craftsmanship

Your Journey to Sustainability

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Dr Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “The time is always right to do what is right”. This week I had a wonderful Q&A with the sustainable jewellery designer, Anna Moltke-Huitfeldt. When Anna asked me a few years ago about what I knew about sustainable gold, I had never heard of the phenomenon and had no idea that sustainable gold existed. What do you know about Fairtrade standards or Fairmined mining certification?

What made you start working in the jewellery business?
When I got divorced then it was all about doing the right thing for my children and in my opinion, it was to put their needs before mine. Now that they are grown up now I have the space to do things for me and focus 100% on my business. I will always be there for my children to ensure that their life is as balanced as possible, after my divorce I sat down and worked out my goals – and one of my goals was to build wide boulevards for my children to walk on and meet like-minded people. I was painting and attended a sculpture class at Holbæk Art High School in 2001, as for many years I wanted to work with my hands. I made a sculpture in wireframes, and I put all sorts of small things inside of it, that I welded together - I made friends with some women who were in a painting class – and when they saw my sculpture, they asked whether I had considered making jewellery? This sparked an interest, and as I had always loved jewellery I attended a workshop in Copenhagen and as soon as I started, I knew this is what I was going to do.

Why did you start your own brand?
I started my own company in 2004, working with both gold and silver as I was looking for transparency. In the beginning, there were so many things that I didn’t know so I was looking for transparency in gemstones and my designs were inspired by the spiral and the eternal movement upwards. The air that makes the form and how if there was no air it would all be a ball and things like that and it was during this process that I found out about sustainability and fair things.

When did you start investigating about fair gold?
It all began in 2008 at an art fair in Berlin, where I had a personal interaction which led me to exhibit at the Basel trade fair. I discovered a magazine with an article about Oxfam America’s No Dirty Gold (NDG) campaign, which sought to raise the human rights and environmental standards of the global mining industry. This led me to the Oro Verde gold mine a community in Colombia. I approached some Danish goldsmiths who were already working with Oro Verde, to see whether we could start buying gold together, they were not interested! So I contacted, Cred Jewellery, who were one of the first to start working with fair gold, and in 2010 I bought one time directly from Colombia.

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How can the consumer know that the gold is fair?
In the past, the “big” mining companies came in with huge excavating tools to dig up and move the soil and when they were finished they just took their tools and left. Leaving and spoilt the landscapes, this stopped the local food farmers from agricultural farming for years. Oro Verde miners return the soil after excavation, which allows the land to replenish and is ready for agricultural farming after 3 years. Oro Verde (Green Gold) was a Colombian initiative working with Afro-Colombian artisanal gold miners in the Chocó bioregion, an area marked by high rates of poverty, social exclusion and a very sensitive ecosystem. Oro Verde has involved about 1,300 miners in the certification system and the premium they earn helps pay for local community development projects and diversification into other livelihood activities.

If you are a licensee from Fair Trade International, you are allowed to stamp your jewellery. You need to have a contract and that is expensive for small companies, as there is both the premium and license contract and this has to be factored into the price of the finished products. Nowadays, the Alliance for Responsible Mining bi-annual fee is US$60 p/annum and for each kilo of gold there is US$4.000 premium added for the miners, so now chemical free mined (ecological) gold is available at an additional US$2.000 per kilo premium.

What is alluvial gold mining?
Alluvial gold mining is the process of extracting gold from these creaks, rivers and streams and is generally considered to be the most environmentally friendly method of gold mining as a result of the reduced environmental impact when compared to underground mining. Using a leaf from a local bush that they crushed and mixed it with water instead of using chemicals to extract the gold.

Where are you nowadays in regards to sustainability?
I have stopped working with Fairtrade gold as my contract expired in 2017 and I chose to work with Fairminded as I wanted to be closer to the people who are close to the miners. I was advised not to quit by Fairtrade, but I did as Fairmined is a smaller organization, as it is important for me to have a personal connection to those who know how the miners are doing, and when I send my regards to the team, the message goes to the whole team.

