Joumanna Nasr is half Lebanese, half British. She was born in the UK, but returned to Lebanon after the war and completed her high school education and a university degree in Economics at the American University of Beirut. She then went on to pursue a career in finance in London, working on the trading floors of some major investment banks. Afterwards, she founded the company (Joumanna Ltd.) in November 2014, and went live on the website August 2015. While she has a flair for numbers, she always had an eye for accessories - so eventually, you can see she found a way to combine her financial knowledge with her creative side!
What made you launch a fully dedicated online shopping website for jewellery?
I guess I’ve always had an eye for unusual, statement pieces, probably inherited from my Aunt Amale! I also think that there is vast amount of talent and creativity back home in Lebanon, and I wanted to take that to the rest of the world. Over time, I realized that quite often when I wore a stunning piece of jewelry sourced from one of my trips back to Lebanon, it would receive beautiful compliments, so I began to think “Maybe I can make a business out of this!” I identified a gap in the market: While there were other single brand jewelry websites, the multi-brand portals tended to be quite ‘busy’ and non-personal. I wanted to create a website that looked neat, easy to navigate, well-curated and would showcase affordable, yet beautiful, unique pieces sourced from the Lebanese designers I love. We launched in August 2015, and since then we sold pieces not only in the UK, but worldwide like (US, France, UAE, Singapore). We are now introducing designers who complement our existing aesthetic from other parts of the world.
Can you tell us the story behind naming your website, Joumanna.com?
Once I'd come up with the idea for the website and had a strong vision of what I wanted it to incorporate and look like, I realized I was missing a name. I wanted a name that captured the oriental spirit (given initially the designers were mostly Lebanese), would be easy for non-Arab natives to pronounce, and also have a jewelry connotation. I actually thought of the name in the shower - it hit me that my name (Joumanna) means “pearl” in Arabic...so Joumanna.com seemed to tick all the boxes, even if the choice is a little narcissistic!
So, going through jewelry collections on Joumanna.com, we noticed that they all have a kind of an oriental flair. Is it intentional?Originally, we started working with the designers that I personally met, and known from buying their items over the last 10 years or so. I contacted them and presented the pitch, and the vision for our website. Inevitably that meant it was going to emphasize Lebanese designers, although with time we have expanded to include designers from all over the world. I also think it’s important to offer a diverse collection to cater to different tastes and you can see that some of the Lebanese designers (like Cera Barr or Margherita) have a more modern, edgy style.
Talk to us more about the type of jewelry that you sell on Joumanna.com...
Our tagline for the website is “Make A Statement”- and that really is the ethos of the pieces we have selected. We’ve created a breadth of products that caters to every taste. The pieces are exquisite/standout pieces but affordable, since they’re not made out of precious stones (although we will eventually look to expand into fine jewelry). The aim is for our customers to find the story they want to represent, be it the romantic neck piece, the byzantine earrings, the edgy choker, the elegant cuff, the romantic beads or the signature rings… We want to offer something for everyone and that’s why we work with different designers. So the originality, beauty and affordability of our pieces allow our customers to make their very own statements.
As a woman, in your opinion, why do you think jewelry matters to women?
It matters because at the end of the day we all have our own personal style, and we want to wear things that look good. Jewelry brightens up outfits, especially on the days when you are in a rush and don’t have the time to throw together the perfect "fashionista" look. Why not just put on a pair of fabulous earrings, and jazz up the outfit! It’s also lovely to be complimented. I believe it’s important for a woman to be confident in order to feel good, and if wearing your favorite accessory does that, then it’s a good thing and your accessory has achieved its purpose.
How do you think fashion affects women?
For me, style matters more than fashion. Fashion can be fast-moving and not everyone has the means of keeping up with trends (hence the ‘fast fashion’ boutiques that have emerged offering trends at discount prices). While one can appreciate fashion, style lasts forever. It is a product of your own taste, it’s personal to you and becomes a stamp of who you are. I think there is a lot of pressure on women (more so than men) to keep up to date with trends and fashion, but at the end of the day, you need to wear what makes you feel comfortable and pretty.
What’s the one piece of jewelry that you can’t leave home without?
A statement ring. I love rings… I have way too many, and not enough fingers on my hands!
If a woman wants to invest in a single piece of jewelry, what should it be?
I would say invest in a standout necklace. No matter what you’re wearing, jeans, t-shirt, LBD, navy, a statement necklace pulls the whole outfit together and can turn the mundane into something quite extraordinary!
Jewelry makes our body parts look prettier. Is that true?
I see jewelry more as another mean of self-expression and a way to stamp one’s style. I don’t think when a man or a woman buys a piece of jewelry, it’s because they are consciously trying to make their ear, hand, wrist or neck look more attractive, but rather they are expressing themselves as individuals. You fall in love with a piece, and want to make it yours. It becomes a story in itself. You make a statement with it!
You’re a successful Lebanese woman entrepreneur, so what would you like to say to Arab women to empower them?
I would say the cliché “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will,” is very true. As a business owner, you have to be ready to face tough days. How you deal with the setbacks will determine how far you will get. Of course there is an element of luck involved, but I genuinely believe that with a hard working positive attitude, a compelling vision and unwavering self-belief, you can make your business/idea work. The other thing I would say is that as women, we need to encourage one another more. I’m lucky enough to be part of a member’s club in London of women entrepreneurs of all ages and enterprises. It’s refreshing and encouraging to feel community support and listen to others who have had similar challenges to mine.