Duha Ramadhan is the founder and visionary behind the coveted fine jewelry destination, Aubade. Her passion for the jewelry industry and her keen eye for unique, international brands have elevated the Kuwaiti jewelry market to new heights. Her journey began with a simple desire to bring her favorite jewelry brands to Kuwait, and has since transformed into an empire, characterized by carefully curated collections and a commitment to excellence.
As a strong advocate for empowering women, Duha has cultivated a team of like-minded individuals who share her vision for Aubade. Under her leadership, the platform has been recognized for its contributions to the industry and dedication to excellence. Their commitment to providing clients with personalized, white-glove service has earned them a reputation as the go-to destination for luxury jewelry in Kuwait and beyond.
Through her passion and intuition, Duha has navigated the challenges of starting and growing a business in the e-commerce industry, and has emerged as a trailblazer in the field. She has seamlessly integrated technology into her business model, offering clients a unique digital shopping experience that is as personalized as an in-store visit. As virtual try-ons and other innovative technologies continue to shape the future of e-commerce, Duha remains at the forefront of the industry, always pushing the boundaries and raising the bar for excellence. Abouther.com caught up with Duha Ramadhan to delve deeper and talk all things jewelry, tech and challenges…
What inspired you to create Aubade, and how did you come up with the idea for this e-commerce platform?
As a jewelry lover, I noticed the niche for fine jewelry in the Kuwaiti market was lacking, as I couldn’t find any of my favorite jewelry brands and styles locally. Aubade was founded with the idea of bringing all of my favorite international brands to Kuwait, allowing me to introduce new names to the local jewelry market.
I had always wanted to expand the business by launching an online platform, but the process got expedited during the pandemic, when all retails stores had to shut down and we had no online outlet to showcase our collections. I had to act quickly to ensure we could still cater to our clients and be able to show them our offerings digitally, and that’s when the e-commerce platform was born.
Who is the Aubade customer, and how do you cater to their needs?
The Aubade customer is the independent, hard-working woman who spends on herself with her own hard-earned money. Whether she’s an entrepreneur, corporate woman, or a doctor, she’s the woman who will walk into store and treat herself to something she loves because she deserves it. To cater to such a client, we ensure that we have a range of styles and price points that will please our diverse clientele; however, our main motto is that jewelry is meant to be worn and not locked away, so we curate a selection that is wearable and can easily transition from day to night.
What sets Aubade apart from other e-commerce platforms, and what do you think has been the key to its success?
Aubade prides in being a carefully curated fine jewelry store. It was never meant to cater to the masses or showcase an endless range of jewelry and collections, but rather the selection is well thought out and hand-picked. We ensure that each brand that we house is unique and offers something new, so that no two brands in store are alike. All these factors make the browsing and shopping experience for clients easier, which I feel sets us apart from other jewelry platforms.
I also believe that the key to Aubade’s success has been passion. I started this business guided by passion and intuition, which has allowed me to grow the business in a natural and organic way. I am a strong advocate for businesses that stem from passion because in my opinion it is a driving force in any business’s success.
How have you navigated the challenges of starting and growing a business in the e-commerce industry, and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in this space?
Going from a bricks and mortars store to online has its own sets of challenges. The biggest challenge I faced was how to recreate the same in-store personalized shopping experience on the website. When we first met our website developers, they referred to our project as a “digital flagship store” and it has stuck with me ever since. Because indeed, the main focal point of this project was to give our online clients the same experience they would have if they had stepped into store. Luckily, we came up with some wonderful ideas and special features that would set us apart from other online platforms.
My main advice to other entrepreneurs who want to venture into the e-commerce world is to ensure you have the team to manage to it. An e-commerce platform is its own entity and runs as a separate outlet, so you need to ensure that you have a dedicated team to operate it.
Aubade is where the worlds of fine jewelry and e-comms collide - How has technology played a role in the development and growth of Aubade, and what innovations do you see shaping the future of e-commerce?
We finally catapulted into the online world because of covid, and it shifted the business significantly. Not only did it increase our international reach, but it also became a digital catalogue for our local clients to browse before making their purchases. We also noticed that people’s confidence in shopping for jewelry online increased and we started witnessing more of our local clientele shopping online without visiting the store. Overall, we can now account 50% of our annual sales happening digitally – whether it’s a direct purchase on the website or through WhatsApp communication, which to us is an extension of our online platform. People are now browsing the website, WhatsApp-ing our sales team to finalize the sale, and then completing the purchase all while not leaving their homes.
I believe AR and virtual try-ons will play a huge role in the future of e-commerce. One of the biggest setbacks of shopping for jewelry online is not being able to try it on, and because jewelry prices tend to be high, it’s not a risk you want to take. However, once virtual try-ons become a standard feature on digital platforms, I believe this will reduce the risk of online shopping significantly and will boost people’s confidence in purchasing jewelry online.
You've been recognized for your work in empowering women in the workforce. How has this influenced your leadership style at Aubade?
I am so lucky to work alongside inspiring women in the industry and to have a team that consists of mostly women. I have always led my team with compassion, understanding, and patience. We’re always giving our all and doing our best, and despite coming from different backgrounds or leading different lifestyles, we are all working towards a common goal, and that is the growth and success of Aubade. To be surrounded by such women who have pulled through and helped me reach this stage in the business has been the single most humbling and inspiring experience of my life. Hence, I always see my team members as my companions on my Aubade journey, without whom I would not be where I am today.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur, and how have you applied it to your work at Aubade?
Persistence and patience. It’s not an easy road, and it can very well be a lonely road, but you just have to keep going until you succeed. And that’s been my motto at Aubade – there are times where I was just ready to give up, especially during hardships, but once I powered through, I came out of it stronger and prouder than ever.
What is your vision for the future of Aubade, and where do you see the brand going in the next few years?
To be the leading destination for fine jewelry in the region; I want to be a trusted platform for emerging and established designers from around the world, and I hope to achieve this by opening a few more stores in the region and growing my online business. Ultimately, it’s my dream to open a store in LA, which is my home away from home.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the fashion industry. How does Aubade incorporate sustainable practices into its operations?
We are extremely lucky in that we work with many jewelry brands that focus on sustainability, with an emphasis on jewelry that is made with ethically sourced, conflict-free diamonds, recycled gold as well as fair mined gold.
Can you share any exciting projects or collaborations that Aubade has in the works, and what can customers expect from the brand in the near future?
Trunk shows have always been a big part of the business, as they’ve really helped us break into the scene, grow our client-base and strengthen our relationship with our partners. We’re thrilled to continue growing that side of the business by having designers visit the region for the first time and collaborating with us on exclusive trunk shows. On the horizon are trunk shows with Marie Lichtenberg, Shay, and Anita Ko. We also have plans to soon make these trunk shows digitalized, so that even our international clients will get the chance to shop them.