Can you tell us a bit about Charlton and Lola and your journey to getting where you are today?
CHARLTON & LOLA is a fine jewellery brand based in New York City’s Diamond District. We are a small intimate brand and a fine jewellery atelier.
I am trained as a lawyer, however in 2011, I left my job in New York City and returned to my parents’ home in Ghana. In a sense, it was a return home, a return to my roots and my soul. I proceeded to visit my parent’s hometown in the middle of the country, which was going through a gold boom. Little did I know it was a precursor for the future: I would return to New York City and study fine jewellery making at the Benlolo Jewellery Studio while working as a lawyer. In 2014, I decided to no longer pursue my legal career and focus on turning my passion into a business. At the end of that year, a master jeweller, and a friend, offered me his office space in the Diamond District, after making a decision to retire at the tender age of 89. And now, here we are.
You are an extremely creative person, what do you do to get your creativity flowing?
Discovering my creativity in my 30s has been a real blessing. I would consider myself a logical person until this life shift. After I returned to New York, I returned to my yoga practice, which became a gateway to re-discovering my soul and my spirituality. That comfort in the Self informs my creativity: I’m inspired by nature, history, culture, philosophy and science.
It’s obvious that you are well travelled, do your travel experiences influence your work?
Oh absolutely! Travel and immersion into other cultures are a major part of the human experience. There is so much beauty on this planet. The diversity of this planet reminds us of the beauty of it all, of Living. Even the differences and complexities of other people and other cultures is inspiration. I love to study the look and feel of jewellery from other cultures and appreciate their time-honoured techniques. Even appreciating the geographic origins of semi-precious and precious gemstones informs the way I create my jewellery.
What has been your highlight since launching the brand?
Appreciating my jewellery community: the men and women in this city’s jewellery industry who have nurtured my creativity and technique and supported me in transitioning careers. It really couldn’t have been such an accelerated growth if they didn’t believe in my craft and support it’s evolution. I always say “thank you” every night when I lock the doors to my office.
Describe the brand in 3 words?
Soulful, Refined & Intimate.
Who is involved in the brand?
My team consists of Serra, my business partner and brand director who supports the Brand’s direction both in design and in business development, Rehana works on the brand strategy and PR outreach, and Cindy who helps us on the backend with the technological process including social media. Otherwise, I have my fellow jewellers who help me built on the creative side. I consider the whole of 47th Street as my creative team. I love that I’ve organically attracted women to help me build the company.
Tell us what a typical day in your life looks like?
I wake up around 7:30am, I check my social media and post a few images and answer comments. I then rise and take a shower. I do my mediation and then hit the streets. From the moment I leave the home, I give up all control of the day cause they are all never the same. I will spend some time at the office on emails with a cup of tea (English Breakfast with milk, no sugar). After I usually go visit my jewellers to pick up pieces: from the caster, to the stone setter, to the bench jeweller to the polisher. I will then get back to the office and respond to more emails, take calls or having clients or visitors over in the office space. I also work with my brand team on our strategies.
A few times a week, either in the afternoon or in the evenings, I will head over to the Benlolo Jewellery Studio for a few hours to create new pieces with my Master Teacher David whilst I work amongst fellow friends and colleagues. It’s a sweet lil’ community to be creative in. I usually get home around 10:30p if I’m at studio in the evenings. Then I settle in for some bad tv: I love some Bravo before bedtime. And then it’s off to sleep until the next day.
Fridays, I will have dinner or a beer after work with my girlfriends. Sisterhood evenings have been so important to unwind. The perfect exhale to a hectic life in a kinetic city.
Who/what inspires you?
Nature and the Universe are my ultimate inspirations. Effortless creation power. I study the energies of rocks and crystals as well and they have informed how I work with gemstones and metals. Otherwise I tend to fall in love with historical figures and beings. Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Albert Einstein, Frida Kahlo. Currently, I find great inspiration in gods & goddesses and myths and legends.
Are there any sources you go for support with running your business?
I LOVE Flourish & Thrive Academy: it’s a jewellery community built by Tracy Matthews and Robin Kramer. It’s just fantastic. It offers love and support for individuals trying to create soulful and consciousness businesses. If anything was the true outcome of the economic meltdown of 2008, was the human desire to create real businesses: companies with souls.
What are your plans for the brand in 2016?
The plan is to stimulate real brand awareness, share our brand message and vision and create a cohesive line for Fall 2016.
Did you always know that one day you would be a #Girlboss?
Giiiiiirl! Yes! I’ve always subconsciously known it: I never wanted to be a partner at a law firm and I couldn’t put my finger on it in my 20s, however I didn’t know I had the ability to be the boss of a creative company. Also I come from a matriarchal society where women own businesses. It was never NOT a possibility. My best friend and I were both in legal and we always dreamt of our escape route. Hahaha. We plotted ceaselessly for over a decade. I believe we both started create our businesses around the same time.
If there’s one #Girlboss activity you could get better at, what would it be?
I need to work on my corporate finance skills! Yikes, it was never my forte. I’m working on it. I don’t find much pleasure from dealing with finance. I know allot of women feel that way and once I cross that hurdle, I’ll definitely share my thoughts with you.
For women aspiring to run their own company, what advice would you give?
Focus on building the best products and/or services that you can make and then share that with the world. I just focused on becoming the best jeweller I could be and then looked up one day and I was a black woman, jeweller and business owner, in the male-dominated Diamond District.
Courage is probably the most important trait you can focus on cultivating as you develop your passion into a business. There are allot of “scary” unknown uncontrollable moments that you will face and you need to understand what you are made of to address such challenges. I also suggest understanding what fuels your drive, so when you are facing challenges you can tap into that inner strength to make strong and healthy decisions for yourself and your business. Sometimes that decision is also not what you want it to be and you have to be confident enough to accept that too sometimes.
Business is really the most soulful exercise I’ve ever done. It’s a way of life that tests your instincts and intuition everyday. It’s a constant test of character and consciousness. It reveals truths to you, everyday, with every challenge and hence can re-enforce what you and your business are made of. It’s a very powerful and raw way to live. If you choose it, I commend you. It’s an exciting time for women to build businesses and companies that reflect our true and genuine natures. It’s a chance for us to define the character of humanity on our terms, so for that alone I call more women to the playing field and support them to take on the challenge. It can only make us all better as societies, communities and individuals.