Meet the Dreamer: Sala Amira Menaya-Merritt, It’s Amira M, LLC

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It’s Amira M, LLC is Sala Menaya’s fashion brand dedicated to unique, statement neckpieces. Continue reading for how she started, grew, and pivoted along the way. We’re grateful she shared her story with us this month. 

A WNC Move

Sala Amira Menaya-Merritt is a native of Southern California and had never heard of Asheville, North Carolina. However, her spirit led her to our region by way of Louisiana and Georgia.

“I first visited Asheville due to my husband coming to the local VA hospital, and I fell in love with these mountains and wanted to move here,” Sala shared. It’s a common story – falling in love with WNC during a visit and wanting to relocate here. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s easy. “As much as I loved it here, I was working a job I loved in Savannah, GA. When the department I was leading was shut down, I made my way here for a fresh start.”

The fresh start led her to a sewing class at A-B Tech, which led to her current work making statement neckpieces. She credits the creative community here for bolstering her business. “WNC has allowed me to dream about and pursue my creative vision. It has also afforded me opportunities that I don’t believe I would have had in other cities where I have resided.”

A Creative Hobby Turned Business

Sala’s brand – It’s Amira M, LLC – began as a hobby in the basement of her rental home in Asheville, and then grew when she and her husband purchased their new home right before the COVID shutdown. It was her love of unique items – clothing, jewelry, furniture – that led her to create those things herself. As she began to share her creations on her Facebook page, she received great feedback and even made her first sale on the social platform.

That first sale – followed by a second and a third – led her to create her brand and take it on the road to local events. The sales at test markets led her to quit her full-time job in October 2021 and pursue her goal of being her own boss. “It was time for me to do something that I really love and creating is what I love.”

Now, her basement studio is filled with art: mannequin figures wearing beautiful, one-of-a-kind statement neckpieces. She utilizes materials that speak to her: a bead set she finds thrifting, Ankara fabric, traditional African masks, denim, decorated gourds, or various colors and styles of hair, and more. Each component tells a story. 

Planned Pivots

One of the biggest business lessons she’s learned is the art of pivoting. At the end of 2022 she narrowed her product offerings from earrings, bowties, and other accessories to focus on her statement neckpieces. She said, “after some thorough research and consideration, I spoke with my business coach about it and it seemed like the right thing to do. So, I re-invented my business.”

However, her typical customer remains the same: someone who appreciates artistry and isn’t afraid to express themselves. “They recognize that my pieces are not only to be worn, but are also pieces of art that can be displayed,” shared Sala.

To other business owners, she shared, “Part of learning from our failures is learning to pivot if it doesn’t work out. Pivoting in business is essential.”

Catalyst Programs

When Sala began pursuing her own business dreams, she reached out to Mountain BizWorks for support. “I first heard about Mountain BizWorks when I was doing some work with the City of Asheville at local markets,” she shared. She reached out to Jeremiah Robinson, Entrepreneur in Residence, who oversees the Multicultural Catalyst Program, which was created to close the gaps in traditional lending that often stifle progress for entrepreneurs of color. “I was able to obtain funding without jumping through a lot of hoops,” Sala shared. “The funding was used to have working capital and purchase much needed equipment for my business. The process was so easy.”

But Sala didn’t stop there. She applied and was accepted into a Catalyst Cohort, too, to learn in a group of peers. “The loan was a blessing. However, I also wanted to take my business to the next level. and I felt that there were some things foundationally that I was missing when it came to my business. I applied to the Catalyst cohort because I felt that it would provide me with the knowledge and support that I needed to move my business forward.”

The biggest win of her cohort experience? Being around other entrepreneurs working hard to grow. “You realize you are not alone in this thing called entrepreneurship.”

Extending Support to Others

She’s also continuing sharing her knowledge with others as a Catalyst Cohort facilitator and business coach with Mountain BizWorks. “When the opportunity was presented to me to facilitate the current cohort, I couldn’t say no,” she said. “Someone fed into and believed in me and I wanted to pay it forward.”

As she facilitates, she not only teaches but continues to learn. “I am amazed at the wisdom and knowledge that is in the space…This is truly a village and one I am proud to be a part of.”

Find Sala’s work on Facebook (@itsamiram) and Instagram ( She will also be selling her wares at the following upcoming shows:

Photos captured by Oscar Molina of Molina Vision Media.


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