Chris Williams (CW): Tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from.
Kimone Young (Kimone): I was born in Jamaica and raised in Brooklyn. My parents and I migrated to the states in 1989. My family is your typical old school Caribbean family. They were strict when I was growing up and a good education was a priority. If I wasn’t in school, I was taking part in some extracurricular activities like piano lessons and dance. Being well rounded was important to my parents. I had a small circle of friends that my family had to know and trust their families before I went anywhere with them.
CW: What was your career path prior to launching your business?
Kimone: I went to Fashion Industries High School, then on to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I always had a passion for fashion. I thought I would’ve been a buyer somewhere. Then by my sophomore year of college, I realized that I was no longer interested in that. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising, I worked in retail for a few years. Then I got a job working for a jewelry company. I think the love of jewelry started here. I was surrounded by huge statement jewelry, assisting stylists pulling pieces for editorial shoots. It was a lot of fun. This led to me buying materials and beads and making pieces for myself.
CW: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as an entrepreneur?
Kimone: Being an entrepreneur was never my goal until much later. I was just making jewelry for fun until people started asking about it and offering to pay me to make them things. After the jewelry company, I moved on to work in childrenswear. I got laid off after a few years and I used the time that I was unemployed to launch my business. This was back in 2011. Way before social media was what it is today. So I had to do everything through word of mouth. I continued working full-time while having my business. I didn’t dream of being an entrepreneur until all I could think about at work was my business and what I could be doing if I wasn’t sitting at my desk. I just wanted more freedom. Then I slowly realized that I actually work longer hours in my business than I would at a typical 9-5. I currently work part-time hours outside of my business.
CW: What was it that sparked the idea for 84Gem?
Kimone: I couldn’t find jewelry that matched how I wanted to feel. Also, I would always see people in the same styles of jewelry. I appreciate one-of-a-kind pieces that allow me to stand out.
CW: Who has been your biggest supporter since launching your business?
Kimone: My biggest supporter would have to be my mother. She wasn’t always as interested in it but when she saw how important it was to me, she started to pay attention. She’s also invested in my business, and she listens to me when I need a sounding board.
CW: Who has been your biggest mentor(s) in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
Kimone: I actually don’t have any mentors. I do have mentors in my head and look up to a lot of people in this industry. I reached out to a jeweler in the early stages of me starting my business that I still admire today. I just wanted some guidance. She basically told me to create pieces that I would want to wear. If I don’t love them, why would anyone else?
CW: If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your journey as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Kimone: I would say to stay true to myself and don’t try to cater to everyone. Find your niche.
CW: What role has social media played in the growth of your business? Do you believe it’s integral to your success?
Kimone: Social media has definitely helped in my growth. A lot of opportunities I’ve gotten have come through social media. It just takes your reach so much further. It has allowed people all over the world to see my jewelry.
CW: What are some of your biggest fears or challenges that you faced when you chose to launch 84Gem?
Kimone: I feared that people wouldn’t like my style of jewelry or that my skills wouldn’t be good enough.
CW: Where do you go for inspiration when working on a new jewelry design?
Kimone: I like to take solo museum visits. Travel helps too and I’ll even go to museums when I can when I’m traveling.
CW: What is your favorite part of the jewelry design process?
Kimone: My favorite part is seeing how people feel when they’re wearing a piece of jewelry. The reaction is so satisfying.
CW: What is your lifestyle like outside of 84Gem? Does it include fitness, family, healthy eating?
Kimone: I enjoy A LOT of alone time and self-care. Weekends of doing absolutely nothing with a homemade meal and sometimes wine are my favorite weekends.
CW: How do you want people to feel when wearing your jewelry?
Kimone: I want people to feel like the best version of themselves. I just want them to exude confidence.
CW: What advice do you have for men and women of color who are looking to enter the lifestyle/creative industry?
Kimone: I would give the same advice I would tell myself if I could go back. Stay true to yourself. Find your tribe. When you are unapologetically yourself, your tribe will gravitate towards you. Also, it’s necessary to surround yourself with like-minded people. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely. If you have people around you that get it and support you, it doesn’t seem so difficult at times.
To find out more about 84Gem, follow them on Instagram: @84gem and visit their website: www.84gem.com.