In a compelling interview with BusinessDay, Kiki Chiori, a multifaceted businesswoman, renowned public speaker, and fervent advocate for female youth empowerment, unveiled the remarkable highlights of her career.
As the Founder and CEO of Kiki Lucas Jewellery, a luxury brand spanning both Nigeria and the United States, Chiori shared her inspiring journey, shedding light on her recent milestone: the design of the new Miss Universe Nigeria crown.
This exclusive conversation delves into her thriving jewellery enterprise, the pivotal contract secured from Silverbird Group to craft the iconic crown, her profound affiliation with Women In Mining In Nigeria (WIMIN), and her visionary insights into the future of mining in Nigeria.
Can you tell us about your journey from launching Kiki Lucas Jewelry to designing the Miss Universe Nigeria crown?
My professional journey, from the inception of Kiki Lucas Jewelry to the opportunity to design the Miss Universe Nigeria crown, has been an extraordinary adventure. Designing the Miss Universe Nigeria crown represents a pivotal achievement in my career, and I am deeply honoured to have been a part of this esteemed project. The crown itself serves as a symbol of the beauty, elegance, and unwavering strength of Nigerian women. Throughout the design process, I dedicated myself entirely to this project, drawing inspiration from the rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes of Nigeria.
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During the crowning moment of Ugochi, the current Miss Universe, how did it make you feel seeing your work on centre stage? How did the partnership with Silverbird Group come about?
The moment I saw my designed crown adorning Ugochi was a truly awe-inspiring experience, especially when considering the demanding timeframe within which we had to create it. The opportunity to collaborate with Silverbird Group materialized due to the alignment of fortuitous circumstances and my willingness to step forward.
When Silverbird Group articulated their desire for a high-value, Nigerian-made crown to commemorate the transition from MBGN to Miss Universe Nigeria, I proactively proposed my brand for the task. Additionally, I recommended the involvement of Women In Mining in Nigeria (WIMIN) and Tejiri Jewelry in the collaborative endeavour. This collective effort not only served as a platform to showcase the immense talent within Nigeria but also conveyed a resounding message about our nation, emphasizing our local talent, valuable resources, and the exceptional skills of our women.
What inspired you to venture into the jewellery industry in 2020 during the COVID lockdown?
Similar to many individuals during the 2020 lockdown, I found myself in pursuit of a more profound sense of purpose. It was during this period that I determined it was the opportune moment to wholeheartedly pursue my passions. The realms of design and style have consistently held a special place in my heart, and jewellery emerged as a natural avenue for me to channel this creative expression.
Since my childhood, I have held a penchant for jewellery, often sneaking into my mother’s cherished collection to adorn myself with her pieces—a practice I continue to this day. For me, jewellery serves as a potent means of self-expression, offering the unique opportunity to convert a passion into a thriving business.
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What were some of the initial challenges you faced when starting your jewellery business?
A prevalent challenge in the jewellery industry, one that I also encountered, pertains to production-related issues. Over time, I explored production options in diverse locations. However, my longstanding aspiration has consistently been to establish the production of my jewellery pieces within Nigeria.
Can you share some insights into the process of manufacturing jewellery in the USA and the benefits it brings to your business?
Strategically choosing to manufacture my pieces in the United States, where I primarily reside, was a deliberate decision. I aimed to gain a firsthand, comprehensive understanding of the entire production process, from the initial 3D printing of the moulds to the final stages of polishing the pieces. I intended to have the production process unfold right before my eyes, providing me with invaluable insights and knowledge.
This hands-on experience has significantly enriched my understanding of the intricacies involved in jewellery manufacturing. Consequently, when I engage in discussions with other manufacturers, I am well-equipped with a comprehensive understanding of every facet of the process, enabling more informed decision-making and collaboration.
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How did your partnership with Women in Mining in Nigeria (WIMIN) come about, and how has it impacted your journey?
I was introduced to WIMIN through a friend of mine and when they told me about the work they do in empowering women within the industry and how they champion Nigeria as the go-to destination for jewellery and gemstones, I knew I had to be a part of it.
As a member of WIMIN, what initiatives or projects are you currently working on to promote the mining industry in Nigeria?
