Sarah Moradi and Tanya Martynishyna are the founders of Toronto-based brand Vellicora Jewels. The duo met at York University’s Schulich School of Business and later became business partners. Their friendship blossomed after they took a trip to Tanya’s Florida home. They spent their time snapping photos in the summer heat and bonding over their shared interest in vegetarian food.
Sarah’s summers in Europe are what piqued her interest in jewelry and fashion. She found that everything in Europe was different from anything she had seen before. She made it a goal to buy jewelry that she would not be able to find in Canada. Her travels made her realize that it’s hard to find affordable good quality jewelry in North America.
“After collecting a large amount of jewelry from overseas, I recognized the lack of affordable yet unique jewelry in North America. Right then I knew I had to create a company that could bring together all the beauty and elegance I was inspired by throughout the world,” Sarah explains.
It was Sarah’s idea to start a jewelry line but Tanya was hesitant at first. Even though she loves fashion she wasn’t sure if she was ready to manage her own business. Her love of jewelry comes from her time window shopping in Ukraine with her grandma.
“Growing up, I have distinct memories of walking through the streets of Ukraine and window shopping for beautiful jewelry in the stores with my grandma. I never asked her to buy anything for me, but I remember the feeling of looking at the beautiful jewelry and how special it was. I really wanted to bring that same feeling to someone,” says Tanya.
The duo shares what the design process is like and what their future goals are for the brand.
FBI STYLE: What did you guys do before Vellicora Jewels?
TM: I was a marketing intern at another company, and I am a university student full time. It felt like I was kind of sailing through, and didn’t know what I wanted to do. Right before Vellicora, I was a model with an agency and my contract was coming to an end. Truthfully, it felt like a piece of my identity was taken away from me. For the transition months post-agency and pre-Vellicora I felt like I was stuck in some weird loop, and I thought I already reached my peak when I was modelling. Luckily Sarah and I started, and it quickly became something so much more important and deeper than anything I have done before.
SM: Before Vellicora, I felt like I didn’t fit the typical conventions of a business student that were usually held to a high standard in business school. Every time I interned for a business I was extremely grateful for the opportunity, in awe of the endless possibilities and realized I always wanted to experience entrepreneurship for myself. The most influential person in my journey was Bili Balogun, the CEO of Tribe Beauty Box, whom I interned with for 6 months. Bili really opened my eyes to the exciting world of being an entrepreneur and showed me that working with passion was the way I wanted to spend my life.
FBI STYLE: Why did you name your brand Vellicora Jewels?
TM: In coming up with Vellicora we wanted to create a name that represented the core values of our brand. We wanted to choose a name that was nothing like anyone had heard before, so we spent time bouncing around various name options, laughing and enjoying the process until we finally stumbled on Vellicora.
SM: Once we said it Vellicora out loud we immediately knew it carried a uniqueness and beauty that we wanted to emulate in our brand. Instantly falling in love with the name, we bought a business license and never looked back.
FBI STYLE: What was the inspiration behind your brand and its pieces?
SM: Travelling was the biggest inspiration for our brand as Tanya and I always bonded over our pure love for travelling and getting lost in the narrow roads of a new town. That beauty that we experienced showed through our branding and pictures very naturally. I would say that our aesthetic is just purely who we are.
TM: We wanted our customers to look at their pieces and feel as if they are transformed to their favourite destinations. Everything from our photoshoots to the peach colour of our logo is meant to take you out of your current space and into a new one filled with possibilities.
FBI STYLE: What’s the design and production process like?
TM: It’s not too complicated, we typically release a collection instead of individually. It takes months to curate and come up with the perfect collection. It’s quite a bit of planning. We usually go aesthetic first, then jewelry.
SM: We try to go ahead of what is currently trending but with our own twist. I think our customers appreciate our individuality and can often guess which one of us influenced each piece. The first samples of our pieces do not always make the cut which makes it so hard for us to keep our collections a secret! We are always so excited to share what we have been working on once it is perfect.