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How about your business, what are your sales & marketing strategy?
In the beginning, I attend a lot of lifestyle and art fairs and it was before the financial crisis of 2008, so it was easier with everything going up and being sold. After the crisis, everything went down and I focused on developing myself and my brand simultaneously during those difficult times. I’m not so good at marketing as it’s too personal for me – going out to shops is not my strength, as if they do not like my jewellery, I take it personally and get annoyed.
I sell through 2 shops in Copenhagen and a Dutch Fairtrade/Fairmined platform, plus you can find me on UK Jewel Street and ENIITO.com, an online platform for Scandinavian designers. And of course, you can contact me via my own website. Men usually come to buy engagement & wedding rings, I have young clients from early teens all the way through to late 70’s, and I have made products from Christening gifts to Golden Wedding Anniversary pieces. I also make collections where people can choose from, but it’s more important for me to do the right thing than it is to make lots of money.

I can see that your drive is not economic and you will compromise on your values, so where do you see your brand 5 years from now?
I look much further into the future and I expect one of my grandchildren (who are yet to be conceived) to take over my business, as I plan to continue working as long as I can. I anticipate that by the time my future grandchildren are at that stage of life where they can take over the business, they will have a really strong sustainable brand to build upon. I want to remain a small jeweller, I don’t want it to become a big brand, of course, I want to make more money and employ more people, but I like the fact that my business is personal. So when I make things for people, I have the time to speak to them and get to know them, and this helps me to open up a designed universe to the client and help them to create something individual together with all the possibilities that are available and in the best quality.

Photo: Sandra Aaberg

Photo: Sandra Aaberg

"Those who know, do; those who understand, teach." - Aristotle

Do You Treat People With Respect? Q+A with Martin Johnston from Crafted Society

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John H. Johnson said: "There is no defence against an excellence that meets a pressing public need." This week's Q&A is with Martin Johnston whose new brand, Crafted Society has been built around the ethos of "keeping the crafts alive". Crafted Society is a luxury brand for the new generation of socially conscious consumers, exquisitely fusing craftsmanship with positive social impact, and they also donate 5% of their net revenue to Italian non-profit organisations.
 

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

There are several for example sustainability, transparency modus operandi, a shift towards luxury online selling, the Italian economy, Brexit, etc. We are an online-only brand, selling B2C to increase brand awareness that maintains fair prices by cutting out the retailer mark-up.
 

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

Our business model was ambitious when we set it up, and we had no clue if it would work. But we are continually pleasantly surprised when not only new customers join our mission, but also when customers return a second, third and fourth time. This proves that our quality goods are value-for-money especially when comparing to the high street retail, and this is a real competitive advantage for us.

I honestly think "doing better" comes with time and organic growth! Every single penny we make has been reinvested into the business. Ideally, we would love to have multiple ambassadors/sales reps in every country putting on parties, going to football clubs, going to customers every single day to bring the physical/personal aspect of our brand which is more difficult to achieve when you are a digital-based business.



3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

Our first thought always is to find the best in class. This usually comes with a hefty price tag, but you cannot put a price on quality which is a major component of our DNA. Putting ourselves in the consumer's shoes so to speak, means that we must understand that there is a huge amount of choice, and our products need to be better in all aspects. We have 30 years of industry experience which helps a lot too.


4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

It's critical - but what is more critical than the art of storytelling, is telling TRUE stories and not fabrications as at one point it will catch up with you. In our luxury industry, the "Made in Italy" label has seen much better days. To the average person on the street, it still resonates and conjures up thoughts of best quality, artisans, exclusivity, craftsmanship, high price, sustainable, luxury……. but many of the leading luxury brands have been manipulating the consumer as to what exactly is MADE in Italy. For many luxury houses, "Made in Italy" today means only to attach a label, or add a component as the majority of the manufacturing process is done in a country with far cheaper labour costs. This is what is putting the pressure on the master artisans to survive, as those craftsmen and women who own the knowledge, skills and traditions are in real danger of becoming extinct. This is because the big luxury brands are publicly traded, meaning that every single quarter they are expected to grow top line sales and bottom line profits. Our brand purpose started because of the non-transparency of the leading brands in the industry, as they are the root cause of the threat to craftsmanship. We tell honest, compelling stories of REAL people who really exist and this endears us to our fans and customers, and even more so once they have one of our products in their hands.

