We are on our way to meet Evgeny and Victoria, the owners of Jenavi jewellers, one of Russia’s premier jewellery brands. Their showroom is located in an area of St. Petersburg that is undergoing rapid change. Across the street, an old factory is being pulled down to make space for a business centre and a new road, while the former jewellery atelier is being converted into a museum to exhibit the Jenavi collections created over the past 22 years.
Evgeny, the company’s CEO and his wife Victoria, the art director, are waiting for us at the site of the future museum. After we introduce ourselves, they take us to a corner of the showroom where Victoria has prepared a fresh pot of tea and cakes. As she serves the tea, Anouk says: “I was wondering what the name Jenavi means.”
Victoria smiles: “It’s actually a combination of our names and that of our daughter Natalia – Je-Na-Vi!”
“Nice!” says Anouk. “Is she also involved in your company?”
“She owns a dance school next door, which is also called Jenavi,” Victoria answers.
“Tell me more about your company and your background,” says Maarten. “I know you founded it 22 years ago, but have you always worked as jewellers?”
“Actually I studied radiology, but my passions have always been elsewhere,” says Evgeny. “I started creating jewellery at my kitchen table, for friends. Over time, demand started rising and then Perestroika came. This changed our world completely. Suddenly we had the freedom to express ourselves and more space and liberty for creativity. That’s when we founded Jenavi.”
“Wow,” says Anouk, “from the kitchen table to one of the country’s leading jewellery companies – it’s a pretty impressive story.”
“It’s true that we are currently the largest manufacturer of jewels in Russia, but at the same time we still see ourselves as a family run company,” Victoria says.
Evgeny continues with a radiant smile: “Our employees are like family to us. And we want to give our family an equal measure of freedom and responsibility.”
Victoria clarifies: “We work for stakeholder values, not shareholder values. And our employees are our number one stakeholders.”
“So where do you get your inspiration?” Maarten asks.
“I personally find my inspiration in the beauty of Russian nature and art,” says Victoria.
Evgeny chimes in enthusiastically and says: “We want to make people happy by offering them beauty. Beauty is for everybody. It can help people to cope with hardship, and console them in times of sorrow. We see it as one of our goals to make every woman in the world feel beautiful.”
“What are you most proud of?”
Most of all I’m proud of our collaborations with Swarovski – we are their diamond partner – the Hermitage – we did a special Jubilee collection for them – and with Imperial Porcelain,” Victoria says.
“We don’t live on an island,” says Evgeny. “We are open minded, open to all influences that come our way. And all these collaborations are based on the same love for beauty and tradition.”
“Do you have plans to expand your company internationally?” Anouk asks.
“We already have many stores around the world, both in franchise and stores we own,” says Victoria.
“I’m actually flying to Paris on Thursday for the opening of a new store,” Evgeny adds.
“No way!” Anouk exclaims. “We’re also flying to Paris on Thursday on the 10 a.m. Air France flight.
“So am I! Evgeny says with a big smile. “You see – there are no coincidences in life! That means we will have another three hours to enjoy each other’s company during the journey. How about lunch in Paris?”
“Sounds great,” says Anouk.
“Let’s go to the showroom,” says Victoria, “we’ll show you some of our best pieces.” She leads us past a series of display cabinets and shows us an oval shaped bag made of red beads, with a matching shawl. “This is still my favourite design, the one I am most proud of,” she says, “even though we designed it eight years ago.”
“Well, then let me take a picture of you with your favourite piece!” says Maarten.
Meanwhile Evgeny takes Anouk and Katja to a cabinet at the other end of the showroom.
“I’d like to offer you both a piece of jewellery,” he says with his radiant smile. “Pick and choose what you would like!”
Like kids in a candy shop, Anouk and Katja carefully each choose a piece. “Now I definitely want to be your brand ambassador,” says Anouk with a big smile. “Thank you so much for sharing your stories and for this beautiful present.”
© 2014 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
Tags: around the world in 80 brands, Brand psychologist, Cool Brands Russia, CoolBrands, coolbrands global, CoolBrands Storytelling, Hermitage, Jenavi, Jenavi jewellery, Jewellery, Katerina Rogova, mig812, Russia, Russian Brands, Saint Petersburg, St Petersburg, Swarovski