Rural Norfolk helps Monica Vinader sparkle on the global stage
PUBLISHED: 09:38 20 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:10 21 May 2015
Her intricate creations have bejewelled British royalty and transformed her business into an international powerhouse.
But Monica Vinader is convinced her fast-rising jewellery brand would not have achieved the same sparkling success if she had launched it outside of Norfolk.
The chief executive, from whom the business takes its name, said the converted forge next to her house in Docking, King’s Lynn, was the perfect place to nurture her fledgling firm as she juggled the demands of motherhood – conditions she would have struggled to replicate in London.
And some seven years later, her decision continues to bear fruit with the SME emerging as one of the fastest growing exporters in the UK.
In the past two years, the luxury jewellery brand – which counts the Duchess of Cambridge, Jennifer Lopez and the actress Emma Watson among its illustrious admirers – has recorded an 81pc rise in international sales to £3.3m, with total sales reaching £13.9m to July 2014.
And there are no plans to slow down its rapid expansion, as she eyes further growth in South Korea, Dubai, Singapore and America.
Ms Vinader, who has now transferred the headquarters of the business to Longlands on the Holkham estate near Wells-Next-The-Sea, said there are benefits to launching a company in rural Norfolk, but it is not without its challenges.
“I lived in Norfolk and I wasn’t going to live anywhere else – and I wouldn’t have been able to have the business at all if I lived in London.”
She said the option of converting an old forge close to her house meant she could keep her overheads low and still spend time looking after her daughter.
“I could be a working mum with a tiny baby – it made it possible for me personally,” she said. “I was able to raise a family and have a business at the same time.”
“It was also important to be in the county because we are a design-focused business and Norfolk life is conducive to that,” she added.
In the early days, Ms Vinader kept her office, showroom and workshop under one roof at her converted forge in Docking.
But in 2008 she teamed up with her sister Gabriela Vinader – who joined as chief operating officer after a career with US bank Merill Lynch and online retailer Amazon – to try and realise the firm’s commercial potential.
Since then, the pair have embarked on a heady journey of accelerated growth; opening a base in London, Victoria, to take charge of the finance, marketing and retail departments, while keeping the Norfolk HQ as the key hub for product design and dispatch.
It has helped underpin the rise of the company’s retail operation, which includes a store in Hong Kong, a corner store in Boutique 1 in Dubai, as well as UK shops in Mayfair, Chelsea and Canary Wharf in the capital, two boutiques in Harrods and corner stores in Selfridge’s.
The next stage for the company – which has seen staff numbers swell to 143 worldwide, including 40 in Norfolk– is to open a flagship store in Seoul, South Korea, and a standalone flagship store in Dubai. It is also exploring the possibility of opening a new shop in Singapore and working with key department stores in the US.
But like many businesses in rural Norfolk, Monica Vinader has been forced to overcome the region’s sluggish broadband speeds, patchy mobile phone signal and employment headaches in order to push the company forward.
“It’s a real challenge,” she said. “Rural England has issues with fast broadband and when we were in Docking we had to put in a fibre optic cable. We did a similar thing when we moved the HQ to Longlands as well. It has taken a mega effort and I would have developed the business quicker if that hadn’t been such a challenge.
“Within our catchment area in north Norfolk, finding the right team members is also a challenge,” added Ms Vinader, who is married to Nicholas Zoll.
The company, which produces the jewellery in India, focuses on training and promoting staff into senior roles as recruiting within the county remains difficult.