Emmanuela Okon, an alumna from the Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology (CCIT) program at the University of Toronto Mississauga, decided to “stick with [her] gut” when she launched E’s Element in January 2021, an online jewelry and athleisure wear business. While simultaneously planning the launch of her business, she landed a contract job at Shopify upon graduation. “Everything pretty much happened on a schedule with no intention to happen,” she says.
In university, Okon admits to being introverted, finding presentations in her classes challenging. On top of managing a double major in Political Science and CCIT, she also wrote for her blog while holding down a part-time job. Her favourite courses at UTM were web design, photography, and videography—all of which taught her valuable and transferable skills she now uses.
The idea of starting her business came to her during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. “I wanted to start a business once I graduated from university,” shares Okon. “I created E’s Element because I wanted to give people easy and quick access to quality jewelry and athleisure wear.”
Debuted as E’s Element, her jewelry business enables her to fully utilize her creativity, creating quality products that co-exist with each other. Okon uses premium fabrics for her athleisure garments, carefully cutting and sewing them in-house to fit a desired look. She also uses stainless steel and plated finishes for her jewelry pieces. According to her website, E’s Element uses sustainable packaging that reduces waste without sacrificing quality.
Though Okon loves her craft, it does come with its challenges. She runs her business full time and spends her weekends strategizing and planning for the following weeks. As an independent Black female entrepreneur in the field of fashion, she states that gaining brand awareness was one of her biggest obstacles. “Still, like every other small business, these things take time,” Okon adds. “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.”
When asked what kind of challenges she prefers between those she faced as a student or as an entrepreneur, she answered, “I would go with entrepreneurial challenges mainly because I can cope with [those] that come my way.” Okon states that these challenges have helped her shape her brands. “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,” she explains.
Despite her challenges, Okon notes that being surrounded by other Black women showcasing their love for entrepreneurship, media, and fashion is a unique experience. “These are the three things I am extremely passionate about,” she concludes. “Getting to enjoy the craft as a Black woman, as well as inspire others within my age range to do the same is such an amazing feeling.”