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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Béatrice de Montille

We caught up with the founder of jewellery brand Merci Maman, Béatrice de Montille to find out a little bit more…

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Béatrice de Montille. Image by Trafalgar Maison de Portraits & Ksenia Vysotskaya
Béatrice de Montille. Image by Trafalgar Maison de Portraits & Ksenia Vysotskaya

Béatrice founded the personalised jewellery brand Merci Maman in 2007 after graduating with a masters in marketing in 1999. Today, Béatrice employs 40 people and ships her products worldwide. Her jewellery has also proven popular with royalty as it was spotted on the Duchess of Cambridge and her business has received recognition with a Queen’s Award.

Tell me about your background

I grew up in France, spending my childhood in Limoges and Lyon. I studied Business and Management in Lille, in the North of France, and graduated in 1999 with an MSc in marketing with a six month Erasmus exchange in Barcelona.

In 2003, a few months after my husband and I got married, we moved to London. Attracted by the energy of this capital city, we were keen to discover new horizons together, as well as improving our English.

London inspired an entrepreneurial flare within me, and in 2007, after the birth of my second child, I resigned from an FMCG company to start my own business.

I am now a mum of four, balancing work with family life and enjoying every moment. Being an entrepreneur can take up a lot of your time but it is important to balance your two lives in order to allow both to grow.

Talking to many entrepreneurial women around me gave me the confidence to quit my job and start my own business. I identified a gap in the market for an easy-to-shop ecommerce website where you could buy chic and trendy personalised jewellery. And Merci Maman was born!

After starting at my kitchen table 11 years ago, I have grown a company that now employs 40 people, working in three workshop-style offices across Europe where we ship orders worldwide.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Chupi Sweetman, founder at jewellery brand Chupi.

What inspired you to start your jewellery brand?

I always loved crafts and the practical processes of making something so I was keen to launch a business that would reflect my personality.

Being a young mum at the time, I decided to design and make hand-engraved jewellery exclusively for new mums. When you have just had a baby, you receive a lot of gifts for your new child, but it is great to celebrate the new mum too. Seeing the name of your baby on a piece of jewellery is very special and the experience of gift giving and gift receiving is very meaningful at this special time.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Emmy Scarterfield, Creative Director at shoe brand Emmy London.

What are your secrets to success?

  1. Always cherish your team and your customers as much as you can. Listen to them as they will give you the best guidelines and inspiration for you to grow your business.
  2. Surround yourself with talented people, building strong relationships with people internally and develop inspiring partnerships externally too. Be open to different ideas and points of view, whilst retaining your own personal values.
  3. Regularly recharge your batteries. It is important to ensure that you enjoy regular breaks, ideally weekly, and find time for yourself in activities that inspire you or rest your mind. Switch off your mobile phone as much as you possibly can. It is great to step back from the instant nature of having a phone with you.

Running a business is a virtuous circle; if you feel good, your team will feel good too, and your customers will benefit from it too. It is a ricochet effect!

Read about how our previous Wonder Woman, bridal designer Sanyukta Shrestha, set up her ethical bridal brand.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

The day we discovered one of the world’s most stylish mums, the Duchess of Cambridge, wearing a Merci Maman necklace was one of our most exciting milestones. Kate Middleton wore a personalised charm necklace following the birth of her son, Prince George. It completely changed the face of the company and resulted in massive press coverage and social media buzz around our brand and the newly named The Duchess Necklace.

Our company has since taken a strong international path, enabling us to grow the size of the team and open two overseas workshops in Paris and Berlin.

In 2017, we were honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category, which is the best award an entrepreneur can hope for in the UK. This was an enormous celebration for us and we felt very thankful to have been recognised in this way. We had the immense pleasure of visiting Buckingham Palace to meet The Queen and share our entrepreneurial story with her. We were hugely impressed by the genuine interest she showed in our brand and felt very honoured by the way she listened to our story.

Read more: Bridal designer Jacqui James’ Wonder Woman Wednesday profile.

What does your typical working day look like?

Every single day is so different that it is hard to answer this question!

Our family moved from London back to France about a year ago meaning that I travel a lot. Almost every week I visit our teams across Europe to support them and work closely with our Country Managers; brainstorming and looking for fresh ideas.

I am also involved in the innovation process; we launch about 60 new products a year and I work closely with our Marketing and Digital teams to create a strong brand image and increase our brand awareness.

It is a huge privilege for me to spend more and more of my time sharing our story with students, women or business networks. I also dedicate time to mentoring start-ups and a few young entrepreneurs, hopefully inspiring others to follow their dreams and start their own business too!

Meeting other people is always very inspiring for me so I try do it as much as I can.

Here’s how talented bridal designer Charlie Brear spends her typical working day.

Can you tell us five facts about yourself?

  1. In 2017, I met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace after being awarded The Queen’s Award. My husband and I had a few minutes of conversation with her about our entrepreneurial journey and we were amazed by her curiosity and willingness to listen!
  2. I love children. In another life, I would like to have been a midwife. I love the celebration of having a new baby and that special bond – I think this is obvious in our brand and all of our products!
  3. I received the Timewise Power 50 award in the Power Founder Category advocating flexibility in the workplace. It is important for me that we offer this for mums and people who have a time-consuming passion. For example, we have a gifted artist who works freelance for us. I am proud of all this!
  4. Favourite bake: Praline Tart – very typical of Lyon – and my kids love it!
  5. My favourite holiday destination is our holiday house in Provence, near Grignan. For me, it’s the best place to spend time with my family and friends and feel energized during the summer.

Want more? Our previous Wonder Woman and bridal retailer Joanne Stott tells divulges her secrets to success.

 

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