Meet Ayo and Tope, the Co-Founders of TigerStones

As part of our celebrations for this year’s Black History Month, we’re dedicating our Member Spotlight series to the Black-owned businesses in our community. 

In this Member Spotlight, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Tope and Ayo, co-founders of TigerStones. They tell us how their passion and expertise in making their customers’ engagement dreams come true fuels them to building their business alongside their full-time jobs. They also share how they’ve celebrated Black History Month, and their suggestions on how corporations can help Black businesses secure funding and expand their reach.

Hi Tope and Ayo! Great to chat with you, can you introduce yourselves?

We’re Tope and Ayo, the co-founders of TigerStones. We met 10 years ago at university, where our friendship began. We have a shared love for entrepreneurship so when the opportunity arose for us to work together, we couldn’t pass it up.

Tell us about TigerStones, what was your top motivation for starting?

TigerStones is a fine jewellery business specialising in wedding jewellery and engagement rings made using a gemstone called moissanite. 

TigerStones began when Tope was looking for an alternative to diamonds for her engagement ring that competed in quality, but wouldn’t break the bank. During her research, Tope was introduced to moissanite, a conflict-free and sustainable gemstone which is strikingly similar to diamonds but without the artificially inflated price tags. Tope began sharing her discovery with friends on social media and was amazed by the amount of interest. Thus, TigerStones was born.

What were you doing before and what inspired the transition?

We’re currently running TigerStones alongside our full time jobs. Tope is an Operations Manager in higher education and I (Ayo) am a Strategy Manager at a tech company. Though we haven’t yet completely transitioned to working full-time on TigerStones, we’re determined to transfer our skills from our current jobs to build something that we’re passionate about from scratch, and to have a memorable impact on people’s lives.

What do you love the most about running your business?

We love working with couples to help them create their perfect rings and to bring their visions to life. From the initial consultations to receiving photos of proposals, it’s a privilege to play a key role in one of the most important days of their lives.

We’re thrilled to chat with you during Black History Month. How are you celebrating?

We strive to uplift Black talent and voices all year round. This Black History Month, we’re making a conscious effort to support different forms of Black art. We went to watch a play in the National Theatre called The Effect, which has an all-Black cast. We also attended a private screening of Hidden Figures – a film highlighting the contributions of Black women and their vital role to NASA’s space programme. And, we saw one of our favourite artists in concert, Elimene, an upcoming Black British singer and songwriter with Sudanese heritage. We’ve had an absolute blast this Black History Month!

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is an opportunity to uplift Black talent, businesses and art, and is not only to be celebrated by Afro-Caribbean people but also by allies. We love that there is a specific theme each year – this year it’s ‘Saluting our Sisters’. As two Black women, it’s encouraging to know that a light is being shone on the important work that Black women are doing within their respective spaces of influence. 

What do you think Tide and other corporations can do to amplify the voices of Black business owners and support their businesses?

One of the main challenges faced by Black businesses is funding. As of 2021, less than 0.25% of Venture Capital (VC) funding went to Black-led startups,¹ and less than 0.02% went to Black female founders, within the last decade.² This seriously impacts the ability of Black businesses to scale at large.

To support Black business owners, corporations could:

  1. Consciously increase the diversity of their investment pipeline
  2. Platform Black businesses to help expand their reach and expose them to people who may not come across them otherwise. They could do this by taking inspiration from initiatives like Member Spotlight run by Tide, all throughout the year
  3. Be intentionally inclusive when considering and shortlisting suppliers to work with

What does growing your business look like for you? What’s next for TigerStones?

We’re striving to become a recognised name that’s synonymous with quality moissanite jewellery, the same way most people would associate Google as the go-to search engine.

We want to be known for upholding our ethical values in all aspects of our business, whilst growing and building a team who share our vision, and giving them the opportunity to drive their own careers.

In the short term, TigerStones will be running pop ups around the country enabling customers to meet us, see the beautiful moissanite stones in person and ask any questions they may have. We’re also planning to expand our product range outside of engagement rings and wedding jewellery. We’re extremely excited about what the future holds for us and hope you’ll join us on this journey!

What’s your top advice for someone who wants to launch their business?

We’ve both founded other businesses, and one thing we’ve both learnt is that you can’t always wait for perfection, as it can become a hindrance to execution. As a result, we believe that done is better than perfect.

📷 Discover all their creations on TigerStones’ Instagram and TikTok: @tigerstonesltd

Sources (checked as of 27 October 2023):

  1. Google – This year’s Black Founders Fund recipients in the UK
  2. Sifted – 16 Black female founders in the UK who have raised funding

Valentine Hutchings

Valentine Hutchings

Head of Community and small business enthusiast

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