Project Empower Circle
StudioMEMA: Minimal Polymer Jewellery
Have you ever dreamed of working alongside your best friend? While you might not think about it every day, chances are you thought about the fact that it would be way more fun than a regular 9-5 job. Well, the two co-founders of StudioMEMA, Tara Memarian and Zahra Khalesi are high school besties, who turned their friendship into a business partnership.
An Eye for Art
The two friends enjoy what they do and have a strong passion for art! Tara has always maintained her interest in the arts by crafting, sculpting, painting, etc. Meanwhile, Zahra has always been a fan of art and volunteered at Art Battle in Hamilton, where she got to view the creative process behind the competitive painting amongst local artists. Because of the experience, Zahra made plenty of connections with various artists, growing closer to the process of and the hard work that goes into making art.
“Art is a beautiful way to communicate and the more we have it in the world the nicer it is”
Tara Memarian studied Civil Engineering at Waterloo University and is currently working at an Engineering company in Downtown Toronto. She is the main Creative Director of StudioMEMA. Zahra Khalesi is pursuing her Ph.D. in Psychology at McMaster University. In addition, she also has a Minor within the Business sphere which greatly helped when she was starting StudioMEMA with Tara. Although the two best friends study in completely different fields, the two have always connected through art. Essentially, art is the bridge between their beautiful friendship.
From Friends to Business Partners
The establishment of StudioMEMA can be credited to Tara’s decision in making polymer clay earrings. Roughly two years ago, Tara moved to Toronto and was watching creative videos online and thought it would be fun to craft earrings with modelling clay. Shortly after, Zahra came to visit her and was astounded by how unique Tara’s clay creations were. This is when Zahra said, “why not sell these?”
The idea fascinated Tara and so both friends set out on a journey to start a business, selling polymer clay jewelry. Zahra had attended numerous Art Battles before, so she tapped into the connection she had made and reached out to people she knew to find pop ups and venues to showcase Tara’s work. Zahra realized that hosting a pop up would be Tara’s chance to become recognized for her passion and outstanding artistry. The first-ever pop-up was hosted at the Hamilton Art Crawl last year and marked the start of a business that would flourish over the next year and beyond.
Tara and Zahra have made immense progress with their brand since the beginning and, though StudioMEMA is a relatively new company, it has gone through lots of changes. First, the two best friends had to figure out their business name, logo, and packaging. Though this was an ongoing process that required time, Zahra and Tara successfully put together a company that flourished. The name StudioMEMA was created by Tara, and the four-letter word “MEMA” is derived from Tara’s last name. For StudioMEMA’s logo, Zahra’s husband used his specialization in architectural design, to sketch countless designs in various sizes until the two friends found a suitable one. The packaging that comes with the product is handcrafted by Tara. As it is often seen with small businesses, Tara and Zahra take the time to carefully wrap each handmade set of earrings with little to no paper in order to create more sustainable packaging.
The Perils of working together
Working with your friends can be a fun and exciting experience, however, it can also lead to unique challenges, such as striking a balance between being friends and business partners.
Initially, Tara and Zahra had difficulty planning their business discussions. Together, they would discuss concepts and designs for StudioMEMA, however, they found that merging business discussions into their friendship proved to be rather challenging. Zahra felt as though she could not bond with Tara when all they focused on was delegating tasks and talking about goals for the business. Every week, Tara and Zahra dedicate time to structurize business goals and compile new ideas. They would schedule MEMA talks where they can freely discuss matters relating to their business and how to enhance it further. Their advice to friends planning to work together? Make sure that you dedicate specific times for business talk and try to not let the business take over your friendship. How can you do this? By booking chunks of time for business talk and ensuring that you use that time effectively, you can silo in your time as business partners!
The Impact of COVID-19 and other challenges
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Art Crawl and pop ups were closed so Zahra and Tara had to resort to selling their polymer clay jewellery on a platform called https://www.etsy.com/.This e-commerce website is a central hub for artists focused on making vintage handicrafts and selling them. Furthermore, the website specifically targets consumers interested in hand made goods. Despite the fact that Studio MEMA was up on the website for only two months, Zahra and Tara mentioned how amazing it is to have customers reach out through Etsy and continue to support their business. Not to mention, StudioMEMA also has an official Instagram page where fans can engage with the owners, see sneak peeks of new items, take surveys and play an active role in shaping StudioMEMA’s services.
Another major challenge was figuring out how many products should be sold in order to effectively generate sales. Both co-founders discovered that customers feel overwhelmed when they are presented with too many products. As a result, they narrowed down their jewellery selection to five different colourful and vibrant items. The variety includes Polymer Clay Horseshoe Earrings, Polymer Clay Hoops, Polymer Clay Studs, Polymer Clay Donut Earrings and Polymer Clay Halfmoon Earrings.
Make a Statement
The ambitious co-founders of StudioMEMA value the idea of minimalism, quality, sustainability and happiness. These four fundamental values help shape the business and allow Zahra and Tara to understand what fits into the brand and what does not. Similarly, StudioMEMA centers its attention on selling statement earrings that help boost consumer’s confidence. Zahra and Tara offer uncomplicated yet beautifully crafted earrings that provide customers with that elegant style that is bound to turn heads. It’s like Tara explains “What we’re hoping these earrings will do for you as a person is give you that one last thing that you need for your outfit that makes you feel special”.
All the jewellery pieces at StudioMEMA are handcrafted with high-quality stainless steel and polymer clay so that they last longer and do not rust within a short span of time. The team is exceptionally conscious when it comes to the usage of packaging the products. Immense improvement has been made to eliminate the usage of plastic and paper. Zahra and Tara also partake in an initiative that revolves around helping plant trees. So, for every four earrings that sell, they help nourish our environment for the better good.
Tara Memarian and Zahra Khalesi are two best friends that prove it is absolutely possible to work as an effective team within the business sphere and continue to explore creative ideas. Though it is not an easy process, it is definitely one that is worth the time and effort. Both friends center themselves on creating minimalistic jewellery and their ultimate goal is to boost customer’s confidence while maintaining a sustainable outlook. The brand continues to thrive and pivot off continuous feedback and growth from consumers. With the success of StudioMEMA, Tara and Zahra prove that it is possible to manifest dreams into reality and create a beautiful brand that aims to be eco-friendly as long as you are passionate about what it is you are doing.
Check out and support Studio MEMA here and here.
This article was authored by Solveiga Procivaite and edited by Pallavi Dutta and Nikoo Aghaei.
Image credits: Studio MEMA