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5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers' perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?

Not applicable right now!


6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?

Its massive - brands who don't see that will not last - but what constituted trust 10-20 years ago is not what will win the consumer over today. AS we have morphed into an age of EVERYONE's media (as opposed to social media) people like animals are quick to sniff out bullsh*t. Back in the days, you could create an advert which would portray your brand as everything you as the principal wanted to project. Today, as technology has provided access to more and more facts, advertising or monologue brand messaging is almost dead - the consumer is looking for brands to have a dialogue with. It's a complete paradigm shift. But the more trust in terms of giving and receiving as a brand is embraced, the more customer loyalty will prevail. The same goes for employees - the more an employee feels a real cog in the big wheel the more they will commit to driving - the skill is in enabling this.


7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

We take our customers on a virtual journey to the rolling hills of Marche in central Italy to meet our master craftsmen and women, choose the finest materials Italy has to offer, cut them, sew them, finish them. We have customers whom we custom make size 49 shoes with - you can only do that working with a small family run businesses who wish to help and support your customer's focused mission. We support the artisans by platforming them - so it's a true partnership and win-win. This is what we are driven to convey to the customers - this experience so that customers can truly appreciate WHY we have support not just craftsmanship but THE PEOPLE behind the crafts.


8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

Honestly - yes. They have no emotional ties to the employees, products or strategies and can look at things with a fresh perspective.


9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?

Nothing! My wife and business partner, Lise Bonnet and I are the decision makers.


10. If your boss asks – "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

We would always approach it from a growth perspective - growth in sales, growth in loyalty, growth in repeat business, growth in opinions on new categories, etc. Brands which will survive will have to accept that the common norm moving forward will be to engage with their customers and continue developing trustworthy experiences to maintain engagement.


Many thanks, Martin and good luck on the journey.
For a full overview of the brand's offering, please visit:
www.craftedsociety.com

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How Do You Compete and Win in a Highly Competitive Market

 

This was the question posed to me at a recent dinner party by a Sales Director after we had gone through the formalities of "What do you do for a living?" He explained that his company was 12 years old and they sold high quality "timeless design classics". The company do not work with agents or distributors, but they have a telephone sales team, and I answered him with an analogy. If you go to your doctor and said that you were sick, the doctor would proceed to ask you a whole host of questions, check the symptoms you had described before prescribing any medication. He smiled and asked whether he could book me for a sales training workshop, with the aim to motivate and inspire his team to increase their sales performance.

We agreed that I should come and spend a day observing his sales team, as you always get great ideas from people who are doing the job. I have found that involving the staff when researching for sales training workshops ensures the team feel a sense of ownership, and then everyone is rolling in the same direction.

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Here are a couple of observations from the exploration day in their sales office after listening to the types of calls they were making: "The salespersons have so much to speak about, that they tend to over explain and not focus on what the customer is really looking for." Too much of their sales pitch is in the "so what" category. "Price is a phantom objection", it just means that you have not demonstrated value for the customer, etc.. I also asked the sales team individually amongst other things, whether they were happy at work? What were they doing that they felt good about and what they felt that they needed help with?

The subsequent one-day workshop was built on 3 pillars of excellence: FOCUS - ACTION - REFLECTION
Role-playing to help the sales team understand how to divide their calls between categories (courtesy, qualifying, arranging and pure sales calls). How to interpret customer reactions? How to identify and react to receptive states? How to introduce the company in under 45 seconds? How to build questions around planning, production, pricing, placing, enthusiasm, respect and references. And of course, the classic, how to overcome objections?

I am only qualified to deliver measurable results as passion, guts and hard work are not enough to make a real impact on results! You can always adapt to challenging circumstances by developing your sales team and their skills. I am an optimiser!