Emma Burgin has come a long way since she started making and selling jewellery at just 13 years old.
While she would describe her background as a creative one, rather than a business one, Burgin has carved out a successful career through sheer passion and determination to do a job she loves.
After finishing a degree in jewellery at Middlesex, Burgin didn’t hesitate to birth her own wearable designs, but she took on a couple of jobs alongside this.
On Sundays Burgin worked for Cox & Power at the company’s Liberty London concession, and during the week she was on the bench at Laura Lee.
When Laura Lee decided to move her Clerkenwell studio to a Covent Garden boutique, the small team, which included Burgin, helped build up the store from scratch. After a couple of years as shop manager there, Burgin took on an extra day helping on the bench at Alex Monroe. This quickly turned into a role as wholesale and press manager — initially encompassing everything office-based before spiralling into an even bigger position.
Today Burgin is the award-winning jewellery brand’s chief operating officer.
In this role she oversees the brand and the company direction as a whole, with Burgin describing the job a “quite a juggling act at times”.
She shares: “Monitoring what we are selling and what customers are saying feeds into key elements of my role —from smaller things like range edits and stock movement, to marketing ideas, design direction and company ‘voice’.
“We have always had a very organic approach to marketing, so it is extremely important that we maximise every opportunity to attract new customers, whilst staying relevant and exciting to our existing ones.”
She continues: “There is really no typical day for me — that’s probably why my fourteen years at Alex Monroe has flown by!”
On top of overseeing a long list of things within the business, Burgin also tries to spend time at the brand’s three sites, checking in, discussing ideas, and making sure everything links up.
But the busy job is complemented with a working environment that Burgin describes as “friendly, relaxed and supportive”.
When asked what motivates her in her career, Burgin responds: “Coming into a warm and supportive environment is a big factor, but my main motivation has always come from working for such a well-loved and exciting brand, and knowing that I can help further its growth.”
The Alex Monroe workforce is predominantly female and everyone is looked after, with flexible working hours available (and even encouraged) for mums needing to work around their children, jewellers looking to pursue their own small businesses and team members looking to further their area of expertise.
“Everyone has a voice, and Alex and I always try to lead from the front,” Burgin tells Professional Jeweller.
In terms of her own career in the jewellery trade, Burgin thankfully doesn’t feel her gender has been a barrier.
The chief operating officer tells us: “I appreciate that the jewellery trade is traditionally a very male world — from the work benches to the board room, but in my career, I have always pretty much been surrounded by women.
“At times I have encountered what I would call ‘big shot’ attitude, and an occasional, “Can I speak to the boss?” — but generally, I feel that jewellery is a positive world for women to work in.”
Burgin adds: “Even where tradition may have stuck a little more, things are changing We took on our first ever (female) apprentice from Goldsmith’s last year, and our account manager at one of our main industry suppliers is female —having joined the company at the age of sixteen as an apprentice.
“Other great examples are the female-run trade show in New York we exhibit at – Melee, and yourself Stacey – as editor of a major jewellery trade publication.”
Burgin believes she has always been surrounded by successful women, and the men she has worked with and for, including Alex Monroe, have always been super supportive.
With this in mind, her words of wisdom to Professional Jeweller readers would be: “Perfection is the enemy of progress”. She explains: “I’m really not into inspirational quotes, but this really stuck with me as time and time again, I’ve seen it proven true.
“Alex has always had more of a jump-in-and-hope-for-the-best attitude, which has definitely rubbed off on me. Admittedly, sometimes we let things take their own natural time, such as expanding into the US for example, but generally it’s the procrastinating or waiting until something is absolutely 100% perfect that will have more of a negative impact.”