At KF, we believe in the power of women. Each month, we'll introduce you to a 'Woman Who Inspires'. These incredible women are entrepreneurs, innovators and makers who are paving their own way in business, education, society, motherhood, and many more aspects of life. Learn how they started their ventures, the challenges they faced along the way and see how they are building their future - all of our futures - while inspiring others.
Creative Director, Founder and Designer of Luxury Jewelry Brand vajzë, Valentina Juncaj
We were introduced to vajzë this past year while working with 'Women Who Inspire' veteran Lora LaPratt. We were dropping off inventory and a beautiful necklace in the showroom caught our eye. We are true believers that if you can't stop thinking about a piece of clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc. after you leave the store, it is meant to be and a purchase should soon follow.
A week later and the beautiful dua vajzë necklace arrived. It was a match made in heaven created by this gem (jewelry pun), Valentina. Her creative eye for staple jewelry is one of a kind and we easily love every piece in her collection - hence why you see it all over our website in our SS20 images. Based in Detroit, this amazing entrepreneur has created quite the following and empire honoring her heritage and the power of 'girl'.
My name is Valentina Juncaj, and I am the founder, designer and creative director of vajzë, a luxury handcrafted jewelry brand, with a mission to give back to women and girls. My background is in business but am self taught in jewelry making. I was born in Montenegro and of Albanian descent, and vajzë means "girl" in Albanian.
Why did you start your company?
I have always loved art and expression through fashion and styling, but I never thought I would design or be an entrepreneur! I started my career in Finance and business, always working in the corporate world, so I thought one day I would be CEO (: When styling my friends and family with my jewelry they were borrowing for their special occasions, I found I loved putting things together and giving them confidence. It then felt like the right business for me to be in, curating a jewelry collection. This came so naturally to me, even though I never had my own business before this, I was thriving figuring it all out. I then took on learning to actually make the jewelry, working with metal smiths, taking classes, figuring out what I could. This is where vajze started, beginning with a sketch and finally creating a jewelry piece. I fell in love with the design and decision making process. Being an entrepreneur allows me to fully explore my views and show my vision, but it also really challenges me to grow from my own discipline and learnings.
What is your biggest failure in business and what did you learn from it?
Not trusting my gut and intuition - this happened often in the early stages, and I am finally learning to understand what intuition is vs. overcoming a fear. The first and "biggest" was working with a business partner.
I learn a lot about myself each time - I learn what the triggers are when something seems ‘off.' I’ve also learned to trust myself a lot more and know if something doesn’t feel right, then it won’t be right for me and ultimately my business.
I learned my ability to be flexible in changing or pivoting direction is really helpful and is something all business owners need to do! Not everything happens the EXACT way you envision it (let’s be honest, a lot won’t) so the ability to be flexible will just provide you with more power to be successful.
With all that being said, I don't consider anything a true "failure" in business, especially for a new entrepreneur. All failures are really learning opportunities. While sounding somewhat cheesy, it is the truth. Without that 'failure,' the lesson would not be learned, and sometimes these are required to attain the greater vision.
What is the first thing you do after waking up to jump-start your day?
I will tell you right now, I am not a morning person. I like to start my day pretty quickly in action - I have my coffee and then I go through my to-do list. If I am driving, I like to listen to a podcast.
What tools would you recommend anyone trying to start their own business or make your workday easier?
I am much more of a pragmatic person and like to give and take advice that I can actually apply, but I do, however, find reading/listening to stories of other entrepreneurs and industries super inspiring and helpful. Even though you may already be passionate about starting your business and getting the necessary items done, their journeys really give insight into how those who’ve overcome real life challenges problem solved. I love the How I Built this podcast.
I would also recommend listening/reading about other industries. This is something I personally always love learning about. I feel like learnings that have helped other industries can apply to your own.
The practical tools that are helpful to me are my my planner, notes app and email. I still love writing things down and crossing them off, so my planner is my life! In my planner I write my daily to-dos, monthly and quarterly goals, as well as the appointments and events. The tools in gmail also just add to the organization and help me schedule a 'follow up' to an email.
Books that I feel are really helpful for any entrepreneur: Start with Why, Contagious, Pitch Anything, Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook.
What person in history living or dead has inspired you and how?
I am inspired by a few: my mom and all the women entrepreneurs I have met. My mom has taught me that you can do anything, without letting any limitations stop you. She is an immigrant who worked very hard to be everything to everyone - she is a dedicated, hard worker and then was the most loving mother and wife at home who made sure to cook and spend time with her kids!
All the women entrepreneurs I have met through this journey have taught me something in some way about business but also showed me that when you find our community and "tribe" it makes the world of a difference in your growth and purpose.
If this wasn’t your job what’s something else you’ve always wanted to do start or create?
I would definitely volunteer more, so either helping organizations locally and globally or start one. I would also create a phone app!
Let's Get Deep...
What emojis do you use most when texting?
I looked at my 'recents' and found these - pretty accurate! 🤗🙏🏻💖🙆🏼♀️
What is your go to cocktail?
I rarely drink, only socially, and then I’d have white wine or whatever anyone else is ordering that looks good. :)
What books are you currently reading?
Breathe, focus, attack.
I don’t reach much anymore, but I am trying to get back into it! It’s something I haven’t made a priority. If I am looking to learn something new or a form of entertainment, podcasts have been more my go-to since I’m actively working with my hands and can listen to that in the background.
Go to fave garment in your closet.
A blazer or fitted stretch dress - either would make me feel confident and comfortable while being effortless. Then my jewelry! I always feel more refined once I put that on.
What is your signature scent?
I have a collection of scents and love having a variety, so I tend to switch it up!
Early riser or night owl?
Definitely night owl