Female Entrepreneurship & Jewellery for Empowerment: Aynur Abbott
Aynur Abbott is a Dutch female entrepreneur of Turkish descent. Her parents left Turkey 55 years ago in search of better jobs. Although born and raised in the Netherlands, Aynur talks powerfully of her Turkish roots. Here in Amsterdam she ties Turkey and New Zealand together and markets her jewellery collection to a culturally diverse Dutch audience. Her collection is pure gold and designed to be worn by women to feel empowered, self-respecting, and independent: qualities Aynur herself possesses as a female entrepreneur.
At 39 she quits her corporate job to become a self-employed designer. She stresses throughout her interview that she isn’t a guru or life-coach, yet gives out free advice and inspiration to struggling women, establishing her name and herself as a brand for female empowerment.
Her story and her struggle are detailed below - in her own words, of course.
Q. What do you do and how did you get here?
I launched a jewellery collection 2 years ago in the Dutch market. There were two things: I wanted to reintroduce women wearing real gold again, because you have so many jewellery brands that aren't real gold anymore. And I was thinking, what would I wear every day?
In Turkish culture you get given gold when you are very young. I thought about the first bracelet I ever got which was real gold. I lost it - and there was panic in the house, but in the end we found it in my dads back pocket. I remember saying ‘daddys, daddys’ but nobody could understand me, but I meant I put it in Daddy’s pocket. I have a really bad memory, but that was really implanted, with the idea that real gold is valuable and important.
So when I got to this stage of becoming an entrepreneur, I really thought what jewellery would I wear everyday, what gives me the feeling of empowerment, what makes me feel really sure about myself when I’m presenting or standing in front of somebody, what makes me feel complete...So that's how the collection came about.
Q. So tell me about your collection.
We see ourselves as a real golden jewellery brand. Mainly its 8 carat gold but I’m adding now 14 carat gold and I’m working with diamonds and gem-stones. The collection is fashion-forward, it's not extravagant, it's quite minimal, yet there are a few statement pieces.
But it’s really made for women to wear on a daily basis to make them feel very pretty, elegant, sophisticated.
Q. So let’s backpedal a bit first so we can get to know you better. Are you married?
Yes. My husband is Kiwi. And I have one son, of 10 years. So the collection is multinational - the gold is from Turkey but the green (emeralds, diamonds) are from New Zealand. I love the hills and the mountains, and every-time I am over there I am always in awe of the prettiness of that country. So both the New Zealand part and the Turkish background comes back in the collections, and I believe this will be the difference between my collection and others because we have this mixture.
Q. Where do you source your materials from?
I have an atelier in Turkey. It took me 2 years to find this atelier, these people are true craftsmen. I think this is important for our collection, to show how it has been made and how it has been finished by hand.
Q. How did you have this idea to do jewellery?
I’ve been working in the media industry for 14 years, but 4 and a half years ago I decided to give up my job - which was fashion and beauty oriented of course, we worked for cosmopolitan, for example. I worked passionately for it.
Q. So why did you quit?
At a certain time I came to the highest position of my career. I was managing 14 people and was responsible for one of the most important teams in the publishing company. So I asked, what could be the next step, and do I want this? We were also reorganising so I realised someone would decide for me whether I was going to be in that position or not, and I worked really hard for my career and I was unsure if that’s what I wanted.
Q. I can tell you are motivated because you made that jump from corporate to entrepreneur.
Yes, I wanted to choose for myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do - it was a journey. And my husband said, “you take that jump and i will support you from the sideline!” which encouraged me to get to this point.
At first I worked with some dutch brands, a lifestyle web-shop too, I did some gold-plated silver brands...but then I realised “hey I wouldn't wear this jewellery, so who am I making it for?”
Then I came to this jump that I would make jewellery that I would wear myself. For years I’ve been looking for a jewellery brand that would fit me. For clothes I would always know, but I could never find that finishing touch (rings, earrings) that was worth the money. So that’s how it came about.
