Sitting side by side with a genuine ease that can only be felt between mother and daughter, Avani and Rupa Patel, the mother-daughter jewelry design duo and co-owners of Avani Rupa Fine Jewelers in Mountain Brook, give us a peek into their lives. They share how Avani Rupa came to life and how traditional Indian culture has influenced their journeys. Their love and pride for one another brought them (and us) to tears and gave us an inspiring glimpse into their supportive relationship. We are truly honored to feature them as today’s FACES of Birmingham!
Are you from Birmingham and, if not, what brought you here?
Rupa: My husband and I were living in New Jersey and Baltimore, and my husband, who is a doctor, was looking for somewhere to do his residency, but we were also looking for somewhere to settle down …
Avani: and someplace warm!
Rupa: [laughs] Yes, and warmth was the deciding factor. He has been a doctor in Clanton for the past 27 years.
Avani: I have been here since I was 1 year old, so 26 years!
Tell us a bit about your professional journey.
Rupa: I’ve always liked to wear a dress and a beautiful piece of jewelry. Everyone in my town loved what I wore and the pieces that I had on. So, when my son went to college, I began designing and creating jewelry and would sell to friends from my dining room table. Then, I ran a small boutique from my basement for three years. I’m a great cook, so I would always make something delicious for them while they shopped. I loved it! Then, I opened up a storefront in Hoover called Reflections Fine Jewelry for about seven years, took a break when my grandchildren were born, and now I’m here!
Avani: I was in high school when my mom had her store in the basement, so I would see her doing her business and became very interested in it. I was on the path to becoming a doctor — pretty much everyone in our family works in the medical industry — so seeing my mom run her business was the first time I was introduced to something different. I would help serve coffee and tea to her customers, help with inventory and organize and join her at the shows during the summer. So, starting at age 15, I was really engrossed in the jewelry world. I entered college as a biology major and moved to accounting with a business minor, graduated early, worked at an accounting firm after college and finally decided to pursue my passion after my dad encouraged me to get a degree in gemology. So, I went to the Gemology Institute of America (GIA) in California and got my Graduate Gemology Degree, meaning I studied diamonds and gemstones. Then, I learned the technicality and logistics of design through a six-month design course at GIA. To me, success comes from internal happiness and, with the support of my parents, I was able to follow my dream and do what I love.
Tell us about the journey of Avani Rupa Fine Jewelers.
Rupa: I had my son at age 23, so I had really never experienced working in the everyday workforce. Once my son had gone to college, I decided to just follow my dream and make it happen. And thanks to the trust and love from our community, we’ve really created something special. Avani took over in many aspects and completely rebranded Avani Rupa. If you’re headstrong and have a vision of what you want, you can make it happen.
Avani: When I kind of started to take over, we took the best parts of Reflections and made it modern through a new location, new name, new design and a new look, which I think added some relatability into the brand, allowing us to reach women of all ages. We wanted to combine passion, knowledge and both my mother’s and my unique style.
What makes Avani Rupa stand out among other jewelry stores?
Rupa: Trust and a wonderful relationship with our community makes us stand out amongst other stores. I have friends texting and calling me nearly every day pictures of our pieces and showing their excitement over it. Many of our pieces are inspired by the Indian culture, which isn’t found at any other jewelry store in the area, so that also allows us to stand out and provide the community with something unique.
Avani: It’s really about how we personalize the experience. Either our clients start out as our friends or they end up that way. We love to be a part of the entire experience and want the community to know that we’re here for your big life experiences. It’s so cool to find out what a bride, for example, wants, design it, create it and then see her love it on her big day and beyond! Our brand says a lot about who we are, and I’m ready to branch out beyond the Birmingham market as a Southern, Indian-inspired brand. There’s a lot of exciting things in store!
Explain Avani Rupa’s collection. Where do you find your pieces? What is the creative process that goes into the custom line?
Rupa: Our collection is inspired by the people around us, things we love, our background and the Indian culture.
Avani: We also find inspiration in what’s trending in the industry. It’s important for us to see what everyday women and young professionals are wearing and what trend is staying. I like to create pieces that can transition easily from day to night and then, once these young women grow up, find out what kind of pieces they need and deserve. To be honest, what inspires us is other people. When someone requests a custom piece, we start out with a brainstorming session where we figure out what the customer wants and what their style is. Then, I go to my sketch pad and start creating options. Once we find one we both love, we really get into the process and create a rendering, a 3D image of the piece and then the final piece! For our custom lines, Mom and I brainstorm together on what will stand out and be different from any other stores around the area, and then go through the process.
Describe your typical day.
Rupa: Right from when I wake up, I’m talking to clients. These clients are my friends, and I love speaking with them, checking in on them and fostering our relationships.
Avani: Grab coffee, catch up on emails and logistics and plan which clients I need to reach out to that day. Mom’s done enough. She’s built this company, and now it’s her turn to be the face of Avani Rupa, so I’m happy to spend the day working to build Avani Rupa and make it the best it can be.
What’s it like working so close with family? Do you have a moment where you felt particularly proud of the other?
