Business is Sarah Hutchings’ baby.
Many people chose or need to change careers these days, but few would have made as big a leap as Aucklander Sarah Hutchings.
From working as one of the country’s youngest midwives in her early 20s, via pharmaceutical sales in the United Kingdom, to coming home to set up as a jeweller and diamond rater.
“It’s nice to have challenges and changes in life. Life’s too short to just do one path,” Hutchings says.
She is the owner of Orsini Fine Jewellery in Auckland’s upmarket Parnell, but doesn’t just run the retail side of the business, which includes importing luxury Italian brands.
Hutchings is also heavily involved in the design of pieces for her clients, runs her own jewellery workshop and is a qualified diamond grader.
She sees similarities in her career evolution, saying “you’re working with people – when you’re a midwife it’s a really trusting relationship. And helping people find special jewellery pieces is special too”.
“I love hearing their stories” – and yes, that includes some high profile clients, but she won’t spill on who they are.
Orsini opened for business in 2008, when Hutchings and husband Kent returned from the UK after several years working there.
“We were living in the UK, I was living in sales with big pharmaceutical companies. My skills and my husband’s skills lent themselves to having a retail business. He used to be CFO of Whitcoulls.
“We wanted to do our own business. We looked for a number of years and thought it would be nice to bring something back from Europe and our travels, to NZ.
Kent Hutchings’ father was a jeweller in Italy, Sarah Hutchings explains, so he grew up around that and went to the jewellery fair when he was in his teens in Europe, and that always stuck with him how wonderful it was.
“So we actually went to the Vicenza Jewellery Fair in Northern Italy and it was one of those moments. I remember not ever getting really excited about jewellery in NZ, but this was different, it was so beautiful.
“That’s when the whole thing started – I thought there was a gap in the NZ market.”
Hutchings began with an internet offering for a year before opening the shop. She says that was to test the market, but she soon realised that high end jewellery demanded a retail presence.
Her first shop was in Parnell, next door to the current showroom.
The move to become a qualified diamond grader was a logical step, she says.
“I think it’s just my personality. Everything I do, I tend to start something and then it grows, a bit like a midwife grew, doing training, then doing a masters.”
Jewellery started off with girlfriends asking her to make things and then it just grew. She was self-taught with advice from her father-in-law.
Part of her Orsini business is having a jewellery workshop. Hutchings worked with various jewellers but decided it was best to bring the process inhouse and have oversight of the entire production.
Her workshop is ‘enormous, dirty, messy’ with specialists roles. A far cry from the peaceful luxurious feel of her Parnell premises.
“The workshop isn’t somewhere you’d want to go to visit your jeweller. I trust them to do the best job they can and I specialise in the experience of design and choice”
While she admits red tape and regulation can be tricky, Hutchings says it’s just a matter of gathering information and learning as you go along.
“It’s not easy, it was quite a risky thing when I started doing this, which is why I started slowly and have built up gradually.
Starting a business is not for the faint hearted, Hutchings said.
“I can’t have children, I went through fertility treatment for many years, so I have a lot of time on my hands because I’m not trying to juggle that. So my business is my passion. It’s lovely to have a challenge.”
Internet sales in NZ frustrate her and she backs Prime Minister John Key’s moves to tax items bought on overseas sites.
“People being able to buy things offshore and try and get discounted prices is just destroying the NZ economy. Especially when you invest heavily in a brand and you’re advertising and doing all this work and they people ship around internationally and try and bring something in.”
So what’s next for Hutchings and Orsini?
“Improving on what you do. I think I’ve got to the point now with the store where I have a great offering with three amazing brands. It may be at some point there’s another brand that comes into the mix. I love the fact that they’re unique brands. And the quality.
“I’m proud of supporting the NZ economy too and of having my NZ based workshop.”
[“source – stuff.co.nz”]