now online, but the sky's the limit. We're planning to go through offline channels as well.

How do designers benefit if their piece is manufactured and sold?

From a monetary perspective, the designers can win a cash award if they participate in design challenges. Every winning design gets royalties on each piece sold. We see our relationship with the designers as a partnership so we share the profit with them through royalties. We focus on marketing for the designers on our website and any publications that our products get featured in.

Designers' profiles are attached to their products, and even when we send the products to customers, they receive a card telling them who the designer is and what the inspiration was behind their design.

What do you have planned for Mejuri in the future?

From a tech perspective, we're working on enhancing the functionalities of our website and, most importantly, launching a community section. The community section will facilitate the creation of a community of jewelry lovers and designers; we are planning for some interesting features in the future that will make the process more engaging, which includes gamification and loyalty programs.

From a business perspective, our target this year is to spread the word about Mejuri and start establishing offline distribution channels. We're also looking to implement trunk shows to allow our customers to come and see the products and build higher levels of trust.

Writing by Samuel Dunsiger

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