Toronto-based fine jewelry startup Mejuri took home top prize at Thursday night’s Elevator World Tour event at the CN Tower.
The event comes as part of the International Startup Festival, an event hosted in Montreal every July. The inaugural Elevator World Tour event brought together over 100 startups from around the world to pitch their ideas to investors in a one-minute elevator ride looking down upon Toronto.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure when you walk in and you see the investors, you see the cameras in the small space (and I’m afraid of heights),” said Mejuri cofounder Noura Sakkijha, the Jordanian-born entrepreneur who wowed both investors and the audience with her pitch. “But everything was as great as I expected so I’m very thankful.”
It wasn’t uncommon to hear of entrepreneurs stumbling out of the gate only to be cut short midway through their pitch during the nerve-wracking one-minute journey. Fortunately Sakkijha was selected to pitch to the audience in the semi finals, after impressing her judges in the elevator ride that took occupants up 1815 feet above ground.
A strong semi-final pitch ushered Mejuri into top spot after audience members selected them as the winner via a mobile vote. The other six finalists were Dandy.co, Insta Radio, Sensor Suite, Shelf Life, HOVR.IT and Revelo Bikes.
Mejuri is the thread-less dotcom of the fine jewelry industry. The website connects jewelry lovers with jewelry designers using an online crowd sourcing portal. Designers submit designs, jewelry lovers vote, & winning designs get manufactured and sold. The company owns the rights to the products and designers are paid a royalty for their work.
The company is actually comprised of both Sakkijha and her husband Majed Masad. Born in Jordan the pair both attended the Ted Rogers School of Business at Ryerson University for their MBAs, and met each other through friends. A third cofounder currently works out of Jordan where most of the manufacturing is handled.
The company also benefits from a strong marketing story that is “baked in” to their product. Sakkijha’s family has been in the jewelry industry since 1953, providing them with extensive domain knowledge in the space and a cost-effective manufacturing location.
The Toronto-team currently works out of the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) at Ryerson University, a multidisciplinary workspace for research and learning. It was there that they heard about the Elevator World Tour.
"It’s a great experience, the investors brought on board were seasoned professionals and I think that makes a big difference,” said Masad. “From an entrepreneur’s perspective you really want the opportunity to pitch to a real investor, not just any person who considered them self an investor.”
The company is now looking towards a bright future. With minimal inventory they have remained self-funded and are exploring a round of funding.
But for these two entrepreneurs trying to build a successful business, is it hard to work along side one’s spouse every day? Not so much says Masad.
“We understand each other really, really well,” he said. “It was tough at first but now we’ve learned how to work with one another and we’re a stronger team.”