Rupa: We’re like friends. Avani has all this amazing imagination, so she brings that creativity to the design aspect. And I feel extremely proud of how she rebranded Avani Rupa and established a new, modern and unique version of what I had created. When we’re a team, we’re really unstoppable, and we both really complement each other’s strengths. It was very important to me to teach my kids how to interact, so I’ve established the relationships with the clients, but they love Avani because they’ve known her since she was 2 and see the wonderful person she has become — I’m very proud of that.
Avani: Working with family can be both amazing and difficult. We had to find a perfect balance between our business relationship and our mother-daughter relationship. When we’re home, there’s no work talk! My proudest moment was watching my mother, who had not worked in a workforce really ever, just jump in and start doing exactly what she wanted to do. To me, that just proves that it’s never too late to chase your dreams, and that was an incredibly important life lesson for me.
What is most challenging about your job?
Rupa: It’s challenging to keep everyone happy all the time, but our hard work is worth it, and that is seen in the evolution of Avani Rupa.
Avani: Finding the right people to help us grow. In my opinion, we’ve maximized our success in what the two of us can do, and now we need to hire other people to help us continue the growth of our small business. I’m very protective of Avani Rupa, but ready to let go of some of the responsibility because we’ve been doing everything ourselves. And I’m excited to see where we go from here.
Rupa: Just seeing each other every day and knowing how much our clients and friends love the pieces we create. I love to be able to both provide and see different, unique pieces on clients rather than the same thing everyone else is wearing.
Avani: Definitely the end result and seeing our clients happy. Seeing how happy both the giver and receiver of the gift are is most rewarding. There’s nothing better than being pulled aside at a party and having someone tell us they’re wearing our pieces or how much they love them — that feels really good!
What inspires you?
Rupa: Making jewelry just makes me happy. That is all.
Avani: What inspires me is to make a difference somehow. Eventually, I want to leave a legacy bigger than being a jeweler in Mountain Brook, so my inspiration comes from what I can do to help other people to make Birmingham, Alabama and the whole world a better place. In the end, we’re all small businesses or entrepreneurs, so how can I and we, as Avani Rupa, stand out and make a mark? That’s what inspires me.
What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout your journey?
Rupa: From my dad, who said, “If you want to walk through that wall, you can.”
Avani: Both my parents have always told me that if you want something, you go out and do it, and we’ll be here to support you, so that has always and will always stick with me. But my uncle, who has been my mentor since I returned to Birmingham from California, inspires me to make a difference. He says, “You’re doing great, Avani, but what do you want people to remember you for?” That has always stuck with me.
What are you most proud of?
Rupa: [With a tear in her eye] My two kids. They are my life. I have raised them just how I felt right, and I’m so proud of who they’ve become.
Avani: I’m most proud of my parents for creating an open and supportive relationship between us. In traditional Indian culture, people and your relationship with your parents can be very conservative, but my parents kind of ignored that and created a really special, open relationship between us. [With the same love-fueled tear in her eye] I’m very proud of them for that.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Rupa: Cook. I love cooking! That’s where my other passion lies. I also love my grandchildren more than anything, and I enjoy going out and spending time with friends.
Avani: I love to dance. I’ve been doing traditional Indian dance since I was very young. I also love to run and do half and full marathons with Kulture City. I also do Ready 2 Read, where I read to a second-grade class … I love it!
What do you love most about Birmingham?
Rupa: The greenery, the people, that it’s calm and quiet, and the warmth!
Avani: I’ve lived here my whole life, so Birmingham is home to me.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Both: Kick back, drink some wine and watch Netflix.
Favorite local restaurant?
Both: China Cafe! It’s in Pelham, Alabama, and we’ve been eating there forever. It’s the best Chinese food in Birmingham, and we love it!
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Rupa: Get out and enjoy life the way you want!
Avani: I would’ve definitely decided not to graduate early and take a semester abroad. If I could change one thing, I would’ve loved to travel and experience life somewhere else.
Any guilty pleasures?
Rupa: Cadbury Fruit and Nuts. I love it. We buy the big bags from duty-free shops, so I can always snack on it.
Avani: All desserts! Chocolate is definitely a guilty pleasure.
What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
Rupa: My parents weren’t at my wedding. I threw a 500-person wedding in a foreign country by myself at age 21. It just shows the confidence my dad gave me at a young age.
Avani: I am trilingual! We actually both are.
What is your best piece of advice?
Rupa: Always do what your heart tells you to do. Don’t listen to anything else.
Avani: Find your passion and follow it, but find a balance between passion and reality. You have to pick a reality for yourself and work hard not to get lost in your dreams. Stay passionate, but remain grounded.
Name three frivolous or lighthearted things you can’t live without.
Rupa: Grandkids, wine and cooking
Avani: Husband, music and wine
Thank you, Avani and Rupa! To learn more about Avani Rupa Fine Jewelers, visit the Avani Rupa website or find them in Mountain Brook Village.
Thank you to Eric and Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for the fabulous photos of Avani and Rupa at Avani Rupa Fine Jewelers.