“I love classic and I love quality — but I also don’t love breaking the bank,” explained Idunnu Tomori, the founder of Misayo House, an affordable fine jewelry line based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Misayo deals in classic designs, not fast fashion or trendy, quick-hit pieces, and over the last five years the line has already caught the attention of plenty of local celebrities — oh, and Vogue. Not too shabby for a DIY, one-woman business created by a stay-at-home mom.
Initially getting into wholesale jewelry parties for the sake of a social life when the family briefly moved to South Africa, Idunnu shifted her focus to designing and selling her own jewelry line once they were back in the states in 2015. As a mother of two young daughters, the company is a relatively new venture for Idunnu, who has a background in mental health and worked as a therapist for a decade. When her younger daughter, Toni, was born with sickle cell anemia, she made the decision to become a stay-at-home parent to help support her child’s fight against this chronic disease.
She decided to use her new company to fight the disease, too; a portion of all sales from the jewelry line goes to support the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center in Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where Toni has been treated. “For those who aren’t familiar with sickle cell, it’s a debilitating blood disorder where oxygen doesn’t flow through some of your cells because they get sickled,” Tomori explained. “This causes something called a pain crisis. And the best way a pain crisis is described is like being stabbed with daggers simultaneously. So I couldn’t go to work, because sometimes I would get calls to come get her from school, or we would be at the ER in the middle of the night.”
Luckily, there is a cure for those symptoms, a bone marrow transplant usually done via a sibling match. Idunnu’s older daughter, Tara, was a match for Toni, and a 2017 surgery introduced the family to the Aflac Center. “Sickle cell is primarily an African-American disease,” Idunnu noted. “But demographically, there are people who can’t afford not to work — or they can’t afford the medication or the lifestyle — so you have children dying. As a mother looking at my child, coming out on the other side of that, I felt the need to do more.”
Misayo — which is Tara’s middle name — means “beautiful generation” in Japanese, and though Idunnu’s first name is Nigerian, it also translates to Japanese, as does her husband’s last name, Tomori. So the family completed the language crossover by giving their firstborn a Japanese middle name, so when it came time to name the company, keeping it all in the family only felt right. Since caring for her daughters was part of what prompted Idunnu to stay home, working one of their names into the company’s public profile was only natural.
Fashion and fine jewelry are all well and good, but the immense amount of attention and financial support that Idunnu has been able to bring to the Aflac Center through her work with Misayo House is astonishing. Collectively, between both the company and her family, she’s raised upwards of $50,000 for the center, and continues to donate a portion of every Misayo sale to this day. Has there ever been a better reason to go jewelry shopping than the knowledge that every dollar is going back to a children’s hospital?
Aside from the charity aspect, there are plenty of other elements of Misayo House that make these pieces worth adding to your collection. For one thing, all of the jewelry is hypoallergenic, another thing inspired by Idunnu’s family — Tara’s allergy to gold quickly revealed the importance of keeping the products accessible for all. But getting quality jewelry out to a clientele who can only really shop for accessories at an affordable price point is what has always been the most important thing to Idunnu.
“Misayo House is all about quality at a decent price point,” she said. “I make sure my clientele is getting the best at the best price. We don’t follow trends, we do a lot of classics, so I try to add a unique twist to the classics.” With all the items available ranging between $30 to $100, and the promise of double plated hypoallergenic materials and quality stones, affordability and quality is a promise the company keeps.
If that doesn’t win you over, then perhaps their many celebrity co-signs will. Lauren Speed, of Love Is Blind fame, is one of the most recent celebrity fans of Misayo pieces, joining a crew that includes Eva Marcille of The Real Housewives Of Atlanta and Keri Hilson, to name a few. And though Misayo is very popular in Atlanta, Idunnu notes that most of her clients are in New York and California, illustrating her designs are versatile enough to appeal to both southern and coastal tastes.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Idunnu has shifted her focus from traveling to multiple charity events a year in cities outside of Atlanta to honing in on e-commerce and an online shopping model. “Like so many other people and small business owners, it’s been hard for us,” she said. “But it’s also been good, because everyone is so present. I’ve gotten more visibility and notoriety these past few months than in the last five years.”
Some of that attention has been due to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in June, where not only did protests erupt over continued targeted police violence, but the corporate world was also forced to reckon with the inherent and structural racism that has been supported via capitalism for centuries. As white America began to finally listen to some of these long-standing complaints, and focus shifted toward supporting Black-owned businesses, Idunnu sees this moment as a time for Black, female entrepreneurs to finally get the validation they have always deserved.
“As Black female business owners, we have fought and ached for validation,” she said. “I have ached for validation as a business owner who creates products. I’ve had boutiques look down on me because I’m a brown woman, or been asked if pieces will ‘turn ears green’ while the white vendors beside me with lower quality products don’t face the same questioning. With the focus on Black business owners and female Black business owners, this is not the time to fuck up. Because now we have a stage to prove that we can give quality products and provide quality services. We can prove that we are just as good, and maybe even better, than our white counterparts.”
And when it comes to advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Idunnu’s most critical piece of wisdom is simple: Baby steps. “Rushing the process can get you in a lot of trouble,” she said. “Trust your brand. Invest in your brand. Treat your brand as though it were your child. There have been many times where I wanted to quit, and walk away, and I’ve had to stop myself and asked ‘would I walk away from my child if they weren’t going in the direction I wanted them to go?’ Every time I’m determined to quit, something good happens, and something stops me. That’s why I say baby steps. Trust the process.”