The online fashion jewellery and accessories boutique specialises in rare, exclusive and vintage pieces seen on celebrities.
"Aim high, focus and work hard towards your goals. It is also important to learn from your mistakes and not let them discourage you. My biggest mistake initially was being shy and hiding behind my brand instead of putting myself out there meeting more people and socialising when I started in 2008," says Katirai.
Her passion for jewellery was influenced by her family - her mother was a gemologist while both her grandmothers accumulated remarkable collections of jewels in their lifetimes; and her father was an antique collector for over 25 years. The foundations were so strong that she grew up to have an eye for detail and passion for craftsmanship in fashion jewellery. This should be treasured, collected and passed on from generation to generation, much like fine jewellery, she adds.
In 2014, she added 'Flutterfluff Lashes' to her collections after not finding her favourite strip lash brand in the UAE. Katirai considers her luxurious 3D mink falsies as jewellery for the eyes, frequently adding new styles so her clients can develop a wardrobe of fine lashes. Her customers often get inspiration from sophieloveshermakeup.com, where she shares her beauty looks. Whether it's glittering jewels or alluring beauty, Katirai has a passion for all things pretty.
The e-commerce portal was launched after Katirai completed her Master's degree in Business Administration at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and returned to the UAE.
"I work in collaboration with some top jewellery designers such as Ciner and Kenneth Jay Lane to create one-of-a-kind or exclusive pieces that will not be sold anywhere else in stores or online," says Katirai.
How the idea was born
"When I lived in Canada, shopping online was part of my daily life. I was surprised to find that there were hardly any online stores in the UAE that I could shop from and especially no online fashion boutiques based in the region at the time. Being the first online jewellery boutique in the region was a challenge as shoppers were not comfortable buying their jewellery based on a photo they saw on their computer and especially paying for it online."
Katirai recalls that initially her customers preferred to place their orders by phone, e-mail, through messages on Facebook or personally pick up their purchases so they could see what they were buying.
"By ensuring each and every customer was happy with their purchase and always replacing or repairing any faulty or damaged items, we built trust and a good reputation and started to see customers placing their orders directly on the website. Word of mouth was our strongest support and our happy clients spread the word about how much they enjoyed shopping with us. It was this support from customers that helped us grow fast and become well-known in a very short time. Today, our customers shop at sophiescloset.com directly and not only from the UAE and the region but also from all over the world," she adds.
A word of cation from this seasoned businesswoman is that entrepreneurs have to be involved in every aspect of business. She said that when she started sophiescloset.com, she had to be involved in every aspect of the business from designing, buying, PR, marketing, social media and even coding the website!
"I have donned many different hats during the day that I preferred to stay low-key and not attend any events or socialise. This helped me remain focused on the business but at the same time I lost opportunities to meet new people and learn from them. What I learned from the missed opportunities is that as a business owner, it's very important to socialise and learn from your peers. Now, I try to find a balance between managing my businesses and attending events."
The portal has recently added a beauty section with a focus on rare, hard-to-find beauty products. Katirai plans on expanding its reach by opening seasonal pop-up retail locations in Dubai.
A mother, Katirai said: "I don't see a difference between the sexes when hiring. It is their education, skills, experience and characteristics that matter. I understand the challenges we have as women, wives and mothers. However, I don't see that being a woman should ever hold us back from being successful in our careers. At sophiescloset, we provide the resources to encourage our team through training and networking with each other. One of the things that I enjoy the most is talking, sharing motivational stories, quotes and our own success stories during staff meetings which is very important in keeping everyone feeling valued, engaged and supported."
On her do's and don'ts for UAE businesswomen, Katirai adds: "I can't think of any don'ts. The UAE has never made me feel limited because of my gender. In fact, I have many local female entrepreneur friends as well who are extremely successful in their businesses and as mothers and wives. The sky is the limit in the UAE."
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