Women & Business: Sonita F. Bell
Bell is CEO of Sonita's Designs.
Sonita F. Bell finds inspiration all around her and channels that vision into helping people look and feel better. She is known primarily for her jewelry for women — “statement pieces” that are large, colorful, encrusted with jewels and often placed in industrial wire settings that customers describe as classy and edgy. But her mission and her ambition go well beyond jewelry sales. Bell provides wardrobe styling services for professional and executive women and helps a wide range of clients prepare for special events such as proms and weddings.
Jewelry sales represents more than half her growing business, which includes a shop on Northern Pike in Monroeville, a fragrance line and an extensive e-commerce website (www.sonitasdesigns.com) where customers can view many of her pieces modeled by her twin sister. Bell, 43, designs her jewelry digitally, contracts with a manufacturer to produce the pieces and sells them to consumers at conferences, fashion shows and other events.
In 2005, Bell started her career selling shoes, but soon noticed that her jewelry was selling out and not the shoes. Three years later, she rebranded and changed the name to Sonita’s Designs to focus on jewelry. When her customers started asking what they should wear with the jewelry, she decided to begin offering wardrobe styling. “Every step was quite organic,” Bell said. “I recognized what worked and what didn’t. Sales doubled after I rebranded in 2008.”
This year presented unique challenges for Bell. “I was unable to meet with my clients in person due to the stay-at-home order, and I had to postpone our annual Spring Bling Event pop-up event.” But Bell’s e-commerce site continued to thrive, and she began to schedule individual meetings with customers — following CDC guidelines. Bell also began to sell face masks in fashion-forward patterns such as leopard print.
Bell offers this advice to women in business: “Believe in your talent, invest in your talent, and love what you do. Research and stay connected to your customers.” She also emphasizes the importance of a good support system. “God, my husband and son, along with my mother and sisters, keep me grounded,” says Bell. She treasures an old African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
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For more than 10 years, Pittsburgh Magazine has spotlighted exceptional businesswomen within our pages and at quarterly networking events. We plan to continue this program during these unusual times. Join us for a vibrant conversation with our four inspiring honorees and a keynote speaker at our first virtual Women & Business, presented by S&T Bank.