With a name meaning, “First Queen of the New Nation”, you know the jewelry has to be pretty fascinating. Atlanta jewelry artist, Aakofii (the artist’s middle name) has launched a jewelry collection that goes deeper than the precious metals used; each piece is preceded with prayer and meditation so positive vibes are embedded in every creation. Who couldn’t use more of that?
Aakofii and husband, Kolade (another amazing name) work together to create each piece by hand with tender loving care. Recently, she was chosen as one of Belk’s Southern Designer Showcase winners for 2012, now selling at Belk retail locations throughout the South. Their love story is a sweet one too. Kolade started into the jewelry/art world out of high school, teaming up with a jeweler, learning the tricks of the trade. That person happened to be Aakoffi’s father’s best friend (you with me?). Fast forward years later to a pageant they both attended – Aakoffi’s sister was a participant and Kolade was there to support a friend. They found themselves sitting next to each other, joking around at the scene. Kolade excuses himself to go talk to his friend as Aakofii greets the same man with a, “hey Dad!”. The dots are connected and the rest is history. Now they are a power duo who home school their kids while building a brand in the process. Here’s a insiders look into their distinctive jewelry line.
Q: What inspires you? Where do you get your “mojo”?
A: It comes from the appreciation of not having to get up and work for someone else. It’s freedom. Nobody’s dictating me what to do, what to make, how much to spend, where to sell it. I can work on it all day if I want. It’s the freedom.
Q: What has been the biggest change for you since partnering up with Belk?
A: Going from making individual pieces to having to reproduce a lot. At first, I thought it was going to drive me crazy, but it wasn’t bad. Once we got into the swing of it, it was ok. I normally make one funky thing, then move onto the next, then on to the next….
Q: What customer do you design for?
A: I don’t think I design for a certain customer; that customer just happens to like what I do. I just think, “this is really cool” or “this is funky”. The visions come and I make it. Luckily, thank God, people like it and they appreciate it and wear it. She (the customer) wants to stand out. She doesn’t want to look like every body else
Q: Has there been any challenges (besides reproducing) to expand your brand?
A: (Kolade) I think maybe it’s still a little early for us. One of the most significant affects has been internally – how we function and how we are able to go through the learning processes and things the we are able to learn. Maybe that’s the biggest challenge right now.
Q: How do you get the word out about your jewelry?
A: Trough editorials, Facebook, Art shows. I focused a lot on women’s editorials to help build my brand up. I have a strong following but I think a lot of it has to do with Facebook. People see the pictures I post and ask me, “where can I get that?”
Q: What’s your five year plan? Where do you see yourself?
A: (Laughing) On the beach somewhere? But really, more stores. I would like to have the products represented in the mass market. We are from Milwaukee and Chicago and (our family and friends) have no concept of Belk since it is a Southern store. I would like the products to be more represented in more areas where I go and do shows – to the mass market.
Q: And what do you find is the best way to connect with them?
A: They come to the art shows and Jazz festivals. Art shows are awesome. People that want something different and ready to buy.
Q: With kids, homeschooling, and building your business, what is your secret to getting it all done?
A: Kolade- We slept about an hour last night.
A: Aakofii- (laughing) Having a really good concealer.
Kolade and Aakofii were off to attend their children’s dance recitals post interview. Some people just know how to balance it all. To see how the magic is made, go to Aakoffi to fall in love with a future favorite conversation piece.