Jenna Clifford is a world-renowned jewelry designer, known for her unique customised creations. Her bold and dramatic designs are sought after by some of the most recognised business icons and celebrities from around the world where she has garnered a loyal following since the launch of her business in 1992.
I Am Driven By | My drive in the early part of my working career arouse from my desire for financial independence. So many women lose this through their marital unions and I don’t think one really realises the significance of having one’s own money until the day comes that you need it. Having gone through two failed marriages in my twenties – I had to learn to fend for myself. When my second marriage came to an end and I had a little girl to support, there was no back door, I had to start working and earning. Need is a great motivator and driver for anyone.
Today, my passion for my work and the people I work with (clients and staff) is the major driver. The effect our creations have on other people’s lives inspires and motivates me daily. We create bespoke pieces of jewelry for most of our customers, therefore, every day presents a unique creative challenge for me as a designer. As an artist I am particularly inspired by my surroundings. I commute between Johannesburg and Mpumalanga bi weekly and I feel blessed to be surrounded by such beauty in both environments. The energy and people of Johannesburg are invigorating whilst the quiet of Mpumalanga is highly meditative and I like to design in a wholesome unaffected environment. I am so interested in people and human nature – every encounter is different and I am fortunate to interact with a wide variety of people on a daily basis, all from very diverse backgrounds with their own life stories. I guess the nature of my work, with each day presenting something or someone new, keeps me interested.
My Highlights | In 2008, I was nominated as a Torchbearer for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 3 project, alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Soweto Gospel Choir. I am very passionate about the subject of gender and equality of rights, so this appointment was a great honour and I felt so blessed to be recognized in this way. Other highlights of my career include meeting President Bill Clinton, and designing jewellery for international celebrities including Celine Dion, The William’s sisters and Deborah Messing. I am also very proud to be the jeweller of choice to a handful of the Blue Bulls players (Bryan Habana, Victor Matfield, Francois Hougaard, Akona Ndugane to name a few). The biggest personal highlight would be that I am a mother to three girls and plenty of doggie children. My animals and children are my biggest joy.
The Difference Between good And Great | I think passion for what you do and determination are the key differentiators between people who are great at what they do and those who are average. If you want to stand out from the crowd and become known for your talent, you need to breathe, eat and sleep your chosen career path. My work has been all consuming since I began and I used to push 18 hours every day for many years. Now that my business is more established I don’t work such long hours all the time, but I often working until 3am in the mornings, this is when I am at my most creative. As rewarding as it has been, my career has in many ways been a sacrificial act, however, I have always known that to achieve success and greatness in your chosen endeavor, you have to give all of you to your project/business/career. If you can’t commit your life to your business, rather work for someone else as a salaried employee.
My Strengths | Confidence through knowledge. You need to be confident in yourself and confident in your ability to sell your business. When I started my business in the early nineties, it was a male dominated industry and I was a nobody. I had to grab every opportunity that came my way with both hands. I often had to create opportunities. The biggest advantage for anyone in any career is for them to be confident and one gains confidence by empowering their minds with knowledge of their career and industry (they should also read up on psychology of the human mind and other similar topics). The more you know about your business, your industry, your craft and people, the more confident you become in serving your customers and you are then better equipped to serve your customers. My grandfather always used to say, “Readers are leaders” and I never stop learning about my industry, the history of it, the developments in technology within the industry etc. I have often also relied on my gut instinct to guide me in business, the times I haven’t, have been unfortunate.
Principles and Values I Live By | Kindness to everyone you meet, consistency, honesty, integrity, open-mindedness, persistence, excellence, forgiveness, perseverance.
Lessons I’ve Learnt | Don’t waste money on insignificant material things. Part of my success has been that I am not a spender, I spend money on my jewelry (a dollar based appreciating tangible investment, much like art), property and my animals. When I first started my business, any profit I made was reinvested back into the business. Extravagant holidays, flashy cars and clothing do not create wealth.
Resources I Use | Books are the best way to keep yourself informed and growing. I recommend the following reads (or purchase the audio books if you would like to listen to this material whilst in the car/bath):
- Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now, A New Earth
- Leslie Bennetts – The Feminine Mistake
- Marianne Williamson – The Age of Miracles, A Return to Love, The Gift of Change, Illuminata
- Rosalind Miles – Women’s History of the World
- Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Napoleon Hill – The Law of Success, Master Key to Riches, Think and Grow Rich
- Deepak Chopra – The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
- Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and Debbie Ford – The Shadow Effect
When designing I like to listen to really good background music, I am a big fan of anything by Claude Challe (listen to
Lovely Reprises and the Select series). I also enjoy Melody Gardot, Pink Martini, Café Del Mar and the classics (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong especially!)
My Dreams And Ambitions | I would like to see my daughters take over my business one day. I have three daughters, two of whom are in the business currently, being groomed for succession. I would also like to further positively influence the lives of women and children in SA.
The Meaning Of Life | We are here to love one another. If only we could all grasp this simple concept. If everyone acted in love, the world would be a much better place.
Best Advice I’ve Received | Trust no one. My father taught this to me at a very young age. He put me on the kitchen counter, told me to jump and said he’d catch me. I jumped and he didn’t catch me. “Let this be your first lesson in life, trust no one, not even your own father” he said.
My Inspiration | Mouldbreakers and trailblazers inspire me. The people who do things differently and are not afraid to take risks. I had various role models when I was younger (such as Margaret Thatcher, Pam Golding, Coco Chanel and Estee Lauder) and more recently I would say Steve Jobs, Julia Gillard, Bernard Arnault to name a few.