Meet the Iraqi-British mum behind Mojo Beads, the brand taking social media by storm

Sana Al-Amin says she is trying to spread a little joy around the world, one bead at a time

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“The main idea is wear your accessories and have fun,” says Sana Al-Amin, the founder of Mojo Beads, the brand known for its colourful beaded bracelets, necklaces and phone decorations.

She is of Iraqi heritage and lives in the UK, where she created her company to "embrace fun and joy".

Mojo Beads' products come in an array of colours and are often adorned with smiley faces. Gathered into playful combinations, and with names such as Endless Love, Happy and La La Land, they add a cheery dash into even the dreariest of days.

Mojo Beads come in all colours of the rainbow. Photo: Mojo Beads

Unsurprisingly, the products are growing in popularity on social media. DJ Tala Samman, a blogger in Dubai, has been spotted wearing them, as has Zeynab El-Helw, founder of Dubai organic clothing company Reborn, and fashion designer Dina Zahran, one half of the UAE label Dinz Sisters.

Lebanese fashion designer Dalida Ayach is also a fan and so is Katie Piper, founder of the Katie Piper Foundation, which helps survivors of scars and burns.

While the beads seem ready-made for Instagram success, turning Mojo Beads into a business happened almost by accident. With strong links to the UAE through friends and family, Al-Amin keeps an eye on what is trending and in 2019, noticed a new craze for cross-body bead chains. When one arrived as a gift from a friend, she was disappointed at its low quality.

“[My friend] paid so much and it snapped within seconds. It was heartbreaking,” she says.

Al-Amin set about making her own version, first as a lanyard-style necklace, then as a bracelet. Friends soon began asking for a copy.

“I said: 'Sure, I will make you one, but listen, I am not selling these, so please don’t ask me to make more.'”

Within weeks Al-Amin was making beads for all her friends, who urged her to start selling the bracelets on Etsy and Instagram, where the pieces gained immediate attention. To set her designs apart, she knew she had to be her own harshest critic.

“I thought if I am going to make this into a brand, I need to make it something that I myself would buy. I would never make anything that wasn’t up to standard," she says.

As for the pick-me-up appeal of her designs, Al-Amin’s inspiration comes from the beads themselves. “I love colour, it is everything to me. My aesthetic comes from the 1990s, the Y2K vibes, this is me, this is my generation," she says. "That’s what the brand is about. Eye-catching and inviting.”

Perhaps surprisingly for a millennial, Al-Amin has no interest in putting her face to the brand, and instead prefers to stay very much behind the scenes, making each piece at home, by hand.

But the slow process comes at a price. When Mojo Beads launched, customers were able to personalise pieces with initials. Now, as demand has soared, that option has had to be reluctantly removed, just to keep up with orders.

“It meant that every piece was made-to-order and I found that I was up until 6am. I would realise the time, have a coffee and continue with the school run. I have done that so many times," she says.

Yet, despite the gruelling hours behind it all, Mojo Beads is focused on being resolutely upbeat, which is reflected in the name itself.

“The name came about from Austin Powers. I love Mike Myers, he is just my cup of tea and so funny. He always used to say 'I want my mojo back', and for me, I wanted my mojo," she says.

Mojo Beads now ships all over the world. Photo: Mojo Beads

Part of that sense of fun has been translated into versatility, with Al-Amin ensuring many pieces can be worn several ways, “especially the phone chains", she explains. “They come with lobster clasps so they can taken off and worn as a choker, or as a key chain.”

As the company has grown, Al-Amin has enlisted her niece Soleen Al-Ani to help out.

“She is in her mid-twenties, is very tech savvy and is wonderful,” Al-Amin says. “She has really helped the business.”

Together they are now shipping pieces all over the world, and Al-Amin attributes part of that success to being affordable. Starting at just £14 (Dh80) for the I’m A Cutie anklet, rising to £78 (Dh349) for the BFF phone chain set of two matching chains, Mojo Beads aims to be a treat that won’t break the bank.

And, to make sure everything retains a sense of personal fun, Al-Amin even handmakes the envelopes the pieces are sold in.

“I make all the packaging at home. It comes in a nice gold envelope, like Willy Wonka, so it feels like you have won something. For me, that’s important," she says.

“I call it being Mojo-fied. You have been Mojo-ed. I know it sounds a bit silly, a little beaded brand, but for me it’s a passion that grew into a business. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.”

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Updated: August 06, 2022, 9:52 AM
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