Interview with Beatrice De Montille, founder of Merci Maman
Find out how being rejected for part time work after having her second child led Beatrice De Montille to launch the personalised jewellery brand Merci Maman.
14 years on, the team has grown to 55, with workshops in London, Paris and Berlin and ships globally to customers all over the world. The Brand is now loved by royals and celebrities such as The Duchess of Cambridge, Danielle Armstrong, Isabella Branson and Charlotte Tilbury.
What’s your career background?
I studied business and management, and graduated with a MSc in marketing in 1999. After moving to London with my husband Arnaud, I worked as a Marketing Manager, and resigned in 2007 to start Merci Maman.
How did your career change after having children?
My career completely changed! After having my second child, I applied to go back to the company I worked for part time, which was unfortunately rejected. I couldn’t get the work-life balance I wanted, so, I started Merci Maman on my kitchen table, bought an engraving machine and just went for it. It’s been 14 amazing years and I haven’t looked back.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was looking for a personalised piece of jewellery online in 2007, and there was nothing I could find within the right price point that I liked. I noticed a gap in the market for hand-engraved pieces, and with just £5,000 investment, Merci Maman was born.
I wanted to target it at new mums, there was nothing out there that was specifically to celebrate a new baby. Today, there’s a piece for everyone in the family from Merci Maman, but celebrating motherhood remains at the core of what we do.
How did you move from idea to actual business?
After purchasing the engraving machine, the business progressed through word of mouth quite quickly! I then took Merci Maman to many local and Xmas fairs. 6 months later we launched online, and in 2010 we hired our first employee Melanie. Now we have 55 employees!
What’s your USP?
Everything at Merci Maman is hand-engraved, by a team of very talented artists. It’s this touch which sets us apart from our competitors. Not only this, but we also engrave the piece within 24 hours so it’s delivered within 2-3 days of ordering, if not the next day!
Who’s your target audience?
The name Merci Maman actually translates to ‘thank you mummy’, and our pieces are designed to celebrate family and motherhood, so our target audience is mums predominantly. However, we’ve launched a Mmen’s collection and children’s collection this year so I think there’s a Merci Maman piece for everyone.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
We spread the word through various marketing and PR channels. We invest money back into marketing, such as digital marketing, brand collaborations and PR.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?
The ‘Kate Effect’ – I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams when I started Merci Maman, that the Duchess of Cambridge herself would one day wear a piece of our jewellery. Overnight, the company revenue and employees doubled. Kate wearing our necklace catapulted us into international sales, and eventually allowed us to open offices in Paris and Berlin.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Although in terms of growth, 2020 was a great year for us as a company, it was really difficult for many of our employees. We created two production teams in the UK and France, and most of our team worked from home.
As a company, we like to meet once a year with all our marketing and production teams across Europe, and we haven’t been able to do that since January 2020. We have had to constantly adapt whilst respecting the feelings and struggles of our employees. It’s been hard.
And your proudest moment so far?
There’s been two that stand out for me, aside from the Duchess of Cambridge wearing our necklace. We won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2017, and AGAIN in 2020. This was such a great collective achievement for the team, and it resulted in myself and Arnaud (my husband) meeting the Queen in 2017, and Prince Charles in 2021. It was such an honour to meet them both.
Why is work so important to you?
I have always had an entrepreneurial flare, and an advocate for working mums. Here at Merci Maman, pregnancy is celebrated and it’s so important to have a work-life balance that fits our employees. Nearly 40% of our employees are mums, so it’s important to me if they need to pick their kids up from school, or go see the school play, that they can do that.
Who inspires you?
Cecile Reinaud is a true business-inspiration model. She founded Seraphine in 2002; now, she has stores across the world. We’re working on the possibility of retail outlets in the UK now, and I’m glad I can ask Cecile for advice on this. She is very business minded and ambitious.
How do you balance your work with your family?
After having my fourth child, I decided to take a step back from the business to focus on my family, and other projects. This allowed me to balance my family and work, and still be involved in Merci Maman. I still have regular board meetings and marketing meetings. Make time for family time.
What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
- Don’t give up on your dreams.
- Believe in yourself.
- Listen to friends, team and the people that surround you.
Find out more about Merci Maman.