“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.”
From the humble beginnings of our ancestors writing symbols with a stylus, the flight feathers of geese to fountain pens, and nowadays, digital pen, this instrument “has been mightier than the sword.”An understated elegance that has been used by royalties to change the course of history. By enlightenment figures who shed light on reason and science, by freedom fighters shaping ideas, scientists that changed everything through their theories, by musicians that touch the soul the deepest, or by a hero soldier that seeks hope and solace by penning “remember that I love you.” A symbol of education, dreams, status, power, hope, affinity, unity, consolation, and purpose, a pen channels ideas and feelings to make a difference. Knowing that your words have an impact, protecting and managing your thoughts should not be taken lightly. As it happens to the best of us, our emotional wellbeing can provocatively be ruffled, and we lose perspective. To shield our reactions, we need a reminder, a protective gear that makes us examine the voice and the thoughts in our head before taking any action. For some can be a mantra or taking a walk, but how about a pen holder. Every time you are about to sign an agreement, write a letter of request, a to-do list, or create a vision, a pen holder serving as an amulet will remind your intentions, purpose, and how it all fits in with the common good.
Speaking of which, an exquisite pen holder, named “New Beginnings” created by Carla Martin, designer and founder of JEANNE.CHAVANY can definitely compliment your style and be effective like a charm. JEANNE.CHAVANY, a French brand of luxury handbags and accessories, specifically designed and produced the leather pen holder in support of Professors Without Borders”, a non-profit organization founded by HRH Princess Tessy de Luxembourg that aims to provide free and accessible education to all students, especially women. JEANNE.CHAVANY champions the philanthropic mission by donating 10% of each purchase of “New Beginnings” to Professors Without Borders.
I had the opportunity to interview Carla Martin, to learn about her creations and how she handles challenges. I invite you to read and explore her leather accessories.
Jupilings: Please tell us your story a.k.a. JEANNE.CHAVANY –
Carla MARTIN: I’ve built my background in the fashion industry working as a purchasing manager for several famous houses. My entire journey has started out of necessity. A few years ago, I needed a new handbag. I was looking for something distinctive, something that would make me stand out, and fit my personality. My husband suggested, as a joke, that if I couldn’t find the right handbag, I should create one. I was hooked on this idea, as I have always been in love with leather. From that moment, I got more interested in leather and started to visit tanneries to learn and understand this noble material while surrounding myself with amazingly skilled artisans to make my ideas and designs come true. Thus Jeanne Chavany was born.
Jupilings: How do you describe yourself-
Carla MARTIN: Drawing a self-portrait description might sound “pretentious”, therefore it would be preferable to mention that I have earned a reputation of being ambitious, passionate, generous, and competitive.
Jupilings: How do you describe your brand-
Carla MARTIN: JEANNE.CHAVANY is a cocktail of passion, integrity, boldness, ethics, innovation, and sustainability. A family-owned business, all products are handmade in our workshop in France. Each piece is made to order, unique in its own way. Customers need to pre-order and join the waiting list, it takes time to create the magic with a wait of 10, up to 18, weeks for a handbag to be made. This is one of our answers to reducing waste, whilst having transparency during production by sharing with customers the steps in the handcrafting process. Mass production does not fit our philosophy.
Here at JEANNE.CHAVANY we believe that creating by hand is more meaningful.
If something is beautiful and fair and made without harming people, that object has a spiritual dimension of dignity and appreciation of the work.
We are a Human Brand built on respect for each other. Our customers, partners, and artisans are our biggest assets.
Jupilings: Please tell us about the philanthropic aspect of JEANNE.CHAVANY –
Carla MARTIN: We all have a sense of social concern to support charities. It is the ethical importance of our social responsibility.
Philanthropy is not only the ‘right thing to do’ but also strengthens company culture. Helping others and giving back to communities is hugely empowering and rewarding.
From the creation of the brand, I injected all my personal values, principals and ethics. As JEANNE CHAVANY caters to contemporary businesswomen, it was obvious for us to support education. Education is the key to becoming an entrepreneur.
And so it made complete sense to team up with NGO Professors Without Borders, which relates directly to the brand’s values, to support education and empowerment in schools.
Professors Without Borders NGO was founded by HRH Princess Tessy de Luxembourg, whose mission is to provide free and equal access to quality education to all students, especially women.
Their vision is to create a global community of academics and professionals who want to share their passion for knowledge with students around the world.
Professors Without Borders aims to bridge the educational divide between countries, as well as between students and their teachers. They aspire to halt the brain drain by bringing teachers in rather than taking students out.
In support of this venture, JEANNE.CHAVANY has designed a pen holder aptly named “New Beginnings”. 10% of each purchase will be donated to support empowerment in schools.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela.
Jupilings: Do you have a daily ritual to help you de-stress-
Carla MARTIN: What creates stress during the day, is that we try hard to find a balance between work, life, and family and this requires discipline and organization.
My daily ritual: I look after my mind through study, after my soul through meditation and prayer, then I focus all my attention on work.
Jupilings: The best piece of advice you have been given-
Carla MARTIN: Time flies by so fast, use it wisely as we do not have a second chance/life.
