Name: Sam Stirrat
It’s a pleasure to speak with you and thank you for asking me to be interviewed.
1. Tell us about your company and the inspiration behind it.
Blackacre specialises in the creation of exceptional one of a kind and bespoke jewellery. Every piece is created to the highest quality standards imaginable and in a non-wasteful way. Whilst in recent years the brand has gained a reputation as one of the leading designers of bespoke engagement rings and bridal jewellery, it remains the constant evolution of a childhood passion!
I started collecting gemstones around the age of 9 or 10. I would often visit museums and art galleries as a child and through this I developed a fascination for art and precious stones. My mother, a teacher and an artist, made the logical connection that creating jewellery would combine my passions for art and precious stones and I embarked on my first jewellery making lesson at the age of 12.
2. What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your journey?
I guess it depends when the beginning was! However, in the context of the Blackacre brand, I wish I had had a greater acceptance and understanding of the fact that things take time. Behind every “overnight success” there is normally a long period of hard graft in the shadows that goes unseen.
Bill Gates once said: “most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years”. I feel like this is something I really can relate to now!
Nearly all the top luxury brands in the world are over 50 years old as reputation takes time to build. I hope we will be in for a long ride and therefore, it is key to enjoy the journey!
3. What specific challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome them?
Well, as any candid entrepreneur will tell you, there are many, but to give one in particular…
Being a founder (or leader) without joint business partners or other shareholders can be challenging. There are often things you can’t share with the wider team, decisions you need to make on your own or changes that don’t sit well with others. For the time being, the way I deal with this is ensuring the whole team comes on the brand journey. If everyone lives and breathes the brand, understands the challenges faced and where we are trying to get to, it drives a greater appreciation and desire to put the business first.
I like to think that if you look after people, people will look after you – it applies to your team and clients alike!
I also had two jobs for 5 years to get the brand up and running… that is certainly not something I recommend doing! It put a great strain on me personally as one’s mental capacity has certain limits! However, without that period, none of this would be possible.
4. How do you view the impact of skill vs luck in your company’s success to date?
This is a bit of a loaded question… as if I were to say it is all skill, that wouldn’t reflect well!
What I would say is that your probability of getting lucky is higher if you have the right skills in place. However, this has to be underpinned by an unwavering level of determination, dedication and hard work. I will do anything to ensure that a client’s experience is perfect. I recall cycling through snow on Christmas Eve one year to ensure a piece was delivered on time! I think and hope this desire for perfection is contagious throughout our team.
To specifically answer the question, you may have gathered I take inspiration from the wise words of others and there is one that Gary Player says: “the more I practice the luckier I get….”
5. What are your aims for the next 1,5 & 10 years, for the business, and personally?
From a Blackacre perspective:
In the next year we want to re-position the brand back to its creative roots. We have lots of exciting projects planned, from overseas sourcing to new collection launches.
Looking forward to 5 years, we will have a team of 20+ globally, and a boutique in one of these cities; Hong Kong, Paris or New York.
The goal for 10 years is to be established as one of the leading responsible, luxury jewellery brands in the world.
On a personal note, I am beyond excited to be getting married next year. I would also like it if our Irish Setter puppy could grow out of being ill in the car!
6. Which other businesses, leaders or entrepreneurs inspire you and why?
I take a huge interest in other up-and-coming brands. I think small businesses often bring heightened creativity and new ways of thinking simply because they don’t have the big budgets. A brand I really love is Paynter Jackets. It is run by a young couple who have created a beautifully simple product with a very strong brand following. Modern social platforms really give brands a chance to engage and talk with their audiences and these guys have utilised this space brilliantly. Simplicity is often best!
7. What is the best piece of advice you have been given throughout your journey so far and where did it come from?
My family made it very clear to me from the outset that without any financial knowledge, life as a designer would be very challenging. Although I was bitterly against the idea at the time, my parents strongly advised me to train as an accountant, which I did. This has now put me in a really unique position enabling me to bring my lifelong vision and passion to life.
8. Do you work with advisers in your company, and if so, where do you feel they add value?
This ties back nicely to the point earlier about running a business as a sole founder. Sadly, it is not possible to be an expert on everything, but I think it is really important in any decision-making process to surround yourself with people who have additional expertise and views. I am coming up with new ideas on a daily basis so having advisors, clients, team members, friends and family to bounce these off prevents anything too whacky happening!