Going for Gold, Aisha’s Story
Founded by the young Bahraini designer Aisha Abdulmalik , Aisha Jewels , which started as a part of the Youth Business Competition in 2014 went on to winning Bahrain’s Micro-Enterprise of the Year in 2017. This achievement is even more so impressing considering the fact that Aisha is only 21 years old. Here’s what Aisha has to say about her experience of starting a business in an unfamiliar field and doing so while balancing her life as a full time student.
It all started with Tamkeen’s Mashroo3i Program back in 2014. When I was in high school, I was required to complete a certain number of community work hours to graduate, and one of my teachers suggested that I join the program.
I didn’t really have a business idea back then. What I had was a love for jewelry, so I wanted to do something along those lines. However, there were many jewelry brands back then and I wanted to come up with something that would distinguish my brand from the rest. That’s when I thought of incorporating wood with 22-carat gold, and that was the start of Aisha Jewels.
During the Mashroo3i program exhibition, I got to experience first-hand people's reaction and feedback to my work. The way people looked at my designs - the spark in their eyes, gave me a sort of an adrenaline rush, and that was when I decided that this is what I wanted to do. It became my mission to want to see the same look in people’s eyes every time they saw my designs.
Before that, I had planned to study in the UK after graduating, but I canceled those plans and decided to stay in Bahrain to grow my business while studying fashion design at university.
Following the Mashroo3i competition, I had partnered with Devji Jewelers to produce my designs and they were even exhibited at Jewelry Arabia Exhibition. That was the make it or break it moment for me; how well Aisha Jewels does as the exhibition was going to be the deciding factor in whether or not to continue with this project. Luckily, Aisha Jewels received a positive response at the exhibition, it affirmed my decision to continue with this endeavor and take Aisha Jewels to the next level.
It can be very hectic juggling classes, work, managing the workshop, and the team can be a lot, but it all comes down to time management.
What I do doesn’t feel like work because I love what I’m doing. However, learning the business aspect of things was very challenging Luckily, I had the support of my family and team. I never really felt like I’m in this all alone due to their support. My team is always on board with new ideas and initiatives. When you first start, what you need more than anything else, is a strong support system.
Age, or the fact that I started young, was luckily not a challenge. As long as you assert yourself and show people that you know and understand what you are doing, it is not a factor. In fact, I taught a few jewelry design classes where most of my students were older than me.
I personally design all the pieces. Before starting Aisha Jewels, I didn’t have much a background in design. I studied jewelry painting and sketching at GIA, which is the biggest institute for jewelry in the world. I also studied with the renowned Egyptian jewelry designer, Azza al Fahmi. But most of my learning has been by being in the field itself and understanding the working and mechanisms of things on the daily basis.
The Bahraini Jewelry Industry
People associate Bahrain with jewelry. We have a really long history of Bahraini jewelry brands like Mattar, Al Mahmood, and Zain, among others. We also have some younger Bahraini designers such as Azza Al Hujairi, Mariam Al Shaikh, and Amal AlMajed.
At Aisha Jewels, we were the first to combine 22-carat gold with wood in jewelry and to use changeable jewelry pieces and colored gold, besides white and rose gold, in Bahrain. Most the pieces are designed here in Bahrain and some are manufactured in Milan. We have both ready-to-wear collections, but we mainly make customized pieces for individual customers. There is defiantly a market for custom-made jewelry in Bahrain and around the region.
Bahraini gold and jewels are very well known all around since we have the highest quality and certification standards. In regional exhibitions, before even seeing my designs, people would come up asking to see the Bahrain-made jewelry. I feel very grateful to be a part of this field.