Jupilings: What challenges did you face when you were starting your business? 3 tips on how to avoid or overcome them-
Carla MARTIN: Starting and creating a business from scratch is an “up and down” journey. I call it a roller-coaster. Beware to those who are afraid of high adrenaline. The challenges are multiple: from finding skilled artisans to the supply chain, sales and production, from marketing to communication … we face challenges every single day. Some are easier to deal with, some are more complicated. And the more difficult it gets, the more I enjoy it as this requires mind-stretching, looking at situations from different perspectives and trying new things. I am a “scientist” who changes the “formula” again and again and again until it works. If it would be easy, it would be too easy.
Jupilings: 3 tips on how to avoid or overcome challenges-
Carla MARTIN: This is a tough question as it depends on so many criteria. Entrepreneurship is not a destination, it’s a long journey and its secret lies in the mindset. It is crucial to continuously push yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and grow from both personal and professional perspectives.
I would say:
Jupilings: How do you motivate yourself-
Carla MARTIN: “Be miserable or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice” Wayne Dyer.
On any journey, there are times of joy that make me feel like I can accomplish anything, which gives me strength and motivation to move forward, but also moments of hesitation, of doubts, of negative feelings and emotions that could easily take over. It’s simply human nature.
Never wait for motivation to get started. So I have created some “strategies” that work well for me:
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
Carla MARTIN: My way of getting through obstacles firstly is to start by acknowledging that they’re there, to be honest to myself. To put me back on track all I need to do is to remind myself why I started and what lit the fire…I am very fortunate to do what I love and I do it with passion, this simplifies the situation.
Jupilings: Who inspires you and why-
Carla MARTIN: There are so many amazing people out there who do and achieve so much in their lives. I look up to them with admiration as they inspire me so much. People like Melinda Gates, Michelle Obama, Lady Diana, Greta Thunberg, Nelson Mandela, Sheryl Sandberg, Serena Williams … just to name a few. If I had to choose only one name, this person would be Leonardo Da Vinci. He does not only inspire me but fascinates me. I would love to travel back in time to meet this genius and discover the “anatomy” of his creativity …
Jupilings: Tips on building resilience-
Carla MARTIN: There is no magic formula. Just be positive, be optimistic, be kind to yourself. And take action.
Jupilings: What is the issue you want media to talk about most-
Carla MARTIN: Most of the subjects are well covered by media. To answer your question I would say; Education, Education, Education.
“Education is the foundation for our future. It is empowerment to make choices and emboldens the youth to chase their dreams”. Nita Ambani
Jupilings: What is your life motto:
Carla MARTIN: Well, I do not have a motto on which my life should be lived or built around. It is more like a personal philosophy: believe in myself, I am curious about everything in life; also dedicated and very patient, never rush the process of “creation”.
Maryam Meddin, the mastermind behind Clarus, a London-based branding & corporate communications consultancy, the archetype of setting direction and goals in defining and driving success for brands, is a woman with clarity. A skilled strategist, effective communicator with an uncompromising attitude towards authenticity, Maryam Meddin, and her team have created stand-out and award-winning brand communications for national and international clients. They have built an impressive portfolio for working with corporates, non-profits, governing bodies, and start-ups. Under her leadership, her client’s purpose has been brought to life with the utmost loyalty and openness.
With a law degree and a passion for human behavior, Maryam has guided her dynamic career to empowering others to succeed. Her insatiable appetite for knowledge, which led her to earn her Masters in Psychotherapy and Counselling, has let her deliver powerful, meaningful, and inspiring brand voice and corporate communications. As an executive with an altruistic point of view that reflects how she does business, Maryam Meddin tirelessly and remarkably engages in philanthropic activities and tends to be more demanding in putting others and clients first.
I had the opportunity to interview the boss lady and get some insights into the art of branding:
Jupilings: Please tell us about your professional background and the areas of interest-
MM: I studied law – which I think is quite a good grounding for life generally, as it provides you with certain practical skills such as analysis, interpretation of language, etc., – but when it came down to it, the career I really wanted was as an advertising copywriter. This was, in my view, the ultimate manifestation of strategic creativity.. style with substance.. a career in which your emotional intelligence and your humour are as relevant as your commercial sense. Unfortunately, I was underqualified to walk into a job in the creative department and overqualified to get a job in the post room and work my way up. Eventually, someone told me that they knew of a branding agency that was hiring on the account management side and I thought that this would be a good way for me to at least get my foot into the right sector. As it turned out, I fell in love with branding (also all about strategic creativity) and, thankfully, it loved me back! In 2001 I started my consultancy, Clarus, and I haven’t looked back ever since.
Jupilings: What is the difference between branding, advertising & marketing-
MM: It’s quite difficult to define categorically.. there are a lot of blurred lines. If I had to divide them up, I would say that marketing comprises your company’s overall plan for selling its product/services – knowing the target audience, what you need to do to reach them and persuade them to choose you over the competition and so on. Branding is really about your firm’s identity.. not just the logo and aesthetics but also what you stand for, your voice & tone, positioning, and what your customers’ experience of you/your product will be like. Advertising is the conduit for all that – the means through which you deliver the message about you/your product to your target market.
