When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Jewelry startup Mejuri is a millennial magnet, offering ethically-made pieces in distinctive designs. Behind the booming brand is something more interesting than the products themselves- a female founder with an unconventional story. When Noura Sakkijha founded Mejuri in 2015, she was in her twenties, transitioning from being a process engineering consultant to being the CEO of a fine jewelry brand. She wasn’t just launching a new company, but entering an entirely new industry.
A career transition like that is no easy task. Her secret to success? The master jeweler admits it’s all in the company she keeps. “It’s essential to get another perspective from people with diverse skill sets,”she says. She incorporates this mindset into her days at Mejuri: empathizing with employees, investing in their unique selves, and prioritizing their personal struggles. “We take our employees’ mental wellness seriously, and we’ve trained all our managers on mental health first aid,”Sakkhija tells Thrive.
In her Thrive Questionnaire, Sakkijha describes her ideal work environment and explains how to incorporate luxury into our lives, not just our products.
Thrive Global: What brings you optimism?
Noura Sakkijha: My twin girls!
TG: What small steps do you use to accomplish your ultimate goal? How do you stay on track?
NS: While it’s important to have high-level objectives – the best way to achieve your goals is by listing out each of the steps you need to take to reach your goals. When you set smaller milestones, you give yourself a way to monitor your progress tangibly and recalibrate if necessary. I believe that smart strategy, paired with solid execution, leads to success.
Another meaningful way that I stay on track is by surrounding myself with people who are subject matters in different disciplines. It’s essential to get another perspective from people with diverse skill sets.
TG: When you and your husband founded Mejuri in 2015, you were in your twenties, transitioning from being a process engineering consultant to being the CEO of a fine jewelry brand. How did you handle that career shift?
NS: I still describe myself as an engineer because I’ve always seen engineering as a way of solving problems–I’m still using the analytical skills I gained as an engineer to make business decisions and craft unique jewelry designs.
While my first career was working as an engineer, I am a third generation jeweler and I always thought I would return to the industry somehow; my career and family background helped ease the transition.
TG: How do you hope people feel when they wear Mejuri?
NS: I hope that when people wear Mejuri, they feel beautiful and confident, but most importantly, I want them to feel like themselves. Our jewelry should feel like it fits into your life seamlessly.
TG: What is one small habit that has improved your life significantly?
NS: Over the years, I’ve learned how important it is to take breaks. When I launched Mejuri, our team was quite small, and I worked on every aspect of the business. My heavy workload meant I never took any time off on weekends. However, now that the team has expanded, I make sure to block off time to unplug on the weekends. Having time to recharge is vital for my health and my family. I’ve also noticed that when I take a step back from my computer, my mind works sharper, and I get a fresh perspective on work.
TG: How do you approach workplace stress?
NS: I think that workplace stress is unavoidable, especially when you’re growing a new business; however, stress isn’t always a negative thing. Sometimes you can use that pressure you’re feeling as energy to fuel your progress.
To stay healthy and manage my stress, I carve out alone time and family time – this helps me to recharge. I also believe in the power of positive thinking – having an optimistic outlook helps me make effective decisions.
TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?
NS: When I moved to Canada! I met my now husband, started Mejuri, and created a lot of meaningful relationships with people who inspire me on a daily basis.
TG: What are 3 things that help you thrive outside of the office?
- Spending quality time with my family: Family time always re energizes me — I love spending time with my husband and my daughters.
- Downtime is important. I am not a creature of habit, so for me unwinding could mean hanging out with friends or curling up with a good book.
- Meeting smart people from outside of the jewelry business is great because I often come away with new takeaways.
TG: What about inside the office?
NS: My executive assistant is an amazing support for me. Running weekly 1:1 meetings with my direct team and weekly cross functional meetings helps me stay in the loop and support where needed.
Connecting with team members across the organization helps me thrive —I get energized and excited when I work on product launches with our CCO.
TG: What is one key piece of advice for someone newly entering a management role?
NS: First, find a mentor you admire and truly learn from them. Second, I recommend taking the time to get to know each of your employees to learn their work habits and goals. Understanding how your employees work allows you to adapt your management style and manage each team member effectively. I also encourage new managers to ask their colleagues for feedback—you can learn a lot from both senior and junior staff, so don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
TG: Can you share one story of when you went from surviving to thriving?
NS: The $1 million seed funding round was incredibly tough. That first funding round is still one of my most significant accomplishments because I hustled hard to get it. I then led my team to accomplish a lot with that money by working smart; they learned the industry and what adds value to the customers to do so.
TG: What type of work environment do you thrive in? Why?
NS: I always thrive when I’m around people who are motivated and passionate. I like environments that are results-oriented and give people autonomy to experiment. However, the best work environment is one where amazing people surround you working towards a common set of goals.
TG: With so many distractions and interruptions coming at us throughout the day, what are your tips to stay focused?
NS: I learned a couple of years ago that once you’ve identified your priorities, it’s essential to say no to anything outside of those priorities—without feeling guilty. It is easier said than done, but it takes practice. Being a mother has forced me to prioritize things differently. I now have little room for distractions.
TG: What are some ways you incorporate your company’s mission into the office culture?
NS: These are the three main ways that our culture reflects our company’s mission.
We encourage employees to make luxury a habit: At Mejuri, we prioritize taking care of yourself. We give every employee access to lifestyle spending accounts for wellness services like fitness memberships, psychotherapy or massage therapy. We take our employees’ mental wellness seriously, and we’ve trained all our managers on mental health first aid.
We are transparent: We’re transparent with our team members and our customers. We are clear with our employees about our objectives, and we take the time to answer any questions employees have.
We produce quality: We never cut corners on the quality of our products or services, and we expect high-quality deliverables from our team.
TG: What is your favorite hobby? Do you have a certain tool or trick that helps you allocate time for your out of office interests?
NS: I love spending time with my girls — I make sure I leave the office everyday at 5:30 p.m., so that I can have playtime with them before bed.
TG: What is your relationship with feedback? Do you ever struggle to give or receive feedback?
NS: I think feedback is one of the best learning tools! Throughout my career, I’ve learned a lot about myself through feedback from different people, including my former managers, investors and employees. I seek feedback, and I also like to provide constructive and positive feedback. At the end of the day, if someone is taking the time to give you feedback— it is a sign that they care, so I take the time to reflect on the feedback I get.
TG: What are 3 things that make a successful meeting?
NS: Have a clear goal for the meeting. Create an open environment where people are free to challenge ideas and speak up; this leads to better outcomes. Then, clearly identify the next steps- outline who’s doing what by when.