Nicolette Simms: Jamaican Entrepreneur Striving For The Best While Empowering Clients To Do The SameNov 24, 2020 08:00AM ● By Candice Stewart
Having the ability to freely express yourself through fashion allows you to stand out in a crowd and tell your story however you see fit.
That is the driving factor for Mrs. Nicolette Simms, founder and creative designer of Tenique Designs, a company specializing in custom jewelry and accessories.
Based in Tampa, Florida by way of Kingston, Jamaica, Nicolette uses her design and jewelry making skills to help girls, women and men bring out their personality through uniquely hand-crafted jewelry and accessories.
As a child and young adult, Mrs. Simms has always had a crafty edge and often used that to design, create and accessorize her outfits whenever she went out. However, being immersed in the fashion industry as a designer and owning a business was never part of her ultimate goal.
“I never wanted to be one of those girls unknowingly competing in a “who wore it best” competition. I wanted to represent me all the way and I have managed to carry that characteristic throughout the years,” Mrs. Simms shares in a recent interview with FunTimes Magazine.
“I always wanted a job in fashion design but I had no real interest in studying it. I wanted to give myself options with an umbrella wide enough allowing me to step further into the fashion world if I wanted to,” Nicolette tells FunTimes Magazine.
Her desired profession was situated in marketing. At least, that is where her educational pursuits led her.
“At the University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI), based in Jamaica, I studied Management Studies with a focus on Marketing for my undergraduate degree. I later ventured into Business Management with a focus on Marketing at the Nova South Eastern University for my Master’s degree,” she continues as she explains the umbrella of her professional career.
In 2011 and her final year at UWI, Mrs. Simms vacationed in Canada and found herself bored. She used her boredom as an opportunity to take a jewelry- making class at Michaels, the store for art supplies, crafts and framing. At the time, she took the class to build on her personal sense of fashion and of course, to learn a skill.
She took all that she learned and started to practice. Nicolette made a few pieces and once back in Jamaica, she showed her boss at the time who loved the items. The word slowly spread about Nicolette’s work and interest from potential clients grew.
It was from that experience that Tenaj Designs was born. Nicolette later changed the name to Tenique Designs by fusing ‘Tenaj’ and ‘unique’.
“My middle name is actually Tenaj, which is Janet spelled backwards. However, when registering the business, I came across at least one other business with a similar name and similar product line. But, being true to my uniqueness, I fused Tenaj and unique to create Tenique,” Nicolette explains.
The pieces she designs and creates are just as different and rare as her personality and the business’s overall goal. Nicolette describes her pieces as avant-garde with the ability to “transform an outfit” so that her clients’ overall look “can speak to who they are and showcase their mood at any point in time.” Though she started out in jewelry, a dynamic world has led Tenique into making face masks due to COVID-19, home accessories and clothing based on requests, items for men and items for children just to identify a few.
Being 31 years of age, a designer and growing entrepreneur for nine years, Nicolette gives much credit to a few persons and entities. These include: her family, her high school, Wolmer’s Trust High School for Girls (Wolmer’s) and the all-round go-getter mentality of being authentically Jamaican.
In describing her drive and tenacity in being her best and producing the best for her brand and her clients, Nicolette references the Wolmer’s motto – ‘Age Quod Agis’ which translates to, “whatever you do, do it well or to the best of your ability.” The motto plays a big part of her life in that being her best is not just about her.
“It means holding myself accountable and honoring commitments to my clients even if I made a mistake. It means doing the administrative work for my business such as paying my taxes, keeping the website active, and being present and staying true to my brand,” she says.
As an immigrant from the Jamaican Diaspora and a true daughter of Jamaican soil, Nicolette says she tries to stay true to her national roots.
“Being a black Jamaican immigrant woman in the US is not something I think of everyday. For me, it is showing up as my authentic self every single day. Having freedom to hold on to aspects of my culture that I love is important. So that means I eat the food I want to eat and dress how I so desire,” she says.
“Another thing that is super important to me is holding on to my accent which is hard to do because I interact with non Jamaicans regularly, so I make a conscious effort to speak slower, use their language and not use my dialect and language, Patwa (Patois), to confuse them. Luckily I have my parents, sister and husband who are all Jamaicans nearby so I am able to retain my culture easily.
“I maintain my accent which is usually a conversation starter and that helps to keep the fire within ablaze to represent who I am and that is a Jamaican,” she continues.
She then segues into understanding the other cultures that she knows very little about.
“Being a Jamaican in the US has also forced me to be more intentional about who I am not be ashamed for it. However, it has forced me to learn more about other cultures and appreciate them for what they are. Though the Jamaican motto is ‘Out of Many, One People,’, we are so used to each other and the differences we have that the slightest cultural and sub-cultural difference doesn’t seem to faze us. On the other hand, being in the US is completely different. As a result, interacting with Americans of various cultural backgrounds is a novel experience and I try to adapt,” says Nicolette.
She prides herself on shattering the glass and breaking the barriers set for each goal she achieves. Her goal is to continue to create, design and “be better than the day before, the week before and the month before.”. She competes with no one but the person she was before the moments in which she finds herself.
As a woman who loves and embraces self- expression, Nicolette uses her brand and products as a means for empowering her clients to be the best that they can be. Pulling on her high school motto, she encourages her clients to be the best version of themselves and continuously seeks ways to make a great impact in her community.
In encouraging aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs, she says, “Just go for it. The imperfect will work out; you just have to work on it every day.”Tenique Designs has a current client base in Canada, Jamaica, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. You may shop virtually at TeniqueDesigns.com and follow them on social media at the following handles:
Facebook – Facebook.com/TeniqueDesigns
Instagram - @TeniqueDesigns
- Nicolette is the only designer at Tenique Designs. She is what Jamaicans would call the “head cook and bakle washer.*” Though she essentially flies solo, she credits two ladies who jump at opportunities to assist especially for showcases, fashion shows, expos and photo shoots. They are La’Raine Fraser and Tiffany Guy.
- Her clients are called Teniquesters and she was recently identified as the Supreme Teniquester.
* Head cook and bakle washer (head cook and bottle washer) loosely translates toed as being the person who mans and oversees everything in a business or any kind of operation.
Candice Stewart is a storyteller: a writer, blogger of life lessons, a philanthropist and a nature lover.
She holds an MA in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change and a BSc. in Psychology from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Follow her blog at thesuburbangirl.com where she shares stories and life lessons through real-life experiences.