As members of WIMIN, we are part of a non-profit organization with a core mission of advancing inclusion, and diversity, and safeguarding the rights of all women who are either directly involved in or impacted by mining operations.
Our active engagement includes the promotion of responsible sourcing practices within Nigeria’s mining industry. Our commitment extends to serving as a dependable source of guidance, covering the entire spectrum from mining to market, and we are focused on enhancing the appeal of the mining sector for foreign direct investment (FDI).
Furthermore, we are steadfast in our dedication to raising awareness about the wealth of gemstones in Nigeria and the remarkable capabilities within our jewellery sector. Through these efforts, we aim to create additional opportunities within the mining industry, ultimately fostering its growth and sustainability.
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Can you tell us about the upcoming WIMIN second annual Gold & Gemstone Mining conference and its goals?
WIMIN’s GGCE 2023 has key goals: establish Lagos as a hub for partnership and collaboration with private and public stakeholders within the industry. Our event seeks to boost solid minerals’ economic value, promote responsible sourcing, and revive the local gold and gemstone trade. We seek to build sector capacity and promote gender equality.
The event offers economic opportunities and a global platform for local jewellers and industry stakeholders. It is a 3-day event from Sep 26-28, featuring a thrilling local designer jewellery fashion show, exhibitions, and more. Visit www.wimng.org for more details.
What are your plans for expanding Kiki Lucas Jewelry?
I am enthusiastic about delving into the realm of accessible everyday fashion jewellery. My vision is to craft designs that seamlessly blend style and exceptional quality, resulting in pieces that effortlessly enhance daily attire. These creations are intended to serve as a means of self-expression, enabling individuals to uniquely showcase their personalities through the jewellery they wear.
Can you discuss what female empowerment means to you?
The promotion of female empowerment holds a profound and enduring significance in my values and endeavours. In 2017, I took a significant step by establishing the Aspire Academy, a platform dedicated to empowering female students, graduates, and emerging young professionals in their pursuit of business and career objectives.
Through mentorship and comprehensive training, we aim to provide the necessary guidance and resources for these individuals to thrive and excel in their chosen paths.
In addition to founding the Aspire Academy, I also became a member of Women In Mining. This decision was fueled by their admirable dedication to championing female causes within the gold, gemstone mining, and jewellery industry. Together with this organization, I am committed to furthering the cause of gender equality and empowerment within these sectors, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and diverse industry landscape.
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How do you see the future of the jewellery industry in Nigeria, and what trends do you think will shape it?
The future of Nigeria’s jewellery industry looks promising with a focus on local sourcing, online retail growth, customization, sustainability, and cultural influences. Technology and evolving fashion trends will also play a role, as will global market access and artisanal craftsmanship.
Could you share a memorable moment or achievement in your entrepreneurial journey that stands out to you?
Certainly, one of the standout moments in my journey has undoubtedly been the opportunity to design the Miss Universe Nigeria crown. This particular experience holds a special place as one of my most cherished highlights. What made it particularly memorable was that it pushed me far beyond my comfort zone.
To be entrusted with the task of creating a crown or tiara was something I had never anticipated. Yet, it turned out to be an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding endeavour. The project allowed me to explore new creative horizons, and the sense of fulfilment derived from being part of such an iconic project was truly remarkable.
What’s your vision for the legacy you’d like to leave through your various business endeavours and advocacy work?
My idea of legacy is about paving the way for those who come after me. Legacy for me is about someone else beginning their entrepreneurial journey and finding inspiration in my experiences and using them as a roadmap for their success.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the jewellery or creative design industries?
While I acknowledge that I have only begun to explore the vast potential of my journey, I would like to share some advice for those embarking on their entrepreneurial path. My counsel is to embrace boldness—dive in headfirst, even if it seems like uncharted waters and you may not have all the answers at the outset. Trust in your ability to learn and adapt as you progress.
Equally important is the practice of self-encouragement and relying on your inner voice for validation. The journey of entrepreneurship can be demanding, and there will be moments of uncertainty. During such times, the ability to motivate oneself and find affirmation from within can be a powerful source of resilience and determination. Trust in your capabilities and intuition as you navigate the entrepreneurial landscape.
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