It's funny how your first love can bring out other loves in your life. That's the story of Sharon Cunningham, owner and operator of Mema Designed.
A jewellery, mosaic and fused-glass artist, and also a lover of sketching and painting, Cunningham shared the story of how her passion for art and design inspired her to venture into making her one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces branded Mema, a name inspired by her first love - her daughter.
"I came up with the name Mema because my daughter's name is Mia, but she couldn't say her name when she was younger, so she said 'Mema'. I used the name for my brand," she explained.
Mema Designed carries a range of items such as fused glass, jewellery, jewellery in glass, and recently she added handmade leather pieces and ballerina sketches, using archival ink on watercolour paper.
Cunningham, who is an auto parts retailer by profession, said that she has been designing for as long as she can remember.
"I've been designing for friends, but with the advent of social media, I design and posted them - I get interest from different parties. People have reached out and touched base with me, and it just keeps growing," she said.
Still less than a year old, Mema Designed was selected by the National Baking Company to be an exhibitor at the recently held Jamaica International Exhibition (JIE) 2017 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The company created an open marketplace for her and seven other entrepreneurs by providing them with outfitted spaces to display their products.
A gleeful Cunningham expressed how thankful she was to the National Baking Company, who afforded her the opportunity to showcase her brand at JIE.
"I would have been at my other job, but thankfully, Tiffany Wong reached out to me and I was selected to be one of the exhibitors, and I'm really thankful for that," she said.
She explained that being at the two-day exhibition has given both her and her business exposure that she wouldn't have got otherwise.
"It's fantastic, I'm telling you. It's really fantastic. I had a photo op with the prime minister. Karl Samuda was there also, and I just wouldn't get this type of coverage otherwise," Cunningham said.
Even though balancing her full-time job with making items for the Mema line is time-consuming and difficult at times, she said there are days when someone sees the Mema line and appreciates what she's doing, and this gives her fuel to keep going.
The thing she loves most about being an entrepreneur is the feeling she gets when she sees her finished products.
"When you actually see the design come to fruition, it's just an amazing and rewarding thing; and also when someone says to you, 'Oh! I love your design', it's a fantastic feeling," she said with a big smile.
She sees Mema as a growing brand - one that is all-encompassing. Already expanding to include beach totes, earrings in leather and a line of fringe leather that has been receiving great feedback, she said she is hoping to add clothing to the Mema brand. Additionally, she hopes to add a staff complement.
"Staffing is very important because you need to meet the demand that's out there. I'm really getting good feedback, so I think the brand will grow in leaps and bounds over the years. But for that to happen, I need to keep working at it," she said.