"Life is short and I want to live it so boldly" - Mona Lajam, Founder and Designer of jewellery brand, Charmed Forces
Hi Mona, can you describe yourself?
I’m someone who's out there and I take pride of that. Actually, I was just thinking about this today. I’m so proud to be an Arab and to come from the Yemeni side. I’m really, really gung ho about that because it shapes the things I do and the projects that I pick up. Not everyone is going to get where I come from. Even for my jewellery business, Charmed Forces, there is an aspect of my roots. I hold it true and dear to my heart. So yeah, in a way, I’m deeply rooted, outgoing and very social.
If you can summarise your energy in one word, what would it be?
Passionate. Very passionate. If I really love something, I will go after it. I love hard and play hard. A lot of people get shocked and said to me, “You love life so much. When you laugh, you really do laugh. When you play, you really do play. When you work, you really do work.” Back in school, I achieved amazing results only because I was passionate about those things. It works the same for my business as well. Even at matters outside of school and career, like friendships, my heart has to be in it completely. When I’m half-hearted about something, I’m not going to pursue it. I’m not going to waste my time and even yours... I think that it is a form of respect to people. Whatever I do – be it physical, mental or purely emotional – I got to make sure that my heart is giving its 100%.
That’s an admirable trait to have. You give your all or nothing at all. How did you manage to keep it this way throughout your life?
I’m all about being true to myself. Life is short. I want to live it so boldly. Some people told me how I’m unrealistic but I believe you can pave your own path. People often asked, “Why are you so happy all the time? It’s impossible for a person to be this happy.” Honestly, I have the same hardships and troubles as you. It’s whether you’re able to get out of it and go back to where you want to. I love so many things & people. I love myself too. I’m not going to keep myself away from these elements just because I’m feeling upset for a while, absolutely not.
I totally understand where you're coming from. Speaking of business, the aesthetic of Charmed Forces is very bold and exquisite. I've been wanting to know, what inspires you to start the brand?
It started off with my love of putting stuffs together that people won’t ever anticipate. I would get necklaces from other fast-fashion brands, like Zara and H&M, to deconstruct and reconstruct them. I have a soft spot for all things loud and bold. I could wear spikes one day and ruffles the next. It’s like going from a dark Gothic style to a cute Korean style and I’m perfectly fine with that. I would also layer a couple of pieces to have a huge neckpiece. People just started to get fascinated from there.
There was one time when I travelled to Europe and Japan, wearing a neckpiece that was totally different. People kept on asking me what is this. There was even a lady in Japan who actually said, “I’m going to buy it from your neck. Like right now. Just name a price whether its 800USD or 1000USD, I’m going to give it to you in cash but you’ll have to give it to me off your neck.”
That neckpiece must have been the talk of town. Did you sell it to her right away?
Of course not, it was my neckpiece. I kept telling her no but I took her number anyways. At that moment, I didn’t know what it was for. I just thought if I ever was going to start something, I am going to do that. And I really did, when I was back in Singapore, using the bit of spare money that I had.
How did you eventually start Charmed Forces?
I started by publishing a blog post filled with Charmed Forces product photos. It wasn’t even on an official e-commerce website. Within 20 minutes, it got sold out with sales from different people around the world. That’s when I realised there was a demand. I had the mentality; if it doesn’t sell, I can always wear it. Basically, I’m in love with the jewellery itself. My mum and I always used to laugh about how I felt so heartbroken every time the pieces I made get sold out.
Whenever someone were to see the pieces in real life, they went like, “Mona, it’s too loud!” But I’ve always stick to my guns. The market was too simple, at least at that time it was. No one was making huge accessories. Even if there were any, the place would be inaccessible, like a small store tucked in the streets of Europe that does not provide online access or worldwide shipping.
How did you manage stay focus throughout the years?
You just have to love what you do. Regardless the kind of business, there will always be a time when you question yourself. Is this the end? Should I move on to bigger and better things? There was a time when I thought of changing the aesthetics of Charmed Forces to something more modern. Then I realised I have such a huge base of loyal clientele. So I decided to stick to it. If it’s what I did that got me here, I’m sure it will be what I do now that is going to get me somewhere else.
Being focus is like a repetitive cycle. The moment you get out of bed, you might have doubts. It’s all in your head, I think. Eventually, it all boils down to you motivating yourself. It’s always going to come back in a full circle but if you tell yourself to stay focus, you are going to come through every time.
I understand that you’re an optimistic person, was there a time when you lose confidence?
I’m naturally a very confident person and I take pride in that. It’s not easy for people to hear me say something like that. It always feels like a person has to have ups and downs. If I ever lose confidence, it’s because I’m doing something that is never myself. And that has always been my foundation. If I feel that I can’t give my 100%, I simply don’t do it. In a way, it helps me keep my head up.
Sometimes if you lose confidence, it’s hard to come back up. I don’t think it’s smart of a person to stay down for long. It’s more like a “fake it till you make it” thing. Even if you’re feeling unstable, you will be okay if you tell yourself that. You have to be the one to pick yourself up. If you wait for other people to tell you, you won’t be convinced on the inside and the cycle just repeats. It’s important to recognise what’s truly in you and what caused you to lose confidence before solving the problem.
Is there any habit that you do to boost confidence?
I have a book, in which I write my goals and achievements. Sometimes we lose sight of the things that we want to do. If you focus too much on the future, you could have been all that. But if you don’t actually see how far you’ve come, you will never feel confident. I can tell you this for whether you are a billionaire or a start-up business. If you don’t give yourself a pat on your back for coming this far, you will never get any further. If you are not grateful at this moment, you will never ever be grateful. No one is ever going to have your back more than you.
Will there be any new projects that you’ll venture into?
The sky’s the limit. So let’s just see. Keeping my options open.
Any life goal?
If you asked me 5 years ago, I would have said to be successful. Till now, I want to be successful but I also learnt that you have to be very, very happy. I know that sounds super cliché. Truth is, you have to be very happy with your life. If you’re happy, you instantly feel prettier, more successful, and more content with yourself. It will translate to you achieving great things. When you’re unhappy, no matter what you do, you will never succeed. I’ve seen people who led an amazing, lavish life and have everything but were truly unhappy. There is nothing that you can put on them that would have offset that. If you can’t find happiness from within, you won’t ever feel good.
Since you started Charmed Forces at quite a young age, do you have any advice for millennial/budding entrepreneurs?
Trust your gut. Sometimes the mind can play tricks on you. Your intention needs to be right. I know a lot of people that have businesses just for the sake of it. Or to, at least, feel a sense of fulfilment. I have seen people whose businesses ideas were derived from someone else. But in the end, it was just a business without longevity and sustainability. It could be something that they never wanted to do in the first place. So give yourself a chance, trust your own idea and your gut; you will never know where you might end up.
View exquisite Charmed Forces pieces at www.instagram.com/charmedforces