Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing and jewelry but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Emmanuela Okon, Founder of E's Element, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

E's Element is a Black-woman-owned athleisurewear and small jewelry business based in Toronto. I, Emmanuela Okon, am the founder and CEO of E’s Element, set out to create clothing and jewelry of uncompromising quality without the designer price tag. I work closely with skillful artisans to ensure beautiful and lasting jewelry. All fabrics are hand-picked and created based on in-house designs to maximize comfort for all body types. Our apparel designs are the latest in trendy and functional clothing for everyday wear. From layering tank tops to complement their jewelry to rocking their pieces at a party --- every set from E's Element is always in style. As a result, our customers are lower to middle-income women who like to express themselves with comfortable dressing and statement jewelry. We typically target Gen-Z and millennials, but we strongly believe that our products can suit anyone's lifestyle and age.

Tell us about yourself

I, Emmanuela Okon, am a Nigerian Digital Creator and Style Blogger based in Canada. Growing up, I always had an interest in fashion. My love for fashion at that time may have been inspired by my favourite celebrities back then. But through my journey to moving to Canada and influencing, fashion is more than just what I thought it was while I was a little girl. Fashion has become a craft for me. I began using my Instagram account often after secondary school, but it was not until I moved to Canada in 2016 that my perception of Instagram itself changed. Through Instagram, I branched out to create my fashion/beauty/lifestyle blog called StylebyEmmanuela. My journey as a digital content creator inspired me to write a digital book for digital content called StylebyEmmanuela Ebooks. And with the success of my Instagram account, blog, and digital book, I took the leap to open up my own e-commerce store, which is the E’s Element you'll find today.

Before being a small business owner and digital content creator, you know today, I was a wide-eyed, curious learner at the University of Toronto Mississauga studying Communication Culture & Information Technology as well as Political Science. I may not seem shy online, but I was introverted during my university years. My favourite courses at UTM were web design, photography, and videography, which I am thankful I took, as I use all that valuable knowledge learned in my everyday life today. During university, I started writing her fashion blog on top of having a part-time job and being a full-time student. I started creating my online presence through my passion and commitment. Shortly after I graduated from university in June 2020, I knew that I wanted to take a leap and start a business that would reflect my values and passions - a world of fashion in that I could make my mark on. I created E's Element because I wanted to give people easy and quick access to quality jewelry and athleisurewear pieces. For the most part, my inspiration to start my business came from wanting to curate quality jewelry and athleisurewear pieces that people can use to elevate their style daily.

Although my business has come very far since I started, it does come with its own set of challenges, brand awareness being one of them. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a very supportive Instagram community which has dramatically impacted the traction E's Element has gained—especially as a small [Black and female] owned business in Canada. Intersectional issues within algorithms, media, and fashion/beauty standards provide a unique set of challenges for the small business owner. But, despite these challenges, I continued to push through and navigate how I could get my name and brand out there.
An example of how I navigate these challenges is by being a part of in-person events that empower women. The Boss Ladies TO, HER Pop Up, and Trending Table Market events allowed me to network with other female entrepreneurs as well as introduce new customers to my brand. I felt empowered, not only by the interest and love I got from the people who attended but the other fellow Toronto women who owned businesses as well. I love being creative every day. My business ventures give me the opportunity to express my creativity on social media as well as help educate my audience online. I am thankful for my previous experiences, whether that be my fashion blog or my time at UofT; each experience has made me the strong and resilient businesswoman I am today.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I think my biggest accomplishment as a business owner is being able to see our community grow. Because I didn't feel represented in the fashion industry growing up–whether that be because the higher-end brands were not accessible or because the models they chose were not inclusive–I wanted to ensure that everyone would feel comfortable and confident when they wore my products. Through the work I've done at my company, I have met so many people that I would've never met. From meeting models who are all shapes and sizes to other Black-woman entrepreneurs I've met through our pop-up events, I am so happy to have been able to unite a community through my passion and values.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

As briefly mentioned before, a big challenge of becoming a business owner is due to the unique intersectional identities that interact with the different power structures I face as a Black woman. For example, social media has been a big way that I am able to get my brand's name and image out there. However, as I know from my previous experiences as a digital creator, I know that the algorithm favours certain content because of race, gender, etc. On top of dealing with the struggles of a regular business owner–such as being fully self-funded and self-built–I also must navigate a terrain and society that may not fully support my vision and beliefs. Especially because our brand works to change the industry by having size inclusivity, gender-neutral options, affordable luxuries, diversity, and women empowerment, we actively resist the power structures that continue to try to oppress those who step outside the lines and do not follow the dominant narrative.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

As a small business owner, it is essential to prioritize your time effectively and focus on the activities that will have the greatest impact on your business. Some key activities that I would recommend entrepreneurs invest their time in include networking, marketing, and customer relationship management. Networking can help you build valuable connections and gain access to new resources and opportunities. Effective marketing can help you reach and engage with your target audience and generate new business. And maintaining strong relationships with your customers is critical for the long-term success of your business.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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