I Create Birmingham: Avani Patel
“I think relationships are integral to the design process. Jewelry is the most personal thing we wear. Clothing trends come and go, but fine jewelry is something we put on our bodies every day or on our most special occasions for the rest of our lives. We pass it down through generations. That means something.”
Avani, you have always been very driven. Where does that motivation come from?
I am from Birmingham, and this is my home. I went to Birmingham-Southern College, where I graduated Summa Cum Laude in three years. After college, I went out to Carlsbad, California and attended the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), where I became a GIA Graduate Gemologist and a jewelry designer.I have always been super motivated. I’m young, and I own my business. I’ve always worked at a fast pace and go for what I want one hundred percent. That doesn’t mean I don’t slow down to reflect and enjoy life, but I know what I want out of life so far and go for it.
I definitely inherited that trait from my mom, who is my business partner and co-designer. In college, I knew that I wanted to go into business with her. This isn’t a business that has been in my family for generations; it was a passion my mom started pursuing in her forties at our kitchen table. What I had to figure out was how to do that and where I would fit in. I majored in accounting, and I’ve been able to achieve this duality of a finance trade with a career as a designer that has served me well.I realize that I stand out in my industry. I am an Indian woman who is under thirty running this company. But I don’t feel excluded. I hope that I can inspire excitement. I’m excited that I get to do the work I love.
A large part of your retail business includes traveling for trunk shows. What have you learned outside of Birmingham that you’re eager to practice here? What do you think Birmingham has that makes our city so creative and entrepreneurial?
Growing up, I had the ability to travel a lot, and I think that has given me a unique global perspective on how I want to work and how I am in my personal life. I love getting outside of my bubble to have new experiences and be able to bring what I’ve learned back to my community.
I have a passion for Birmingham and not just because I grew up here. Birmingham has given me so much back! It’s the perfect place for my family, and it’s the perfect place to set out on an entrepreneurial adventure. I’ve experienced so much open-mindedness and support, and I feel like there is a spirit of co-motivation in this city. The young professionals in Birmingham really seem to want to see each other succeed, and that’s special.
You design several lines with your mother Rupa. But custom jewelry is a major component to your career. Where do you look for inspiration?
In the non-custom lines my mom and I design, we always think about what we would like to wear ourselves. We study history and take notes and inspiration from Edwardian to Art Deco design. We want to blend old world heritage with the lifestyle of the modern woman.
I love designing custom pieces that reflect someone’s personality. Design is my career but, really, my passion is people. When I’m meeting someone and getting to know them, I am designing a piece of jewelry for them in my brain!I think relationships are integral to the design process. Jewelry is the most personal thing we wear. Clothing trends come and go, but fine jewelry is something we put on our bodies every day or on our most special occasions for the rest of our lives. We pass it down through generations. That means something.
The mindset for creative entrepreneurship is an undertaking that, more often than not, doesn’t involve a 9 to 5 lifestyle. Looking forward into a new decade, on the calendar and as you move into your thirties, how do you view success?
I measure success by how happy and satisfied you are in what you are doing. I hope that I always feel content internally with the way I’m contributing, rather than the things I’m able to acquire.
Our professional tipping points are often discovered through our challenges. What challenges do you currently face? In the past, what challenges have you experienced and how were you able to overcome them?
I think I’ve experienced challenges recently in figuring out how I belong — how does my passion equate with this business and what do I need to be doing to continue to move forward. How do I merge running a business with being a new mother and my personal relationships?
In the past, I needed a way to feel like someone other than Ajay and Rupa Patel’s daughter who joined the business. I had an incredible mentor, Sanjay Singh, who took me under his wing. When I returned from California, he helped me get plugged in and build relationships. That sense of confidence that he helped instill in me was a game changer. It helped shape the woman I was then, am now, and am becoming. That philosophy of mentorship and finding ways to make a profound impact on kids is important to me and who I want to be in my community.
Interview by Tonia Trotter
Photos by Ambre Amari