Regina-based jeweller Hillberg & Berk plans to open dozens of stores nationwide over the next several years. We spoke with its founder and CEO, Rachel Mielke, who explained her plans for the company as well as why and how the brand has become so popular so quickly.
Founded in 2007, Hillberg & Berk retails "modern and timeless, practical and functional" jewellery crafted from sterling silver, gold, and high-quality gemstones. Prices are considered accessible, though they can go into the thousands for designs utilizing premium materials. In 2008 Ms. Mielke went on CBC's TV show Dragon's Den, where she partnered with business mogul and philanthropost W. Brett Wilson for financing. In 2014, Saskatchewan's Lieutenant Governor commissioned Hillberg & Berk to make a tourmaline floral-design broach surrounded by diamonds for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has been photographed wearing it four times. Other fans include Carrie Underwood, Sarah McLachlan, Michelle Obama, Barbra Walters, and Celine Dion. Hillberg & Berk has recently been commissioned to create a second piece for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Ms. Mielke revealed. As well, the jeweller recently partnered with award-winning figure skater Tessa Virtue on a new collection, and the line is already seeing tremendous success.
To grow such a brand, you need to be disruptive and you need to integrate online with brick-and-mortar, according to Ms. Mielke. The company's website was revamped last year and as a result, sales increased fivefold. Hillberg & Berk expects to see revenue of about $10 million in 2016, up from $5 million this year. Its products are of a high quality and are guaranteed for five years, with designs appealing to all age ranges.
The company is also charitable, with Ms. Mielke quoted as saying: "Through education, inspiration and opportunity, we are women empowering women – one sparkle at a time. The company is committed to empowering females and employs over 150 women. To date, the company has raised over $500,000 for organizations that support women and last year, she formed the Hillberg & Berk Foundation.
Hillberg & Berk currently operates five retail locations -- two full-sized stores and three 'Sparkle Bar' kiosks. Its downtown Regina flagship is in a converted house, and last month it opened a permanent 800 square foot store at downtown Saskatoon's Midtown Plaza. Its Sparkle Bars are at downtown Regina's Cornwall Centre as well as two Edmonton shopping centres -- at Kingsway Mall, and at West Edmonton Mall.
Ms. Mielke says that over the next five years, Hillberg & Berk will look to open dozens of stores across Canada, with the intention of becoming a household name. Aurora Realty Consultants is representing the jeweller in its real estate search, under the direction of broker Jeri Brodie. Stores will ideally be in the 800 to 1,200 square foot range in malls or streetfront locations, according to Ms. Mielke.