Q&A: Nikolay Piriankov, co-founder and CEO, Taylor & Hart
Nikolay Piriankov is the co-founder and CEO of Taylor & Hart, an omni-channel bespoke jewellery brand with showrooms in London and New York.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I grew up in South Africa and this is where I developed an interest for diamonds. When I was 17, I had a job working in diamond sales and from there I headed to the UK to study digital marketing at the University of Manchester.
In 2013, some friends and I decided to begin an e-commerce business, known then as Rare Pink. Our mission was, and still is, to fill the gap in the jewellery market for the bespoke engagement rings and jewellery product category.
In 2016 we went through an extensive rebranding process, evolving into Taylor & Hart. We focused on bringing jewellery back to its roots, emphasising the storytelling behind every jewellery creation while keeping the price point low and making it fun and accessible.
Can you describe your current role, and where it sits within the organisation?
I’m the CEO and founder of Taylor & Hart, but I’m currently migrating my role from founder to CEO, which is more of an executive role, focused on developing the strategy of the business and ensuring its long term financial viability.
My role involves a lot of planning for the future and making sure that those plans are rolled out. Additionally, it’s a whole new responsibility to be a manager of people, to be a good listener, to inspire and get the best out of them. It has been one of the greatest journeys within the company and I see it as a wonderful challenge to further develop as a human being and as an entrepreneur.
Can you tell us what your company does?
We create custom designed engagement and wedding rings that are accessible to all kinds of love and all kinds of people. We think of ourselves as a without-limits company in terms of our approach to our customers. From sourcing and designing almost any kind of product for them, to going the extra mile in customer service, or innovating and disrupting anywhere people previously put limits.
Our clicks-and-bricks model means you can order an engagement or wedding ring online or visit one of our London or New York showrooms to get a real impression of what we do. We remove the distance between the screen and the person behind it, adding real value to a digital purchase by capturing each couple’s unique love story. In the context of the pandemic, virtual consultations have been that near real-life experience that replaced showroom consultations and let couples purchase or design a ring from the comfort of their home.
What’s special about your company? Is there a particular gap in the market you are trying to address?
Our most recent iteration of the brand vision is ‘love without limits’. We can offer a product without limits—whatever you can imagine, we can work with you to design it. The core values of the business are really around exceptional customer service, transparency in everything that we do, and treating others as you would a loved one.
Most companies have taken an approach where they develop a product range, design it, develop it, produce stock and then promote those, which gives no space for deep customisation apart from little things like engraving. Our entire business, however, is designed to listen first to the customers’ preferences and design a ring for them in 3D CAD. Our quotation tool on our website is able to provide an accurate quote, which the customer can then build upon. There are few companies that are built from the ground up to offer custom-design jewellery in the way ours is, creating a big differentiation which distinguishes us from our competitors.
What challenges are retailers facing in 2020 and where do you see UK retail in 2021? How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
Without a doubt, the seismic shift from the high street to online has been accelerated by the COVID pandemic. As an online retailer this has created an impetus for us to heighten the quality of our digital experience, as online competition is only growing as the high street players accelerate their investment into online retail. In the short term, it’s an advantage for us to have people moving into an online-only world due to the pandemic. But in the medium- to long-term, it’s still a threat as more and more capital goes into the online space, creating more competition.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
The horizon for us is twofold. The first goal we have is brand differentiation and positioning. In this very commoditized market, diamonds and engagement rings have remained mostly unbranded. People still go to independent stores, while the branded companies have remained the traditional few, like Tiffany, Cartier, etc. As a new brand, we’re finding a way to position ourselves that isn’t just as another online discounter. We’re doing this through our brand messaging, customer experience, and communications, all of which we use to elevate ourselves in a way that is relatable to a large number of customers. We’re focusing on being accessible to all kinds of customers and acknowledging that love has no limits.
The second aspect is growth. One opportunity is going to be expanding into the largest diamond and jewellery market in the world, the U.S. We’ve opened a showroom in New York City and increased our headcount from one to five people over the last few months. We’re really excited to continue expanding our footprint geographically to capture more market share throughout 2021.
Are there other companies you partner with that help you achieve your goals? (That you’d like to share).
Partnerships are key. You can try to bring everything in-house, or you can rely on best in class services, companies, products to elevate your brand. For instance, we haven’t built in-house ERP and CRM tools, and instead decided to work with Salesforce—it’s a fantastic relationship. The tool is very customisable. We also tend to work with creatives that are outside of the company in terms of design, brand positioning, brand messaging. We recently launched a rebrand and we worked with an agency called Notable, who produced stunning work.
And of course, find good suppliers. We don’t buy rough diamonds that we polish. We purchase polished diamonds directly from the manufacturers in India, which helps us to cut out the middleman. We don’t work with wholesalers and don’t hold stock, meaning that we don’t have to push products on customers. That’s a great advantage for us as a business because we don’t have to sink huge amounts of capital, and it’s also an advantage for the customer because they get the best option in the world at a much better price point.
On a personal note, what are the key challenges – and most rewarding aspects – of your role?
In all honesty, this is my first role as a CEO and founder, and my first experience in the jewelry industry or in retail. So I won’t say that I’ve come with experience that directly informed how we do things at Taylor & Hart.
But without having a jeweller heritage in my family, things would have been more challenging at the start as we didn’t have the contacts, reputation, and rapport that a lot of our competitors have. We had to build that from scratch which took time and energy. But not being hindered by the legacy views of our parents was liberating and allowed us to be bold and take risks without being accountable to anyone for that.
How has your previous retail experience helped you in your current role?
I spent many years working in the hospitality industry where you mostly get paid based on tips. It was a very performance-related pay, as you can imagine. The first lesson you learn as a waiter is that the customer’s always right. We’ve tried to build a very customer-centric business and years and years of working in the hospitality industry was helpful in giving me a set of principles and standards on how we should be treating the customer. It’s made it easy and natural to be transparent and deliver an exceptional customer experience rather than something that we have to work hard to achieve.
What advice would you give someone interested in a career in retail?
For me the most important thing is—as quickly as the cash flow and capabilities of the business allow—to focus on bringing in the right people at the right time. The success of any business is about the quality of the team. As an entrepreneur you need to realise that your main responsibility is not to work not in your business, but on your business. It’s about strategy, process and bringing in and retaining the right people.
Taylor & Hart, London and New York
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