Becoming a parent can feel like an ending—one chapter of our life is over. It can also be an exhilarating, empowering new beginning.
It was for Keisha Noel. Noel was soon to be expecting twins when she joined her husband in Shanghai for a business trip. She found herself browsing the city’s famous Hongqiao Pearl Market, admiring barrels of pearls, feeling inspired.
“As my husband snored on the 15-hour flight home, I designed KZ Noel’s first collection,” Noel remembers. “It was called Out of Asia. I was sketching and planning what boutiques I would approach.”
Noel always loved jewelry. She grew up in Chicago and some of her happiest childhood memories are playing in her grandmother’s jewelry box. She went to auctions with her mother to buy jewelry.
An only child, she felt pressure to become “a lawyer, a doctor, or work in education—getting classically trained academically was expected.” Noel moved to Atlanta for a pre-law program, met her husband, and had a successful career in the academic field of diversity and inclusion.
Noel was 39 when her kids were born. She knew having twins—a boy and a girl—was going to be a colossal life change, and she was ready to make some other big life changes. “I took a leap of faith changing careers at 39 – it was a sort of midlife crisis; I had a vision of what I wanted to do.”
By the time her twins were born, she had samples of her new jewelry line. Noel hosted her first trunk show when her babies were eight weeks old. (She remembers thinking, “If I’m not going to be sleeping anyway, I might as well maximize what I can.”) She created 148 necklaces.
“That’s the power of friends and women,” she explains. “I was the last friend to have children. Not one friend said, ‘are you crazy?’ about starting a new business at the same time. They said, ‘I can’t wait, I’ll support you.’”
That’s exactly what they did. Her friends brought their friends to her show, and it was a huge success—she sold every necklace except for two. Noel started getting calls from different stores interested in carrying her creations. She was scrambling to keep up. She and her husband hired a nanny.
Noel was visiting Neiman Marcus when a sales associate approached her and asked her about the necklace she was wearing. “You’re the fourth person wearing this jewelry that we love,” she told Noel. Within a few weeks, Noel had a meeting with a Neiman Marcus buyer. And within the year, they started carrying KZ Noel’s products.
KZ Noel bracelets and necklaces are inspired by nature and by Noel’s adventures around the globe. Her love for travel has remained a constant in her life. She’s taken her family on adventures from India to Dubai to Panama. It’s important for them to “get out of their bubble,” and experience new places, people, and cultures.
Like her perspective, her jewelry is global at heart. KZ Noel’s elegant yet exotic pieces feature semi-precious and natural elements such as jade, fresh water pearls, genuine diamonds and unique finds like black lava and white coral. She now reaches customers in boutiques all over the country and in department stores such as Saks and Neiman Marcus. As she continues to grow, she dreams up new lines and new designs.
Going from an idea on an airplane to a full-fledged business while parenting new twins was a true whirlwind. “I was everyone – designer, accountant, and marketing director. My husband was in charge of shipping, God bless him. And I was mom.”
Being a mom taught Noel deeply valuable skills about entrepreneurship. Her advice to those starting out: “You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row—just have something and you will figure it out, just like parenting. We do the best we can with the information and means we are equipped with each day; we have to try to give ourselves some grace.”
Being a mom was also an all-consuming experience, as it continues to be. Noel’s grandmother told her, “You are never not momming.” Most parents will wholeheartedly agree. Noel’s twins are now 11, and she has grown as both a mom and her business owner. Her business is thriving, and so is her family. That doesn’t mean it’s easy—it also means the opposite. But it’s worth it.
“I want my daughter to see me doing something that was bigger than myself and my family,” Noel says.
“Being a mother has been my greatest joy while juggling a thriving business,” she reflects. “It’s truly a balance. I don’t think women have it all, but we do have it all at moments, perhaps not simultaneously.”
Noel prioritizes meditating in the morning, listening to “every type of music, from classical to hip hop to salsa,” traveling, and taking walks. “I’m a better person when I work on me and my joy—a better wife, better businessperson, better friend, and better mom.”