Originally published in The Huffington Post September 1st, 2017
Richard Berberian is a self-proclaimed music enthusiast who spent the first part of his professional life teaching music in public schools and later at Boston University. As much as this career fulfilled his creative side, it didn’t do much for the entrepreneurial itch within him, and he eventually left teaching to start his own business in the commercial entertainment industry. Berberian was one of the first commercial producers in the country to record and produce talking books on audio cassette, specializing in books for the blind and physically handicapped. He loved being an entrepreneur, but his business was lacking an important component, the ability to feed his creative juices like music had once done. So, in 1999 at the height of the audio and video cassette market, he sold his business and retired at the ripe old age of 44. Retirement didn’t suit Berberian either and his soul yearned for a creative component to augment a new entrepreneurial endeavor.
Richard Berberian is the President and personality behind world-renowned, celebrity endorsed, Elyse Fine Jewelers. Since the mid 1700s, the Balian family (from his mother’s side) have been creative designers and craftsmen with large scale business operations in Ottoman Turkey. Emigrating to the United States in 1915 to escape religious and cultural persecution, the business was reestablished in Massachusetts and successfully operating when a family member approached him to come out of retirement to assist with developing the business further. Once again, Richard Berberian had the opportunity to feed his need to build a business and combined a unique talent for generating profit with an ability to create beauty and art. This entrepreneur saw an opportunity to establish Elyse Fine Jewelers at a whole new level. More importantly, he found a catalyst that would feed his creative and entrepreneurial soul. I recently sat down with Richard to find out what it takes to dream big and shine bright.
Be Rare – Berberian says that the value of a diamond is a byproduct of its rarity. He says, the same is true in business, as entrepreneurs must find a way to differentiate themselves from the competition; the more rare they become, the easier it will be to grow a successful endeavor. Berberian says that when he first started working with his family, he became obsessed with finding a way to differentiate his jewelry store from the millions of others. He found his niche when he partnered with insurance companies who needed a jewelry partner to replace the lost or stolen jewelry of their clients. These pieces were often unique and sentimental to their owners, requiring special skills to replicate. Berberian, so confident that this would be his opportunity to become rare, exited the traditional retail jewelry business and created a new model that attracted high end clients through insurance claims, and then kept those clients for life through the quality of his hand-made jewelry.
Shine Bright Like a Diamond – Berberian began his new trade as an employee working for his family and before long, had grown the insurance business so it was grossing more than the retail business. He soon bought the business from his family and began focusing on the creative side of building a jewelry empire. He wanted to be an architect of his own fine pieces and so he went back to school to establish his credentials at the renowned Gemological Institute of America. Berberian says that much of his time today is spent designing a combination of engagement rings and bridal jewelry, along with unique fashion pieces for celebrity clients from around the world. During our visit, he shared some of his rare pieces, including a beautiful blue necklace which reminded me of The Heart of the Ocean Necklace from The Titanic. Berberian explained that he travels the world to find the most unique and finest gem stones. He brings these stones back and stores them in his vaults where they await his next design inspiration. Berberian says that Elyse Fine Jewelers has the ability to obtain any jewelry piece from the big-name designers, like most jewelry stores do, but he says that most of his clients seek him out for one-of-a-kind pieces that the client will never see on someone else. Many of Berberian’s creations have been featured on celebrity clients and in the styling suite at the Academy Awards. He says that when you shine bright like a diamond, your work will speak for itself and the business will flourish.
Create Your Business Personality – Berberian says that every business has its own personality, and it is the responsibility of the owner or CEO to create that personality. With this goal from the beginning, Berberian’s mission was to make sure the personality of his business was distinguishable from other jewelers. To do this, he moved his jewelry store to a commercial office complex in Reading, Massachusetts, not a retail location like most others. As well, he created a “by appointment” model for customers to visit the store. This enabled Berberian and his team to spend quality time with each client, making sure they have an unhurried experience to casually browse their showcases, while getting a complete education on diamonds and jewelry in the process. Berberian says that the personality of the business is part of what attracts his clients, and he has worked hard at building a personality that attracts individuals ranging from local soccer moms, to corporate execs, to professional athletes and celebrities alike.
Make a Difference – Berberian says that happiness for him is when he’s in his shop doing gemological work and creating new designs. He says that many of his pieces take months or years to build, because he will not settle for a gem that is not perfect for the piece he is designing. He says that he feels blessed that he found an opportunity to reinvent himself in his mid-forties, and to show gratitude for his happiness, he makes it a point to give back to charities that benefit women and children. His mother and the mother of his wife, Christine, both passed away from cancer, so he finds ways to give back to charities that are seeking a cure for this deadly disease. One way in which he does this is through his art, by generously donating rare gems to raise money at charity auctions. He then designs a custom piece using that gem for the lucky bidder. Berberian says that when you are lucky enough to have found your calling in life, you should find ways to share it for the greater good.