Siwatu Jewelry: The Afro-centric designs you need to get your hands on
by Stephanie Koathes Nov 27, 2018
Find Yello interviewed designer Sentwali about her brand story and design inspirations.
What was the inspiration for the name?
Siwatu is my middle name. When combined with my first name (Sentwali Siwatu) it means “A brave one born in a time of conflict.”
When did you first realise that jewellery-making could be a real career?
As a teen, I loved making beaded jewellery for my friends as gifts but had never considered it as something I could make a career out of. It wasn’t until Ashenafi and I left school and decided to become entrepreneurs that we began making and selling jewellery. Soon after, we saw the full potential that jewellery making had and decided to register our business in 2014.
Were you and your husband always artistically-inclined?
I have always been artistically inclined. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil in my hand. Both of my parents are artists, so it was kind of inevitable. I did CSEC and CAPE visual arts in high school. Growing up, Ashenafi never really saw himself as an artistic person. It wasn’t until he had started exploring making jewellery, that he discovered his hidden talents. He is also quite good at photography and shoots all our product images.
Why is it important for your pieces to represent African culture?
We both come from parents who taught us to value our African roots. It just wasn’t enough to make jewellery. We felt an urgency to make pieces that carry deep meaning.
You and your husband were training to be navigational officers. What made you realise that it wasn’t for you?
We actually both enjoy navigation and placed in the top ten percentile of our class. However, we both realised that we didn’t enjoy being away at sea for long periods of time. We also wanted to become self-sufficient so we decided to leave school and become entrepreneurs.
What was the process like starting the business?
At first, we both worked part-time jobs. But soon we began to see the full potential of Siwatu Jewelry, so we quit our jobs and registered the business. Back then we only offered delivery in Kingston, and Ashenafi would have to take public transportation to deliver the orders . We didn’t have a website, so we would post our pieces on Facebook and take orders through WhatsApp. It was quite challenging at times but we stuck to it. About six months after registering the business, we created our website and used courier services to deliver the packages island wide. With time, effort and a lot of research, we managed to expand to the international market.
How difficult was it to get support?
Understandably, our relatives were not pleased when we decided to leave college. However, when they saw how passionate we were about becoming entrepreneurs, they were very supportive. In the same year that we registered our business, we got married. Since we didn’t have much capital to invest in our business, we used our wedding registry as a means to acquire the tools we needed.
What has the reception to the brand been like?
The reception has been excellent. Our customers constantly show appreciation for our pieces through heartfelt emails and social media messages. We have some awesome customers who really love our story and appreciate the meaning behind our pieces. Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot more love than hate in this world.
Who are your customers? Are they locals or tourists?
Our customers come from all walks of life. About 60% of our customers are Jamaicans. The remaining 40% are international. Most of our international customers are from North America and Europe.
How would you describe the aesthetics of Siwatu Jewelry?
I would describe Siwatu Jewelry as minimalist, Afro-centric and unique.
What makes your brand unique?
From the moment we met, we knew we had something special. Our excellent teamwork and passion for love, African culture and creativity is what makes our brand unique.
Why are events like Conu’co Market important to the local artisan community?
Events like Conu’co Market are important because they provide an avenue through which Jamaican artisans can showcase and sell their work. What I appreciate about this market is that they offer an affordable package to vendors while still maintaining an exceptional experience for consumers. Also, since we are an online based business, it’s great to be able to interact with our customers face to face at these events.