In this edition of our popular Women Who Launch series, lifestyle contributor Ina Yulo Stuve interviews Catherine Best, a world-class jeweller and formidable businesswoman that turned her love of crafting wood in her father's workshop into a second-generation business empire: Catherine Best Jewellery.
I walk down the chic Elizabeth Street in Belgravia and through the doors of one of its newest residents—the designer and craftswoman Catherine Best’s London showroom. Greeted with a glass of champagne and the friendly team, including Best herself, they tell me all about their latest collections and the new clientele they’ve been able to connect with now that they have an outpost in the capital. “The London showroom is an extension of Jersey and Guernsey and I hope it will be very similar in the fact that we wish to offer a fabulous, friendly, high quality service, and a place where people can enjoy visiting and spending their money [laughs], where the offering is second to none,” she explains.
Best is proud of the fact that Catherine Bestis a family-run business—her two daughters Vikki and Penelope support with design and marketing whilst her husband and son-in-law have also played roles within the company. She tells me about her own father, whose entrepreneurial spirit influenced her career path and her zest for life. “I admired him hugely,” she shares. “I just wanted to be like my dad, really. I wanted to be hardworking, I wanted to achieve, and I wanted to have the joy of life that my father had.” And achieve she has! Best has won multiple awards, including the BTEC National Medal for Outstanding Achievement, has showrooms in three locations, and is well regarded within the industry for being a master craftswoman and designer.
I find myself back at Best’s showroom a few weeks later, this time to don some of her incredible jewellery for the David Shepherd Wildlife Ball—wildlife conservation being one of the causes Best is most passionate about—at The Dorchester hotel. Best is adamant that every single piece in her collections are designed and handcrafted from scratch, ensuring her clients receive truly one-of-a-kind pieces. Whether it’s the show-stopping Star Dreams necklace with magnificent blue-green Eyris Pearls—which are sustainably sourced off the New Zealand coast with each pearl coming with its own certificate of authenticity—the signature Animals collection showcasing Best’s love for wildlife, or the Cradle of Love pendant—which allows clients to personalise a piece with their loved one’s birthstones—it’s clear from the way Best talks about each detail in the crafting and design process that she loves what she does and aims to deliver the best products for her clients.
Tell me more about your upbringing on Guernsey and how it inspired you to become an entrepreneur.
I had a fabulous upbringing in Guernsey, where we were very free and able to run outdoors and play most of our days. My grandfather was a farmer and a butcher, and he was animal-mad. He was also an entrepreneur, but sadly he died when I was five and was in a lot of pain, so I never really got to know the best of him. However, my father believed in making the most of his life and he worked incredibly hard but also played hard. He was a true entrepreneur; he started making money at a very young age, and he too was a butcher and a gentleman farmer and he dealt in property as well. He started the first frozen food business here in Guernsey and a shop very similar to Fortnum & Masons. Just one example of his entrepreneurial spirit was when my sister wanted to get married, he bought a marquee which then became the marquee company of Guernsey and grew to quite a size.
We were encouraged to make money from a very young age; I sold daffodils and turkeys from aged five. So growing up in this sort of an environment, it was obvious to me that I wanted to run my own business from the very beginning.
If you could pick three words to describe your brand, what would they be?
Quality, Colourful, Happy!
What are your favourite pieces in your current collection?
Sunken Garden Ring: A tanzanite and diamond ring with a 14.68 ct tanzanite and 8.5 ct diamonds ( rcf 9116 ). This has the best Tanzanite I have ever seen right in the heart of it.
The Cradle of Love: It can be made so very personal to the wearer—it’s all about family and love, what else does one need?
What are some of the biggest challenges of running a family business?
I would say the biggest challenge of running a family business is that it’s open seven days a week, so it is tricky having a weekend together without a huge amount of juggling. That is just one small sacrifice that we have to make. Also one has to be honest and open and not treat family members any different to how we would treat our staff, and that’s with love and respect for each other. And for us as parents, it’s about appreciating that our children might know more than us about certain things.
How did you decide to transform The Mill into both a business and personal hub for your brand and family?
This question is fairly easy. It was just a matter of evolution. If you asked me if I was going to be living in the windmill 30 years later, I’m not sure I could’ve answered, however it all came about because I had no money, couldn’t afford childcare, and so needed to basically work from home. And the rest is history!
You are very passionate about the causes you support, could you tell me a bit more about them?
The animal charities are easy as I have a love for animals and partly I work with those charities because of the characters involved, whom I have a great relationship with. With Les Bourgs Hospice, we have done a lot of work with them here in Guernsey and it was the fact that they were doing such a fabulous job looking after cancer patients in the last terms of life, and again the people involved with an absolute pleasure to work with, so it’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned. One can continue forever to support all sorts of fabulous causes and it just depends on time as to which are the most appropriate for supporting.
What is the one task you always do yourself and the task you outsource?
The one task that I will always try to do myself is meeting with customers and designing. The one job that I would always outsource is the computer and admin work!
Did you have any mentors you turned to during your career journey?
One particular person springs to mind and this would be my tutor from college, Mr Brian Hill, who headed up the course at Medway College of Design, and who now does a fabulous job with The Goldsmiths Craft and Design Awards. He has been the most amazing mentor and has always been there for me at the end of the telephone for the last 30 years on both a business and personal level and continues to be there for me now.
Is there a particular business skill you’re currently trying to master?
I think the most important part of myself that I am working on at the moment is to be the best boss and example that I can be. I am getting older and I’d like to think I’m learning to listen more, understand more, and be more patient.
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