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  • jonelise33

Joforia 2022 Plans

I have been quiet, a little too quiet. I started strong with a great holiday selling season, then it was radio silence. December 2021 was a supernova. After months of illness, my grandmother passed away, and I had to take time to process these emotions. I had all the time in the world for a solid week because I ended up contracting covid and was down for a few days. Despite being vaccinated with both shots and the booster, I still experienced fatigue and other symptoms that left me weak. I am thankful to make a full recovery.

As I make plans to move back to Atlanta to start my non-profit career, I look at Joforia and ask myself, "Now What?"

In 2018, I started Joforia Jewels because I needed money for my Ghana study abroad trip. My only goal was to have a seat on that plane in May. Yet, by the time May came around, I was hooked on the thrill of entrepreneurship. Vendor markets filled my Saturdays, and I loved networking with other Black business owners. Everyone has been friendly, no matter what we were selling. The pandemic started during my second year of business, and it accelerated my move to e-commerce. I had started to focus on my online business when I moved to North Carolina for graduate school, but it was hard for me to maintain. Selling online is nothing like in-person events where you can build relationships with customers and come up with creative displays. Also, it felt like everyone had a business, and it was hard for Joforia to stand out in a sea of businesses.

Next, came the Miiriya app. In January 2021, I uploaded a few pieces to see what would happen. I saw a couple of tweets about an all Black marketplace, but I was weary from my previous experience with another Black eCommerce platform. However, it was completely free, so I gave it a chance. Miiriya saved Joforia Jewels. Thanks to Miiriya, I was able to reach a larger audience while trying to finish graduate school and working retail full-time. While I couldn't completely live off the revenue, I had found my confidence to keep creating and telling the world about Joforia.

Now on to 2022...

This is the year I put my foot down and stand on my values. I've tried to be polite when people asked me for custom designs or about wholesales and commissions. There were opportunities that I simply passed up because I just was not interested or didn't have the time. When I graduated, I worked a solid 40-hour workweek. There was never downtime for me to create social media posts or craft a few pairs of earrings. I had to be "on" for the entire 8 hour day. Even my lunch breaks were filled with phone calls and a constantly buzzing walkie-talkie. By the end of the day, I was too mentally exhausted to make new pieces and trips to the post office.

In November 2021, I went back to substitute teaching, so I could set my own schedule. I was able to use my planning periods to work on social media content and research. If I needed to take a day or two off to sell jewelry or send emails, I could. Thanks to Google Drive, I never had to worry about remembering a flash drive. I have been working to make my life easier for me and to find my voice. At times, I could be a people-pleaser, but I have learned to put my foot down and do what's best for Joforia, so here's what's changing in 2022.

#1: Joforia is going Green!

Did y'all know I am an environmentalist? Of course, y'all didn't! I never published a sustainability page for Joforia because I felt like I was a hypocrite in so many ways. While my packaging is made from recyclable materials that can be recycled again, my jewelry is not. I resolve to use more upcycled materials to make my jewelry, which will result in more one-of-a-kind pieces that ring true to my commitment to sustainability.

I order through Etsy, which offsets my carbon emissions. I also seek bead vendors who donate a portion of their sales to different causes. Speaking of donations, I have donated about 10% of my 2021 sales to mutual aid funds and people in need. In 2022, I will be more vocal about my philanthropy to encourage sales and highlight causes that I am passionate about.

#2: New Year, New Look!

I'm entering Year 4 of business, and it's time for a makeover. Don't worry, I won't do the awful rebrand that companies do where they change a logo that everyone loved and add a quirky mascot that folks don't like. (Imagine, I have a talking gem named Joforia that pushes you to buy my stuff!) I am going to lean more into my brand and update the website. I have been trying to improve my social media presence for a while, but I need that to translate across other platforms. In 2021, I purchased stickers and earrings cards with my logo that I loved from the Etsy shop, HomeGrown Gems.

I purchased Canva Pro in July 2020, and I never looked back! It has been one of my smartest investments for Joforia. In 2022, you will not only see more cool graphics designed by me, but also Tiktok videos! As much as I loved Joforia, it won't have its own Tiktok or Twitter pages anytime soon. However, you will be able to see how Joforia fits into my fabulous life if you are inclined to follow my Tiktok page.

#3 Keep Joforia SMALL

Folks used to ask me if I saw Joforia as an international brand one day. It's one of those questions that make me cringe because I want to stay small! Did you know that when I was little I wanted to be a fashion designer but left that dream because I knew I couldn't handle the pressure of designing for multiple seasons within a year? Making jewelry has been fun for me, and I don't want to turn it into a high-pressure ordeal. To me, it almost feels like it's passive income because of how quickly I am able to make jewelry, post it, and wait for sales. Social Media and Miiriya have helped me reach people in over 25 states without too much effort. I don't want to stay up several nights in a row to make deadlines and lose direct interactions with my customers. I love seeing the faces of folks who buy my jewelry and later tag me on Instagram or say "Hello" at the grocery store.

#4 No More Commissions

With commissions, I have gone back and forth with myself multiple times. People have contacted me about collaborations and special orders. I usually yielded because it's so hard for me to tell people "no". Then I always end up in the same place: super stressed and worried about it. If I don't have the materials on hand to make what people want, I have to go bead shopping, which can be quite an ordeal. I have a few online stores that I shop, and I do my best to purchase beads in bulk, but even so, the colors never seem to match exactly how I thought they would in my head. So next is bead shows, which happen quarterly. I love bead shows, but they usually involve a road trip to Charlotte or Durham/Raleigh. I have been touring other creative reuse centers along the Southeast for a research project that I'm working on, but most stores have small selections and never quite what I'm looking for. This adds more stress to the commission process, so now I will just focus on selling my own designs. At this point, I would rather do more research to help connect customers with other Black jewelers instead of putting myself through the stress of bead shopping.

At the end of the day, I never intended on making jewelry as a career. It's a fabulous side hustle for me, but my passions lie in my non-profit work and other things. In the future, you will see Joforia's name on other things, but I promise they will always be on things that I am passionate about.

Thank you for taking the time to see what I have in store for 2022! I look forward to more sustainable designs and opportunities to connect with other businesses.

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