Scottish Canadian Keith Jack is one of the finest Celtic jewelers in the world. Recently we spoke with him about his personal and professional life.
What is your background?
I am originally from Scotland and moved to Vancouver, Canada in 2008. I have been involved in the jewellery industry for over 40 years. I left school when I was 15 years old, not really knowing where my future was going. I was fortunate enough to get a fulltime job in the watch and clock industry when I was 17 and worked my way up from the bottom, learning everything as I went. This led me to the jewelry industry which has been my teacher, my triumphs, my failures…my life.
What is the company’s history and mandate?
After the birth of my daughter, Caitlin, I became inspired to design my own jewelry. During my mid-40s I had an opportunity to relocate and restart my life in Vancouver. I opened my own business in October 2008 with the small savings I had brought with me from Scotland.
How has it evolved over time?
Like many small businesses I grew it by reinvesting every cent that was made and spending long hours in all the processes. After a couple of years, I was able to employ my first staff member, then within a year my second staff member, and we now have a great team of 8 full-time personal. The company grew from selling to 20 retail stores to over 250 stores across North America, and we are now firmly established as a recognized jewelry brand. My design portfolio has grown from 40 pieces to well over 1000 current designs, and I remain the sole designer for all my jewelry collections.
What are your roles and responsibilities there?
As the owner of the business, I take overall responsibility for all aspects of the business; I am the designer, the hirer, the chief financial officer, the dreamer, the creative guy, the marketing guy, and I will also pack and ship orders if I have to. I am the guy where the buck stops. My name is my brand and I stand behind every piece we produce. I am also an employer – a job which I take very seriously. I have a huge responsibility to all my staff in creating an ethical, sustainable business which will continue to grow and prosper. You can’t have a successful business without great staff and great customers.
What are the challenges of the job?
The job requires quite a lot of travel for trade shows, etc. It is not unusual for me to travel up to 100,000 miles in a year and spend countless nights in hotels. It sounds glamorous, but I miss my own bed sometimes.
What are the rewards?
Firstly, I love my job. I wake up and look forward to every day. I am grateful for my wonderful staff and equally wonderful customer relationships. These relationships that we build in our work business lives form an extremely important secondary family. Sometimes I get wonderful emails from customers expressing their gratitude for the creation of a piece that has special meaning to them. Emails and messages such as those remind me that what I do is special and can have significant meaning for people at different times in their lives.
What are your core products?
I design jewelry for both men and women, including pendants, earrings, bracelets, chains and rings. We work in sterling silver, with 10k or 18k gold.
How do you differ from the competition?
My designs are contemporary Celtic. I am constantly striving for new ways to evolve my thinking and design methods. I like to use unusual elements in my work, such as raw uncut diamonds. I have no interest in doing anything similar to my competition – my designs come from my heart and my experiences in this wonderful life.
How do you reach your potential clients?
We currently only sell through our valued retail partnerships. The best way for us to grow this customer base is by attending and exhibiting at trade shows all over North America. We also have a state-of-the-art website where our designs can be viewed.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
The Celtic marketplace is booming. More and more people want to find out where they are from. In this day of “information at the speed of light” it is much easier for inquisitive people to trace their roots. There is more information available about Celtic culture and Celtic art than ever before. The Celts were nomadic people from all over Europe and as a result a large part of the North American population can trace their roots back to the Celts.
What are your future plans for the business?
To keep on doing what I love by producing the most excellent, innovative, and meaningful jewelry that I can. To grow my business while taking care of my staff and customers, and to support and give back to the community via charities. We will be taking advantage of modern technology using our own online website selling directly to all other countries outside of North America. In North America we will continue to sell through our retail partners.