Raffingers’ clients never cease to amaze with their endless ambition, abundant motivation and incredible talent. This is especially true of Chrissie Douglas, founder and owner of Coleman Douglas Pearls.
We recently caught up with Chrissie after Coleman Douglas Pearls was awarded the title of Independent Retailer of the Year at the Kensington and Chelsea Business Awards 2018. This achievement is just one of the many accolades Chrissie has achieved over the years and we were keen to know what the secret was behind Chrissie’s success.
“It’s all down to loving what you do”, she says. It might sound simple, but this is what truly motivates Chrissie and is evident as soon as you start speaking to her. For Chrissie, “it is not a business, it’s a calling.”
Although, admittedly, it did take Chrissie some time to find her calling. Chrissie’s path into jewellery design, specifically pearls, was not straight forward or conventional. Chrissie’s early career saw her as a tour leader in Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. Her passion for art and travel then took her to Hong Kong where she began designing clothes and furniture – a far cry from jewellery design.
So, how did Chrissie eventually become known as the lady that “paints with pearls”?
In 1989 Chrissie took some time out to start a family, and it was during this time that she was visited by her dear friend, Teresa Coleman. Teresa knew Chrissie was a designer, and although not a jewellery designer at this point, she spotted a talent. Teresa visited Chrissie with several pearls and asked her to design a piece of jewellery with them. That was the start and Chrissie has never looked back – you may even recognise Teresa’s influence in the company name…
Chrissie immediately recognised the potential for pearls, “the 80s and 90s was an era of minimal jewellery and I could see that pearls would really make a statement on the catwalk”. And that’s where Chrissie began, she started Coleman Douglas Pearls in her kitchen, with a six-month-old, creating jewellery with Pearls that would enhance catwalk looks.
“the 80s and 90s was an era of minimal jewellery and I could see that pearls would really make a statement on the catwalk.”
Then Chrissie got her big break. In 1994, Chrissie was approached by a client who asked her to supply the jewellery for a charity catwalk show. Chrissie immediately said yes, and it was at this ‘little’ charity show that Chrissie was discovered by Lucia Van der Post and crowned ‘Pearl Queen’ in the Financial Times. Since then, there has been no going back.
Chrissie’s business has gone from strength to strength, she has completely transformed pearls – moving away from traditional pearls that you might associate to your grandmother to designs that incorporate leather, wood, lava rock, shells and even leather in the form of barbed wire.
Chrissie is now acknowledged as a leading authority in the field of pearls; her designs are on exhibition at the Earth Treasury and she was a named designer for “Iridesse founded by Tiffany & Co”.
If you think Chrissie is now going to sit back and take it easy, you’d be wrong. Chrissie is currently preparing to scale her business, “there are only so many hours in the day, I need more people so that I can step back and manage the business”. To achieve this ambition Chrissie needs skilled employees, which she plans to achieve through the training of apprentices, “from working with apprentices and training them to become masters in what they do, I can build a sustainable and skilled workforce.”
Not only this, but Chrissie acknowledges herself that she learns from her apprentices too. One prime example of this is social media; technology and marketing are moving so fast that Chrissie is learning from her apprentices, just as much as they are learning from her.
Therefore, when asked what advice Chrissie would give to business owners, it is no surprise that her first piece of advice is to, “never stop learning, never think you know it all, because you don’t.” Taking a collaborative approach and always being open to learning new things ensures you and your business keep developing.
“never stop learning, never think you know it all, because you don’t.”
This is fantastic advice and a true indication of how Chrissie has achieved her own success. Chrissie also tells business owners to be persistent, “you have to just keep going no matter what”, be passionate, “the reality is that you’re a long time working so it is really important you are passionate about what you do, customers and clients will pick up on this.” And finally, create something clients really need, “whether it’s a product or an experience make sure you tell a story and create something that people buy in to.”
In pearls Chrissie has found something she is made for and is extremely good at. Chrissie loves making people feel good and beautiful about themselves. To Chrissie, it is not just jewellery, but “pearl armour”, she is inspiring women, helping them to become more confident and set no limits to what they can achieve.
To find out more about Chrissie and Coleman Douglas Pearls, visit her website https://www.pearls.co.uk.
To see how Raffingers can support your and your business endeavour, contact us.