Introducing: Ezgi Kaya of Mom&I by EK, Our Second Pop-Up Competition Winner
I first met Ezgi Kaya about a year ago when she was working at Threadleaf, the little shop that rented our space before The Seedling Collective was born. I was immediately struck by how warm and welcoming she was, and when she mentioned that she had her own business making jewelry I was of course interested (coming from a jewelry background myself). When I finally saw her pieces I was blown away - these necklaces are amazingly intricate, colorful, and unique. They’re so different from the regular craft show jewelry you come across and the level of detail in these pieces is just incredible.
When Ezgi applied to our AEDP Pop-Up competition I was thrilled to see that she is also a savvy business woman: her website is on point and her marketing plan included offering beading classes during her pop-up, which I loved. To prepare for next week’s Mom&I by EK pop-up, I chatted with Ezgi recently about her business and life in Alexandria, as well as the special features she’ll have going at her week-long pop-up at The Studio:
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start making these amazing necklaces?
Ezgi: I’m Ezgi Kaya, founder of Mom&I by EK. I moved to the States nine years ago to do my masters in Economics. After completing my degree, I’ve worked at University of North Carolina System as a financial analyst. My husband is a faculty member at McDonough School of Business, so three years ago we moved from North Carolina to Old Town because of his job. During our relocation I spent the whole summer in Turkey, enjoying my time by the Mediterranean beach and making necklaces with my mom, a dream life. It was our newly discovered hobby and we were making a lot of necklaces just for fun.
What led you to change this from a hobby to a business?
Ezgi: My mother and I started making the necklaces in the summer of 2016, and we founded the company in January 2018. After that summer in Turkey, I came to the Old Town, our new home. While discovering our new city, visiting all the museums in DC, I was wearing our necklaces all the time, and every time I go out wearing the necklaces people were asking me where to get them. People’s attention and interest made us start our business.
We took things a bit slowly, figuring out our business model, where to source beads, whom to work with. I first asked my aunts to join our team. They loved making the necklaces. If my mother and aunts weren’t with me in this journey, it would be impossible for me to plan our production. because they take care of our production and quality controls. They made our first hire Fatma, whom later introduced us to her sister, and her sister brought us another friend of hers, just like this we meet all of our makers. Now we are working with 11 women, and we continue to hire more.
My mother and our whole team is Turkey therefore I go to Turkey when designing our new collections, but that is only one part of my job. I also take care of the sales, marketing, social media management and finances here in my studio/home.
I have always admired the intricacy of your jewelry. Can you tell us a bit about each piece is made?
Ezgi: What makes our jewelry unique is that we bring different techniques together and each piece is 100% handmade by a woman artisan in 9 hours. Crochet is used for many things, such as table runners, dresses, curtains, bags, etc. We use crochet as our base because of its durability and lightweight. Later we sew beads one by one on top of the crochet base. The result is extremely lightweight, very colorful and textured pieces of jewelry that you can wear anywhere and any occasion year after year. And I guarantee that you’ll get lots of compliments.
Shopping artisanal, handmade goods is very different from shopping a major retailer. What sets your business apart?
Ezgi: At Mom&I, we care about our makers and pay them living wages. We also care about our customers, that’s why we make the best quality jewelry and price them fairly, and never need to do any discounts.
Have you ever done a traditional retail concept before? Why did you decide to do apply for a pop-up spot with Seedling?
Ezgi: In the past year, I’ve attended many pop-up events and I had a longer pop-up at Tyson’s Corner during Christmas with a group of other designers. However, this is going to be our first solo pop-up event, and I cannot describe how excited I am. Just like all the other brands, it’s our dream to have a space for ourselves where we can truly tell our customers who we are. I’m very thankful to The Seedling Collective and AEDP for this great opportunity.
You’ve mentioned your Turkish background and how your product is infused with that history. Tell us about how you’ll integrate that into your pop-up experience.
Ezgi: When you visit a small business in Turkey, the owner of the shop usually offers Turkish coffee or Turkish tea. This gesture transforms the whole shopping experience and I’ll be offering this tradition throughout my residence at The Seedling Collective. People will not only visit a pop-up but they will have a true Turkish shop experience. I’m really looking forward to meeting the Old Town residents and sharing my culture with them. After all, I live in this city, we are all neighbors!
Will you be featuring any new or special products next week?
Ezgi: In terms of merchandise, we’ll have our necklaces and bracelets and I’ll be introducing our new earrings collection which I designed last month when I was in Turkey. At the moment, there is only one pair of earrings in each design so they will be available for pre-order. Also, when I was in Turkey, I met this incredibly talented woman and she crocheted some summer bags for me, and I decorated them. We’ll have these one-of-a-kind handbags available as well.
Any special promotions or workshops going on while you're here?
Yes! We’re holding two jewelry making workshops plus a social event that we hope members will come to. Our first workshop will be on Tuesday, August 13 from 2-4pm and we’ll teach attendees to create necklaces out of gemstones and wooden beads. Our second workshop will be on Wednesday, August 14 from 2-4pm and it will focus on bracelet-making. And, everyone is invited to our evening social event on Thursday, August 15th! (note: you can purchase tickets to the workshops through the links at the end of the article).
1) Favorite neighborhood in Alexandria and why?
I love walking by the Potomac and in Old Town. I even have a walking tour of Old Town and Potomac for my guest. We usually start by the northern part of Potomac, from there we go to Torpedo Factory and have a little tour, go to Prince Street to take some photos and visit shops on King Street.
2) Favorite part about living/working in Old Town?
Old town has everything a city can offer. It’s by the water, it’s quite, people are very friendly, and we have 5 ice cream shops on King Street, and all of these are only minutes away from the capitol of the country. Living in Alexandria is like living in a vacation town.
3) Favorite thing to do in Alexandria on a free day?
Walking on the streets and visiting Antique shops.
4) Favorite spot to grab a drink?
I love drinking coffee and most of the time I work from a coffee shop. Both Misha’s and ESP Killer are among my favorites. I can’t wait to see Misha’s new location.
5) Favorite day trip outside of Alexandria?
Our favorite spot in DC is the National Gallery of Art. We visit it almost every month. We start our day in Café Leopold with a brunch and walk a bit in the waterfront of Georgetown and later go to the National Gallery of Art.
Thank you, Ezgi! We are looking forward to hosting you.
Mom&I by EK’s Shop Hours
Monday August 12 - Sunday August 18, 11am - 8pm
Workshops & Events
(click on the links for tickets)