Meet The Founder of Elizabeth Cress | Exclusive Interview

Meet this creative young lady who is so passionate about Africa and all things African. We are always inspired by people who take up the courage to turn their passion to business. We know how challenging it can be to conceive an idea and actually make money from it. So we are always excited to hear the story behind a growing brand. Let’s meet her. 

Q & A

  • Please introduce yourself and your background.

My name is Funmilola Kehinde, I am a jewelrypreneur, who is passionate about Africa and all things African, I have a degree in Computer Science and another in IT with Innovation and Management. My background is basically technology but yet I have found and nurtured my intense love for accessories for many years now. I love the creativity, the colours and the culture attached to African accessories. I also enjoy seeing what I make on people.

  • Please tell us about your work.

Elizabeth Cress was formerly The Beadsmith- back then I dedicated all my talents and efforts towards beaded jewelry alone, then I started nurturing my love for fabric accessories, especially ankara accessories. I designed a couple and started selling to friends- I also rebranded to Elizabeth Cress to accommodate a line dedicated to both jewelry made from beads, polymer clay, silver metal clay and Ankara accessories. My designs are usually inspired from colours, my environment, my thoughts and my imagination. Once I think it, I design it!

  • How did Jewelry by Elizabeth Cress start/do you do this full time?

Elizabeth Cress started as the Beadsmith in the year 2009 during my NYSC (National Youth Service Corps, Nigeria) training at the camp. I took a few jewelry classes and never looked back. I remember offering to finish up my tutors design jobs while on camp, I stayed up all night with a touch light to complete the jobs because I was so happy to do it. No I don’t do this full time yet, I have a day job which I also enjoy doing.

  • Where do your ideas for jewelry come from? Where do you find the inspiration for your jewelry designs?

I find them from colours, my thoughts, my imagination and I also believe God drops some crazy and fun ideas into my mind too and I just run with it. He is my ultimate source of inspiration.

  • Can you remember one of the first things you crafted? What makes it memorable?

Yes it was a set of white pearl bracelets- I made tons of them and they sold like crazy! I also made them in variety of colours based on customer’s request.

  • How long does it take to design and make a particular work? Can you give a short summary of the processes that go into each one?

On an average I would say 1-5 days depending on the design. Usually the process comes in stages- for a three layered pearl necklace – the first stage is sketching the design based on the mood board created. The second stage is identifying the materials and tools needed in bringing the design to life. The third stage is sourcing for the materials (this is the fun part!) and tools (usually you should have the tools handy) and the fourth stage is designing your master piece (either bit by bit or at a go depending on your speed or schedule). The last stage is packaging your jewelry and then sending it off to the client with a smile and a thank you note.

  • To what extent do you draw upon your Nigerian heritage for your work?

To a very large extent, I particularly look out for ways to incorporate my unique heritage in my work. I do this by adding certain precious stones and beads to my Ankara accessories. Also all my accessories are named after African girls of all tribes.

  • What are the challenges you face in business?

I would say probably having access to grants specifically for the creative industry is one of them.

  • What is your most popular item?

Hair band by Elizabeth Cress on Bellafricana

  • What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?

Presently we are working towards creating awareness for the brand and making it a global brand. We are also working towards making out items available online and offline to customers. In the future we hope to have our own independent ecommerce site, and a jewelry academy where others can come to learn to become jewelrypreneurs.

  • What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am British- Nigerian or Nigerian-British any one that comes first lol!

  • For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them? Also, if you could give one piece of advice to youths who want to start their own company, what would it be?

To become a jewelry designer – get as much experience and training as possible and never stop learning.
For youths – I would say just do it! I know the fear of failure can be suffocating sometimes but as I always say – you will never know if you can make it till you try and it’s better to have failed trying than not tried at all.

  • And finally, I would like to give you this opportunity to share two to four images of your work and tell us a little about each.
ankara Hair cap by Elizabeth Cress on Bellafricana

Ankara Ni Wa Satin Bonnets are the best satin bonnets for your hair, They keep your hair moisturised all night and are very comfy and pretty. Exterior is made from Ankara and the interior is made from satin.

Necklace beaded by Elizabeth Cress on bellafricana digest

This necklace is a piece from our African Bride Collection from way back in 2010, it’s made from angel skin beads and crystals and accessories with silver dividers. It’s simple yet elegant and chic!

bracelet with stones by elizabeth cress on bellafricana digest

This is a bracelet inspired by a tear drop earring- it’s designed from glass beads and gold wires and costume gold chain. It’s a great wear for work, play or a party!

Well done Funmi, we are so proud of you. You inspire us, keep up the great job.

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