CEO and Owner
Part of what makes Italy special is the artisan jewelers, who each span generations and continue their unique styles. One with a particularly strong following is Valenza-based Garavelli. Recently, Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up with Elisabetta Molina, the fourth generation of the jewelers, to see how the company is growing and adapting to rapid changes in the industry.
ET: Elisabetta, tell me about the company’s history and how it started.
Elisabetta Molina: The Garavelli Company was founded in 1920, and I represent the fourth generation. It’s a great heritage. My brother and I, with my husband who designs jewelry, are proudly continuing this adventure.
ET: How did you get into the business? Obviously your parents had the business while you were growing up.
Elisabetta Molina: I was born into the business, and I started to work, joining my parents on their business trips, when I was eleven. After the business trips, we went on our summer vacations, so it was natural for me to keep going.
ET: When you finished school, did you do anything else before going into the family business?
Elisabetta Molina: At university, I did economical studies, and my brother went to the Gemologic Institute of America in the States.
ET: Then you both came – right after you graduated – into the family business?
Elisabetta Molina: Yes. Yes.
ET: And what do you and your brother do in the business?
Elisabetta Molina: We create jewelry. He selects stones, mainly, and we create our collections. We produce everything in Italy and sell our collections to major independent retailer stores throughout the United States. We also have customers in Russia, the Ukraine, England, and Japan, and we keep going.
ET: How long have you been involved in Russia and the Ukraine? Any advice for people who want to do business in Russia?
Elisabetta Molina: It’s not long, five to six years. We have met really nice people there. It’s easy to work with those countries, because, from our culture, the Italian culture, it looks like it’s easy to get along with the Eastern European culture. You can discover really nice countries full of history. It’s interesting.
ET: Every time I look at the newspaper, the big companies and conglomerates seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Is that an issue? Is that a challenge for a family-owned business?
Elisabetta Molina: The companies that are not as big or famous, like us, have to keep our integrity and passion for our job. We might also be more flexible and quick to react in different economic situations or source from different markets. Bigger companies can have difficulties while we keep on track. As a small, family-run business, we can react very easily to world changes. And now we are seeing pretty big changes: the financial situation, new countries coming on, markets that open and look very rich and full of opportunities – the Far East, the big Chinese market. We can approach these markets in a relatively smaller amount of time than a big company that has to create more plants and move more people.
ET: Have you made any changes to the product as you go into new markets?
Elisabetta Molina: Absolutely yes. We have to. We keep in mind that our main market is the United States. But we, of course, have to look at the markets where we want to work and be able to cater to their needs and tastes while not forgetting our identity.
ET: What are some things that you’ve done to cater to the Russian and Ukrainian markets?
Elisabetta Molina: Well, for instance, we use certain shapes and volumes that they love. I definitely have some collections that are sold in one market and not another. But, you know, sooner or later, every taste develops. I would say that when a collection is mature, every culture can come and buy that line, because some customers only need a short time to approach to a new shape or a new product. Some other markets have to see the collection more and more, and then they love it.
ET: Are there any things that you’ve done or changes in how you approach the United States to take into account what’s happening?
Elisabetta Molina: We work on the whole United States, and I, for years, have seen that some states are doing well and some states are having some difficulties. Speaking of our business, we are fine, and we are positive that the different states are doing, actually, very nicely. We have a very long relationship with our stores and keep assisting them with new collections, co-op programs, and local programs. It’s very useful to be really close to our retailers.
ET: Switching off of business. When you’re not involved with work, do you have any hobbies or things that you like to do?
Elisabetta Molina: My daughters are my main hobby. This doesn’t allow time for much else. I have two girls, seven- and nine- years old. My brother also has two children, so the family is growing. We already have the fifth generation!
ET: Would you like to see them come into the business as well?
Elisabetta Molina: It would be great, but they will be free to choose by themselves, as I was too. I was definitely able to choose if I had something else in mind to do, like medicine or something.
ET: You travel quite a bit for your job. Are there any places, either for business or leisure, that you’ve been to recently and really liked?
Elisabetta Molina: I feel at home in New York. I like California. And when I can, I escape to the Caribbean. Or Capri. Anyplace in Capri. But I also think a beautiful country is Hungary. I was recently in Budapest, and it was really interesting. It’s a nice city.
ET: You said you like the Caribbean. Any place in particular?
Elisabetta Molina: Virgin Gorda is probably my first choice.
ET: With Garavelli, you’ve been successful and established the brand on a worldwide basis. What is the goal for the next five to ten years?
Elisabetta Molina: We are already working on new collections. The collections will be richer, we’ll use larger stones, and we want to add some special pieces. We are going to prepare a Garavelli book, a new catalog that will present our company and our special collection.
ET: When is that coming out?
Elisabetta Molina: It will be in the next two years.
ET: Any plans to open Garavelli boutiques?
Elisabetta Molina: Not yet.
ET: If you did, where would be the first one be?
Elisabetta Molina: Milano.
ET: If you hadn’t gotten involved in jewelry business, what would you have done?
Elisabetta Molina: Maybe consultant, a marketing consultant. Something like that.
ET: Anything else that you want to say about Garavelli?
Elisabetta Molina: Jewelry which is created with passion gives you a certain energy and vibe when you wear it!