FBI STYLE: Were they any learning curves you experienced running your own business?
SM: There was so much that I learned growing up from my parents, since they’re both entrepreneurs, but there were also parts that I had to do a lot of research on. I never knew the simple things like shipping orders, to managing a website before Vellicora which really expanded my knowledge of the business world. Learning how to decrease costs and keep customers engaged was also a really interesting experience as we did a lot of trial and error to see what worked best for us!
TM: It came really naturally to me surprisingly, which makes me feel like I was always meant to do something like this. I might also be biased because I literally am a business student, and I study marketing. That being said, there was so much that I was so confused with, like creating a website, and the little operational details. We really do learn as we go, and we experiment with a lot of different ideas. Some work, others don’t. Just communicating with our followers and making content is so much fun for me, and I love the entire process.
FBI STYLE: Why do you think it’s becoming the norm for women to buy themselves jewelry rather than waiting to receive it as a gift from a man?
TM: Look at it this way, you can give clothes to someone as a gift and clothing doesn’t have that reputation attached to it. Clothing is something so personal to you, and only you really understand your own style. You can give and receive jewelry as a gift, but just like clothing, it is personal. Some people like gold, some people don’t wear bracelets, and some people like to keep it simple. Luckily, people are starting to see that. Looking at our sales, the ratio of people buying themselves jewelry rather than as a gift is wonderful. The reputation is changing, and we are grateful to be a part of it. With clothing, you know what fits you best. That is exactly how jewelry is. I don’t see it as just a special occasion thing, you can easily just incorporate it in your outfit every day. There is this quote that I really love: “Jewelry is like the perfect spice – it always compliments what’s already there.” by Diane von Furstenberg. That is exactly how I see it; it is your perfect spice. Only you know your perfect spice. That doesn’t mean that jewelry can’t be a gift, but we just needed to loosen the boundaries a bit.
SM: I think it is definitely becoming the norm! Women should embrace their love for jewelry and express themselves through accessories. A lot of our pieces can be very personal as Tanya mentioned and that is why we always strongly encourage our customers to treat themselves! Sometimes only we know what would look the absolute best on us.
FBI STYLE: What are some of your favourite pieces from your brand?
TM: It’s like choosing your favourite kid! But right now, I love the pearl pendant. It’s one of my favourite necklaces because of how easy it is to take it off and put it on. I have really shaky hands, so smaller clasps can be a bit of a challenge for me. I also love the tennis bracelet, because it’s just such a timeless piece of jewelry. Oh and the rose necklace. Love the rose necklace.
SM: I have so many favourites but I think the Mykonos Baguette Ring will always hold a special place in my heart. It is one of our best sellers and such a stunning statement piece that repeatedly takes my breath away no matter how many times I have seen it. From our new collection, I would have to say the Emerald Green Adjustable ring is my absolute favourite. It is unlike any ring I have ever seen before and the green gemstone adds such elegance to the ring.
FBI STYLE: What’s your ultimate goal for Vellicora Jewels?
TM : I would love for it to continue to grow, and for us to eventually expand into a bigger name. I don’t know if we will do only jewelry forever as we would love to expand into more industries. For now, we have a lot of exciting short-term goals to reach. I can’t say anything just yet, but I have a really good feeling about something we are planning for the summer.
SM: My ultimate goal for Vellicora is to have almost every girl in North America have heard of our brand. Whether that would be from their friends or social media, I would absolutely love to know that people have heard of our brand. I also can’t wait to notice people wearing our jewelry in public without knowing me! That would be an absolute dream come true.
I’m a writer, photographer, and the (occasional) model. I’m a sass queen, fashion enthusiast, and makeup addict. When I'm not busy writing about all things fashion and beauty, I'm busy trying new trends and products My goal in life is to discover the best tips and tricks and share them with the world. My past time hobbies include: Binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, spending money I don’t have, and contemplating whether or not to UberEats Mcdonalds.