Jupilings: What does branding mean to you-
MM: For me, branding is the heart and soul of a business – a brand should be the manifestation of some serious naval gazing! What sort of organization are we? What do we want to stand for? What is our promise to our customers? When these sorts of decisions have been made, you can start to build your identity around them, and whilst brands can evolve and move with the times, they can’t be inconsistent. Any evolution should be a wholistic process which involves the customer in the journey, not one that catches them by surprise.
Customers build loyalty based on an internal filing system – they decide where you fit into their lives and they’ll open that folder whenever they need it. If you end up being in a different folder each time, or if every time they open the same folder, they find something different inside, they can’t really count on you, and it becomes difficult to build a mutual relationship. More importantly, it becomes difficult to say that you have a brand – in that sort of situation what you have is just a logo.
To give you an example: if you see a Starbucks in Karachi, you will already have preconceptions and expectations of what your experience is going to be, because of your past experiences and because that consistency is their promise to you, wherever you are in the world. The logo is merely the official stamp that says “you can expect coffee, served in a particular way and a visually familiar setting, here.” So, if you saw the Starbucks logo but then opened the door and found a load of blue and red tables, and the coffee was served in china cups, you would say “this is not Starbucks” regardless of the logo on the door.
That’s branding..not just a logo.
Jupilings: Why should people hire a branding expert-
MM: That’s a strange question… why should they hire an architect before they build their house? Whilst it might cost them more than doing it themselves, they may find that it looks better, functions better, makes the process more efficient, is ultimately more cost-effective than having to make up for mistakes halfway through, that the architect is likely to know a lot more about building a house than they do (thereby adding value through her expertise); and ultimately because the chances are the house will end up being safe, sustainable, functional and aesthetically aligned with their preferences.
All of that applies similarly to hiring a branding expert.
Jupilings: What are the 21st-century branding objectives vs. traditional branding-
MM: I think that people are increasingly caring not just about what a company does but how it does it. Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming central to every big organization’s identity, and they want to be seen to be decent, conscientious actors in their field. For example, it’s no longer enough that your basketball boots are top quality, you’ve also got to show that you’re not exploiting the environment or children from developing countries in the manufacturing process. (It’s not just the customers who care about these things, but those providing the loans for your growth, those accepting your sponsorship of their event, the brands willing to be associated with you and so on.) So, branding in the 21st century is as much about the producers as the product. That, I think, is the most important difference.
Jupilings: What is the ROI on branding campaigns in the 21st-century-
MM: “Branding campaign” is quite a broad term that can encapsulate so many different initiatives. It can be about brand awareness or brand re-building and so on, and so much of it actually consists of PR, with specific – often measurable – objectives.
To attempt an answer, however: I’m sure that there are a lot of outcomes that factor in technological engagement and digital metrics but I think that ultimately the principles of a successful branding campaign remain unchanged. Do people like your brand? Do they trust you? Do they want to keep their relationship with you alive? What’s the objective of the campaign?
Going back to what I said at the start of this interview about marketing: a sound marketing strategy plays a crucial role in every campaign, but particularly in those where the ROI is expected to be measurable.
For example, a startup providing dog-walking and pet care services may have budgeted $100,000 for a “branding campaign” and decides to spend that entire amount on TV advertising as it has the widest reach in terms of eyeballs. They may see that for an hour following each ad spot, visits to their website go up by 5000%. Is this an acceptable ROI?
The reality is that many dog-owners look for recommendations for pet care from their neighbours and friends, preferring to entrust their pet to a tried and tested independent local operator or individual rather than to a big, shiny company whose ad they saw on TV.
So, for $100,000 the client has ended up with an excellent creative TV ad (brief met); 5000 new visitors to their website (engagement goal met); and two new clients (ROI not met).
A sound marketing strategy based on knowing what influences customer behaviour would have resulted in a much cheaper, smaller and more personal local awareness campaign with a far higher conversion rate.
Jupilings: How do experience and engagement play an essential role in new measuring metrics-
MM: It really depends very much on your product, your target market and – of course – what counts as “engagement.” If you’re a media company, you probably want your audience to be using your app, or visiting your website, multiple times a day – if only to kill time. If you’re selling expensive handcrafted jewellery for women, you may be satisfied with a customer visiting your website twice a year, provided she spend a decent amount of time browsing and – from time to time – finds what she came for.
I think where digital engagement becomes more important is in customer retention and long-term sustainability. The more you permeate different aspects of your customer’s life, (sell them a sports shoe and then measure every mile they run) the more you’re building a mutual relationship, which equals brand loyalty.
Jupilings: What type of results are realistic for branding budget and time-
MM: This is really unanswerable. It depends on the brief, the objective, the agency and a multitude of other factors.
Three rules that you always follow in brand management:
Be authentic – it avoids disappointment.
Don’t claim anything you can’t prove.
Remember that a brand is made up of every part of your business: your product, your employees’ experience, your customer service, your values and many other things.. not just your logo.