The CEO of Vrai jewellery shares her career advice

·6-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Mona Akhavi is an entrepreneur, engineer, start-up founder and now, CEO, whose career has taken her in various directions, from technology to luxury goods. She currently heads up a brand that combines both; Vrai, an innovative and extraordinary jewellery brand that specialises in lab-grown diamonds. Akhari previously worked at Vrai's parent company, the Diamond Foundry; a zero emission company producing diamonds sustainably.

Here, she shares her ultimate career advice.

The three most important qualities for a good leader are…

"A leader needs to be authentic and self-aware, to be able to inspire a team. My values and principles are what drive my decisions as a leader. Creating a sustainable luxury brand that’s consumer-centric and empowering is a true mission for me.

Transparent leaders are the most inspiring. As a leader, I’m highly passionate about what we are doing and being honest, communicating goals and ideas, creates a contagious excitement and trust all around. Building and nurturing a team focused on a shared vision is a leader’s main purpose.

Navigating your team through change is extremely important as change is a constant in the global market condition. Managing a team through transformations at the rate a business needs is an essential trait."

My personal strength as a leader is…

"Having a diversified background and wearing many hats has shaped my strength as a leader. Being a previous entrepreneur, I founded a company, raised funding and managed investors. My engineering experience provides a strong background in managing technology. I was also fortunate to gain extensive experience in consumer luxury brands marketing and sales. These combination of skills helps me in managing multiple aspects of the business from technology to design to sales and marketing to operations. Over the years, I’ve learned to be more observant about the strengths & weaknesses of individuals and have prioritised building complementary teams."

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

The biggest priority for my business right now is…

"We’ve been growing exponentially fast and launched VRAI internationally this past year, so I want to build on that momentum. We are also focusing on expanding our offline presence with showrooms in the US and China, and operations in the UK, EU and Canada. Creating a touchpoint for our consumers to see our beautiful diamond jewellery and experiencing the brand in real life is something we’re looking forward to."

The economic outlook may be uncertain, but I’m mitigating risk by…

"Innovating and iterating quickly is what enables us to push boundaries in sustainable luxury and impact the standards in the jewellery industry. We are vertically integrated which means from the moment the diamond starts growing in our zero emission foundry to when it is set in a piece of jewellery and in the hands of a consumer, we control the entire process. This allows us to operate like an agile tech company and respond to changes in the market.

Plus, VRAI offers an option without compromise for consumers, with no human or environmental toll. With sustainability at the core, staying true to our mission and values even during an uncertain time has only strengthened our brand equity and grown our customer base."

I keep my team motivated by…

"I am a believer in giving the team autonomy so they can find their purpose in the organisation and truly choose how they want to make an impact and add value. Creating an environment where they can focus on what they like to do or learn and are good at is also rewarding and will keep the team motivated.

But as a leader You can’t motivate unless you are motivated, and that’s contagious to the team. We’re a result-oriented company, so every team member is involved in defining what success means to them and everyone naturally has a drive to succeed."

The hardest decision I’ve had to make as a leader was…

"No matter how long I’ve managed teams and ran a business as a founder or CEO, having to part with people is still one of the hardest decisions. For me it’s always a question of is there anything I could have done to find another path but the answer is usually growth happens when one gets out of their comfort zone."

The worst mistake I’ve ever made as a leader (and the lessons I learnt from it)

"Not trusting my intuition and gut feeling about a business decision which usually follows a direction that doesn’t feel right or true. As I took on management positions in my career starting in my mid-twenties, I led multi-disciplinary teams that were sometimes not inclusive. I was managing teams and media for global sports events and later advertising for consumer brands. During these fast paced projects, I had to focus the team on results but that sometimes meant sacrificing a collaborative and authentic culture and that didn’t feel true to me. It always backfired one way or another."

An effective leader will always…

"Trust their intuition and stay true to their values. I am also a strong believer that an effective leader ruthlessly prioritises what is moving the needle and reviews those on a regular basis. This helps the team to have a compass of clear direction. What was important a few weeks ago may not be the highest priority today. Time and resources are limited."

An effective leader will never…

"Stop listening! Always listening to customers and the team. Asking for feedback and being open to ideas. To be an authentically nurturing leader, I make a point of publicly praising the team members for good performance and sharing regular positive affirmations while giving feedback in private."

My role model for leadership is…

"A few too many to name but I’m fortunate to have incredible mentors around me and I’m inspired by transformative leaders who not only innovate but create a ripple effect impact in industries and categories towards a better future for the environment and humanity.

These may be change makers and activists or visionary leaders of a company. Diamond Foundry CEO, Martin Roscheisen is a great example of a leader who’s leading a disruption in the diamond industry."

The one piece of advice I’d give to a new leader is…

"The path to become an inspiring leader is different for everyone and it’s a journey more than a job or a role. It’s important to stick to your core values and try as many different paths as possible to gain as much experience as possible until you find what you’re truly passionate about. Only then, start laser focusing on that path & start the journey to grow into an effective leader."

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