Q. So in a sense you did this completely for yourself?
I wanted to make jewellery where I would say, “hey this is something I would wear everyday.” A lot of women are searching for this. My style is quite minimal, it's not ‘arty-farty’ - you have artistic women who like to wear different stuff of course - but mine is more modest and wearable on an everyday basis. We say: we are an affordable luxury brand.
Q. I noticed that your name is your brand - is that a conscious decision?
Yes, I wanted to have a brand that was authentic and personal.
Everybody was saying, “why don’t you put yourself on the site and do the campaign shoot?” And I was like ohhhh ok …. Well, I don’t mind being on camera so after a while I thought: I guess I could do this! It’s quite nice to be a brand. I would like to show people a glimpse of my life. Aynur has my Turkish part, and Abbott has my husband’s name. I mean I could have done my mother’s name “Aynur Aslem”, but it wouldn’t have that international power.
We wanted to make it really personal, and be a different jewellery brand.
Q. Do you consider yourself a brand?
Of course, if you choose to have your own name, you choose to be a brand, you have to put your face out there and let them know who you are.
Q. With social media?
Yes, I have 4000 followers, but I want to go up to at least 10K. But it takes time, and I don't want to buy them.
I share quite personal stuff on instagram, I mean not private, but work related, my path of being an entrepreneur. I also have a path that I'm following with my husband, that is our self-development... I also give some inspirational motivation - I’m not a guru or anything - but I share the stuff that I’m exploring. I share my little boy once in a while. My mother, my husband's mother. So people can see what I stand for.
Q. In a sense you are fostering brand intimacy. In terms of image that’s really great.
I think so - and we are capable of balancing how much we want to share (I don't want to have my phone on me the whole time) and the things I find important like entrepreneurship, the business, or this interview, for example.
I mean I’m still only 2 and a half years old. I’m showing how we are building this - and how we are struggling (behind the scenes).
Q. What is your biggest challenge as a female entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge is feeling alone. I always worked in corporate, had teams around me, and I actually underestimated finding that motivation out of yourself. When I was working from home I just wanted to lie in bed the whole day, do the washing, just not work. I didn't recognise myself. So I came to the realisation that I need to have a team to work with.
We also have to keep on sharing the story of our brand, why we chose gold. Last week, for example, I did a poll if people knew the difference between different types of gold. 50% of women didn’t know! Which means they don’t know what they are wearing! It’s so comforting to see: we buy stuff but we don’t know what we are buying!
I want to be that brand who helps them, but I need the right people and the right team (marketers, copywriters, website designers), so by September I will work towards having this.
Q. So it’s not just about selling jewellery?
At the end of the day, I want to make women more aware of what we spend our money on. I'm not here to lecture. I don’t want to educate, just inspire to become more aware. It's not like I am that conscious either - I don't spend thousands on jewellery. But I want to sell the feeling of women so they feel empowered, feel pretty, feel secure in yourself.
Q. And that goes into understanding what you are wearing?
Q. So who are your target women?
Self-made women, entrepreneurs or women with good careers. Women who are more conscious about what they are buying, they like nice stuff, you know? Women who travel, who are educated, who like to do cultural stuff but also like to hang out with their friends. That's the woman I want to aim for. But no matter who comes here there’s something for everyone. I think it’s women that are saying, “I just want to go for better quality”. Doesn’t matter who you are.
Q. Why did your parents move to Holland from Turkey?
For work. But all my sisters and brothers were born here [Holland]. But the reason I chose Turkey - for my atelier - is I wanted to have Turkey play a part in my business.
Q. So why Turkey?
I don't feel 100% Turkish, I don't get the mentality, culture, yet there is something that feels for Turkey, especially when they are going through a hard time.
