By Kendra Stickford, UTC Communication major
The past two years have been a whirlwind of excitement and opportunities for entrepreneur and UTC alumna Lakeisha “Mariah” Patrick Huq (“03), Chief Operating Officer of Jewel and Jem.
Huq and her sister, Lake Kelley, had been in the interior design business for ten years when in 2009 they founded Jewel and Jem, a multi-cultural decorating and design company. Since the company’s inception, Jewel and Jem has been featured on Bravo’s hit reality TV show “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and the sisters are planning a product launch nationwide in Macy’s stores in spring 2012.
Jewel and Jem offers multi-cultural bedding, artwork, window treatments, and décor. This statement of style is one of the first in its class to promote multi-cultural images and creativity, especially for children.
“We came up with the idea of Jewel and Jem to basically help be able to inspire children by creating spaces that are reflective of their culture,” Huq said. “So, you’re making their dreams come true through the art and images that they have in their rooms,” Kelley said.
Huq credits her strong work ethic and communication skills to the things she learned at UTC.
“Being a part of the Communication Department was phenomenal for me because I was exposed to a lot of phenomenal teachers and just learning how to talk to people and relate, and you apply that in every aspect of business,” Huq said. “Being able to write opened a lot of doors for us. I am very, very happy to have been a part of the Communications Department.”
Of 14,000 businesses, Jewel and Jem was chosen to participate in Macy’s first company workshop, one of 22 other women-owned minority businesses from around the world to get into the program. The experience allowed the Chattanooga natives to talk with other CEOs and designers of Macy’s brands.
“We walked away [from the experience] excited about the future of our brand and the brand going into Macy’s,” Huq said. “It’s such a huge opportunity.”
With plans to launch the product into Macy’s next spring, Jewel and Jem has expanded beyond children’s decorating and décor to include a lifestyle line that will accommodate both children and adults. The multi-cultural designs are very versatile because of the high end materials and quality products that Jewel and Jem will bring to stores nationwide, Huq said.
Jewel and Jem’s décor featured on “Real Housewives of Atlanta” also helped add to the company’s rapid growth.
“It was a huge ordeal for us because it took the business to another level in terms of national focus,” Kelley said. “Being on the show is part of what helped lead Jewel and Jem into Macy’s,” she said.
The sisters were able to launch their own design brand from the knowledge and experience they had learned from previous corporate jobs. Huq’s experience in the communication field made her the mastermind behind the company’s marketing and networking strategies into Macy’s. She drives the company’s continued growth and is constantly creating unique ways to advance the brand.
Huq encourages striving entrepreneurs to not be afraid of following their passions.
“The sky is the limit. In order to catapult, you have to believe in yourself,” she said.