Omani owner Salena Sporn and her friend Jill discuss her passion for unique artisan jewelry
Jill: I’ve always loved your passion for life, jewelry, and your ability to find and support outstanding artisans. I appreciate that you asked me to ‘interview’ you for your "About Us" page!
Salena: I think we both share a great passion for art, artisan jewelry, and all things creative.
Jill: Let’s start with how you began Omani. I know it was spontaneous, which is so in line with your character!
Salena: That’s true! It really all started with a necklace and earrings that I fell in love with and bought from an artisan while on vacation in Israel. I remember the pieces well! They were a hammered sterling silver three-tone necklace and earrings. By three-tone I mean it was sterling silver, oxidized sterling, and gold plate on sterling.
Back in Montreal, everyone loved the set as much as I did. I received so many compliments and positive comments whenever I wore the jewelry. Those compliments—and my cousin's chance meeting with the artisan who crafted the jewelry— put into motion the idea of showcasing artisan jewelry by starting my own business.
Soon, my first jewelry collection was on its way here to Montreal. I sold it all very quickly, and loved sharing this unique jewelry with others. I found that it all worked: I loved the jewelry, loved the interaction with people, and I wanted more. Next thing I knew, in 2003, I was on the plane again to Israel in search of other artisans and different styles of jewelry made from a variety of materials, including Swarovski crystals.
Poof, I was in business!
Jill: I know you don’t think of yourself as one, but I do see you as a great entrepreneur. Looking back, were there any indications from childhood that foreshadowed you running your own business?
Salena: Thank you for that. Yes, I think so, definitely. When I was growing up, I loved working in my father's retail store and engaging with people.
I admired how my father's personality brought people into his store. It was a variety store, selling everything from magazines and books to small gifts and sundries, snacks and, yes, even cigarettes. I loved the people part of the business. I sometimes even ran the store to give my parents a break from the seven-day-a-week business.
I started working there when I was 12-years-old and and helped out until my father sold the business when I was about 22. I think all of this influenced my decision to get a BComm in Finance when I chose to go to Concordia University here in Montreal.
Jill: For others who may be thinking of starting a business, what would you say is your biggest on-going challenge?
Salena: First of all, I love challenges, so that helps. But to answer the question, without a doubt, it’s all about constantly adapting to inevitable changes in retail sales and marketing.
Jill: What is your favorite aspect of what you do?
Salena: Making women feel more beautiful and confident. I also love travelling to Israel to search out new artisans and designers and seeing the exciting new products from those I already work with. I visit once or twice a year and I'm always amazed at the creativity of these artisans!
My search takes me all over the country, from Nazareth and beyond in the north to Be'ersheva, and the Negev to the south. Much of my business, however, is in the greater Tel Aviv area. And Jerusalem is always a must-stop for me.
Jill: Why did you select Israel as the country from which to source your artisan jewelry?
Salena: That’s an easy question for me to answer. I source my pieces from Israel for two reasons. First is my love and admiration for Israel, the people, her incredibly rich history, and the astounding creativity found there. Second, is my ever-growing love and appreciation for Israeli artisan jewelry, and art in all its forms. Israel is renowned for her creativity and outstanding talent.
Jill: How do you select your artisans? Do you have specific criteria?
Salena: Sometimes they select me!
I meet with many jewelry designers while I'm in Israel. I rely on my instinct a lot in the choice of artisans, but always with the image of my customer in mind. However, in terms of criteria, I'd have to say uniqueness tops the list. I'm always looking to bring something different to the jewelry market. The jewelry should also be timeless, chic, or somewhat edgy.
Jill: Tell us about the people who buy Omani, or what type of person is best suited to Omani jewelry?
Salena: The Omani jewelry customer is someone who appreciates artisan handmade jewelry as well as quality craftsmanship. Many of my clients are connoisseurs of Israeli jewelry but, really, any woman—or man—who loves handmade, creative jewelry will enjoy what I offer at Omani jewelry.
Jill: What tips do you have for women when it comes to their choice of jewelry?
Salena: Absolutely make sure you love the piece! I have a very low-key approach to selling and that’s because the jewelry speaks for itself. And it's always good to be open to something new, but it’s got to wow you! That's what it's about. Feeling the passion.
Jill: You are all about passion, my friend. I admire your approach, and obviously, it’s working. Your Omani story is so interesting, Salena. So, let’s end on this: what tips do you have for other women who would like to start their own business?
Salena: Go for it! It's a lot of work, but worth it if you love what you do. I sure do!