I found it important, I am Turkish-Dutch so it was important for Turkey to play a part. But I would also like to bring Turkey to my son, so he knows where he’s from - he’s half-Turkish after all. So I’m happy that I chose it - it fits the brand. If my atelier was in Bali - it wouldn’t fit. For me the whole story is complete.
Q. I’ve met a few Turkish women in my past and they are generally the strong women - is this the case with everyone?
My mother is also really strong and independent. She was the one woman in the whole family who didn’t wear a headscarf, whereas the rest of the family were really conservative. So I think I look a lot like her, I traveled when I was 22. I went to Sydney, I left my job, so I've got that fighting and achieving and wanting to be successful, whatever that may be - and I got that from her.
Q. So this entrepreneurial spirit, so to speak, has been passed down from your parents?
They are not entrepreneurs, my father was all for safety... when I left my job at the publishing company, I had a great salary, nice car, but i just thought: safety. I’m 43 now and I don’t have regrets.
Q. So what would you say to a female entrepreneur if they want to, for example, quit their jobs and start in this industry?
I do have a lot of these talks: the women who follow me always write to me. And I don't want to be a guru - because I have no idea - but I like to motivate people to give it a go! If there's something in you that says “hey, I want to leave or change jobs, or go on a trip, or not work for a big company” I think those things are so strong and, I find, so inspirational, that I always hope to motivate women to take that action.
Women are always scared - but what’s the worst thing that can happen? We are not 50 or 60 where it's impossible to find something, so I’m always trying to motivate them: if there's something in you, don't let fear stop you from doing it. I think those fears, no salary, I can't do it, I think those are just excuses.
I know my husband supported me, but even without his support I would have still quit: go on a world trip, do something else, quit again. I like to explore. Even with this business I explored many things, and some didn't work.
Oprah - who is my inspiration - said you cannot fail, failure is just a path to success. I mean I failed so many times (setting up that business in Turkey, I spent time and money, and not seeing my little kid), but I also learned from those things. With women who always contemplate “should I leave my job”, I always push them to go for it!
Q. People come to you for advice?
Yes! Younger women come to have a sit-down and talk. I talked to a girl of 25 who wants to start her own jewellery line. But eventually I don’t want to be a guru, I want to inspire people and tell my story, that's what I like to do. But I don't want to be a coach on how they should go about doing it, that's not my role. I want to give people that extra nudge. I mean I’ve also felt miserable and lonely, but you just have to go for it!
Q. I think strong characteristics and personality traits are also important for this kind of work.
Yes, and confirmation that what you are doing is OK. So as soon as I found out that women liked my jewellery and that your friends are willing to pay for it, that's important.
Q. Can you describe a time where you felt powerless?
Powerless when I was setting up my business, and my best friend decided to end our friendship. Because I felt that my business was stuck in the middle of our friendship. And also in that beginning phase, I was struggling, not knowing why I felt unmotivated, I felt really powerless like I don't know why I feel like this.
Q. Can you describe a time that you felt particularly powerful?
When I made the decision of leaving my job - but there’s ego involved in that, because it was Me leaving the job. I felt quite powerful when I heard that I became one of the finalists in “She Store” campaign which was quite confirming and made me feel powerful.
I think becoming a mum makes you feel powerful. I mean after the birth, emotionally I was doing alright, but I gave birth without any anaesthetics. So I felt quite powerful then. I was really proud.
The reason I asked Aynur the last two questions is part of a psychological test: when people talk, think, or write about a moment in which they felt powerful, this confidence will leak into their everyday lives and inspire them to do better (be it in interviews, life-choices, or being a mother or friend).
Aynur is a powerful woman who is already an inspiration to others. Her story resonates with power, confidence, and the confirmation that going with what you feel is right within you can change your life for the better. I hope that reading her story will evoke a similar psychological feeling of power in all women everywhere, from aspiring entrepreneurs, mothers, to young women looking for that authentic character-defining piece of gold. Check out Aynur’s website here: https://www.aynurabbott.com/.